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Search resumes for the last two missing ADF members from the Vietnam conflict.

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THE HON. GREG COMBET MP Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science

Wednesday, 8 July 20009 018/2009


Greg Combet, Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, today announced the departure of a team of specialists to Quang Nam province, Vietnam, near the Laotion border to search for the last two missing Australian Defence Force (ADF) members from the Vietnam conflict.

Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver disappeared on 3 November 1970. They had conducted a bombing mission and were returning to base when their Canberra bomber was lost without trace.

An inquiry conducted in late 1970 was unable to determine the cause of the incident from the available evidence.

On 21 April this year an investigation team successfully located the crash site of the Royal Australian Air Force Canberra bomber flown by Flying Officer Michael Herbert and Pilot Officer Robert Carver.

“The team will conduct an extensive archaeological dig at the crash site which will confirm whether there are any human remains,” Mr Combet said.

The crash site is located in an extremely rugged, densely vegetated and remote area and Mr Combet wishes the team well for their mission.

“The team includes forensic odontologists, a forensic anthropologist, a forensic investigator, a pathologist, an archaeologist, an air crash investigator, the principal explosive ordnance technician and a photographer, to assist with

the examination of the site. The team also includes a civilian engineer, who is a member of Operation Aussies Home.

“The Government of Australia continues to receive valuable support from the Government of Vietnam,” Mr Combet said.

“The Australian Government and Air Force honours the sacrifices of personnel lost in all conflicts and seeks to account for all its missing airmen.

“The families of Michael Herbert and Robert Carver will be kept fully updated as the investigation progresses,” Mr Combet said.

The deployment has been designated ‘Operation Magpies Return’ in honour of the callsign of the crashed aircraft (MAGPIE 91).

Media Note: Images of FLGOFF M.P. Herbert, PLTOFF R.C. Carver, and a Canberra Bomber can be found on the Defence website at:

Video and still imagery of the expedition will be made available as soon as practicable following the team's withdrawal from the site.

Media contacts: Rod Hilton (Greg Combet): 02 6277 4771 or 0458 276 619 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

Background on Flying Officer Herbert and Pilot Officer Carver

Flying Officer Michael Herbert was 24 years old when the Canberra bomber was lost. He was the pilot of “Magpie 91” and was a veteran of 198 operational sorties over Vietnam. FLGOFF Herbert joined No. 2 Squadron in February 1970. He was from Glenelg, South Australia.

Pilot Officer Robert Carver was also 24 years old. He was the navigator on “Magpie 91” and had conducted 33 sorties in Vietnam. PLTOFF Carver joined No. 2 Squadron in September 1970. He was from Toowoomba, Queensland.

Background on Canberra Bomber

The first Canberra Mk 20 bomber (A84-201) flew in May 1953 and entered service with No 82 Wing in December of the same year. No 2 Squadron was the first to receive the Canberra, followed by No 6 Squadron in 1955 and No 1

Squadron in 1958.

In 1967, the squadron was sent to Vietnam as part of Australia's large commitment to the Vietnam War, remaining there until June 1971.

The squadron achieved an enviable record flying. Operating as part of the US Air Force's 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, No 2 Squadron's Canberras flew just six per cent of the Wing's sorties but inflicted 16 per cent of the damage.

Overall, 11,963 sorties were flown in Vietnam, 76,389 bombs dropped and two aircraft lost.

The Canberra's distinguished RAAF career officially ended on 30 June 1982.