PHOTOS: Long Tan heroes remembered on Veterans' Day
A MISSION flown at night in blinding tropical rain at tree-top height and under heavy fire made Australian war history.
That mission was accomplished in the same UH-1B Iroquois helicopter A2-1022 perched above the war memorial at the Caloundra RSL.
The story of pilot Cliff Dohle and armourer Bob Service was told again at the Vietnam Veterans' Day service at the RSL yesterday.
After 48 years, Mr Service met the family of the man who piloted one of the two "Hueys" that dropped
urgently needed ammunition to Australian soldiers who had been ambushed by the enemy in the Long Tan rubber plantation in August, 1966.
Mr Service, his wife Bev, Mr Dohle's widow Joan and daughters Lisa Arrowsmith and Helen Smyth and grandsons Nate, 10, and Elliott, 8, were guests of honour at the Sunshine Coast Vietnam Veterans' Association's memorial service yesterday.
Hundreds of people attended the service, with record numbers of veterans from all conflicts joining the march to honour the fallen.
Mr Service, then a 24-year-old armourer attached to the 6th Battalion, vividly recalled that day in Vietnam when he was summoned with a group of soldiers to wrap ammunition aboard the helicopter with blankets to ensure they would not explode when they hit the ground.
"There were 10 boxes and 20 blankets,," Mr Service said.
"I was holding the last box and Cliff decided we couldn't afford to wait any longer and he took off, with me in the back.
"I had to finish what I was doing and I had 10 minutes to do it in before I had to start pushing (the boxes) out the back.
"I had to continuously blink to get the rain out of my eyes so I could see what I was doing."
Despite attempts by the enemy to confuse Mr Dohle with fake smoke signals to indicate the drop location, they were able to pinpoint the Australian troops and successfully drop the supplies, changing the course of the battle.
Mrs Dohle, 79, was delighted to meet the man they had dubbed the "stowaway".
"It is a miracle they both survived," she said.
"Cliff told me how they had bullets going in one side of the helicopter and flying out of the other and yet somehow managing to miss everyone inside."
Looking up at the helicopter her late husband flew under such duress was emotional for Mrs Dohle.
"At the time he was sitting in this plane, I knew nothing about what he was doing," she said.
"When I did start to hear what he had been involved in, I was very proud."