It\’s been 39 years since Australian airmen Michael Herbert and Robert Carver vanished along with their plane after a bombing mission in Vietnam.
But investigators are convinced they\’ve found the aircraft and hope it might lead to a long-awaited return home for the last two Australian servicemen missing in action in Vietnam.
Defence Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon said the Australian defence team was confident it had located the wreckage of the Canberra bomber in thick jungle in remote Quang Nam province, near the border with Laos.
No human remains were found but a number of military artefacts were discovered, including a badge unique to the Royal Australian Air Force\’s 2 Squadron.
The next step will be an archaeological dig to conclusively determine if there are any human remains at the site.
These brave airmen gave their lives in the service of their nation and locating the crash site is an important step in accounting for them,” Mr Snowdon said in a statement.
He said investigators had spent a week in the isolated province gathering information and then hiking to the wreck site, reaching it last Wednesday. Relatives of Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver have been advised of the find, and RAAF officials will keep them informed of further developments.
The two men vanished on November 3, 1970. They had conducted a bombing mission and were returning to base when their bomber disappeared from radar screens about 65km southwest of Da Nang.
There was no distress call and subsequent searches found no trace of the plane. When Australian troops withdrew from Vietnam, six dead remained behind, their bodies lost in the jungle.
That was until the group Operation Aussies Home, led by Vietnam veteran Jim Bourke, located the remains of Lance Corporal Richard Parker and Private Peter Gillson in 2007, buried near where they had died during fighting in 1965.
This prompted a resurgence of official interest in finding Lance Corporal John Gillespie, killed in a helicopter crash in 1971, and SASR Private David Fisher, who fell from a rope as he was being evacuated by helicopter in 1969.
The remains of all four men were returned home and reinterred with full military honours.
The search for officers Herbert and Carver always appeared the most difficult because the potential search area was so vast.
Mr Snowdon praised the work of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation for its use of innovative modelling techniques to refine the search area, and the Army History Unit for its exhaustive and skilled research.
“Invaluable assistance has also been given by a number of former North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and their commanders as well as many local villagers and their compassion and commitment in assisting us is humbling,” he said.