As the chopper crashed the rotor chopped the foliage I thought "this is what an ant must feel like" when I mowed the lawn.
When I was in the army, 1978 to 1986 I felt the odd incident of prejudiced thinking from "educated professionals" who had preconceived ideas about dumb grunts. Some of it was subtle "well you speak well for someone in the army" and some not subtle at all, like the paint chucking black-clad Women Against Rape who attacked Anzac Day marches back then.
But no one ever accused me of having a role in murder or genocide.
Your ABC, SBS, Fairfax press and The Guardian had no qualms a week or so ago in making a link between Australian Defence Force helicopters and mass murder, indeed genocide, against people who lived in Irian Jaya in the 1970s.
They ran bulltish headlines like this:
Those stories were based on an uncritical analysis of this report - and it is wrong.
The relevant bit of the report that tips Australia into the reported atrocities is in this page and a couple of others with similar levels of scant detail.
Last week we featured PeterR's story - he was an Australian Army Officer deployed to Irian Jaya. Peter and others including C130 loadmaster Col Coyne got in touch with me to set the record straight in no uncertain fashion and to give it to the media mob that so slurred their work.
Col put me in touch with another bloke, Paddy Sinclair who transitioned from his job on board helicopters to a fixed wing loadmaster job in C130s after the crash of one of those helicopters, A2-379.
Paddy's first note to me was a couple of days ago:
CRASH A2-379 29July 1977 IRIAN JAYA
OPERATION CENDERAWASIH 1977
I am Patrick (Paddy) Sinclair, the last surviving crew member from the fatal crash of A2-379.
I think the co-pilot is the last remaining crew member of A2-149.
Below are some of my recollections from the 29July1977:-
It had been planned that A2-149 was to do both sorties as A2-379 was getting short on service hours, but after consultation with the missionary pilots it was decided ,because of imminent bad weather, that both aircraft would be used. We then proceeded to load 379.
As the winch was on the left hand side all the cargo was stowed on the RHS behind the pilot and in the Lhs quarter compartment. The left hand outer and inner seats and the centre seat were used for myself and the two pax
Both aircraft were at the upper limits for weight on takeoff from Wamena and we were not travelling fast when we went across the saddle into cloud and did the 180 to get out of it. We lost speed in that turn and then we saw 149 in front of us we kicked off again. That’s when all the bells and whistles started going off up front.
When we started settling into the trees I was looking out the LHS window, after having the two pax adopt the crash position. I had just finished reading a letter from home which had arrived the day before, and I thought “ This is what an ant must feel like”, when Im mowing the grass. The rotor was chopping the foliage and smaller branches and shooting it out like a mower. Then the branch came through the floor on the left hand side, flipping us upside down and into the ground. This branch was the one that caused me my injuries.
Once I had gathered my thoughts in the aftermath of the crash I pulled the cargo door window and then got the two pax out and down the skid , both were ambulatory at the time, an away from the aircraft. I attempted to get Greg Cashmere out of the seat but he was lying on the ground and as I bent over my fractured pelvis dislocated and I fell over and crawled away. The Army pax removed Greg. I was then unable to go up the skid and disconnect the fuel line. The engine convulsed for over an hour.
We tried calling on PRC90 but couldn’t get through. We then had the army guy get the F1 HF set from the wreck. We dialled in frequencies from the acft and started calling and due to frequency skip ended up talking with the SAS on exercise in central Australia. Apparently they notified the relevant authorities. The SAS were taken to Darwin and then flown to Wamena by C130A .
On the 30July the caribou flew over but we couldn’t see it from the ground. A flare rocket distress was fired and from this they were able to direct A2-149 to the wreck site.
After the rescue party reached us we were winched out by stokes litter and taken to Wamena for preliminary surgery before being flown back to Royal Brisbane hospital for further surgery and treatment.
The rest of the story is history and in the following report. I hope this aids the history of A2-379
A helicopter entering a cleared landing zone in the jungle.
No longer in working order Sir.
UPDATE - this email just arrived - how good is the Australian Defence Community?