Telling the history of Australians serving in our defence forces through our veterans’ experiences.
Neville Wiggins (Royal Australian Air Force), Helicopter Gunner
Neville Wiggins served in Vietnam with the Royal Australian Air Force. He saw action as a helicopter door gunner.
2 min 6 sec
Department of Veterans' Affairs
In 1970, Neville Wiggins arrived in Vietnam as an air force perimeter guard. Within a month, he was a door gunner on a 'Bushranger' helicopter gunship.
"The two main criteria were that you had a driver's licence and the second thing was when you spoke on a radio that you actually spoke clearly enough to be able to be heard."
Within weeks, he was on a 'hot' extraction, pulling SAS soldiers out of a bad situation.
"As we arrived there, these guys actually asked for rockets straight up, as they were right on top of them, and so we came in and we fired rockets straight up and we turned away and banked left. Once we got the SAS guys extracted, we then expended all the ammunition we had on the aircraft. And I watched... everything. We actually got where we... I picked up the rifle off the bulkhead and I fired that, the pilot put his pistol out the window and fired that. Every piece of ammunition we had on the aircraft we fired into this target.
Once they got on the aircraft they would all turn, face out and continue to fire - so would the gunner. So all of a sudden you've got these five guys all firing out of the aircraft, with the gunner and the crewman each side all firing and going.
Now we're talking about standing on the edge of an aircraft with no seatbelt except a monkey strap, being held in by the force of the helicopter's movement and looking straight down at the ground. As it banked over you were looking straight down, as you sat in your seat or stood up, in most cases firing your guns."
Like so many Vietnam veterans, Neville's return home after a year at war was bewildering.
"I got on the aircraft about seven o'clock, flew me to Saigon, Saigon to Sydney. I was home that night after being on patrol that morning. It was surreal, just surreal."
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