U.S. Army unit receives Royal Australian Navy’s highest combat honor

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BILOXI, Mississippi (WLOX) – For the first time ever, a U.S. Army unit has received the Royal Australian Navy’s highest unit combat honor: the Unit Citation for Gallantry.

As part of an Experimental Military Unit – or EMU – more than 200 American and Australian servicemen in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971 are finally recognized for their work.

US Army unit receives Australia’s highest combat citation(Photo source: WLOX)

Retired Lt. Col. Fred Dunaway was the commanding officer of a US Army helicopter unit during the Vietnam War. At that time, the army was in dire need of pilots and turned to the Royal Australian Navy for help.

“When asked to contribute to the Vietnam War effort, they proposed a unit and combined it with the Thirty-Fifth Assault Helicopter Company,” Dunaway said.

US Army unit receives Australia's highest combat citation
US Army unit receives Australia’s highest combat citation(Photo source: WLOX)

Retired Commodore Daniel Farthing was in command of the responding unit.

“We can provide 50 people to join the army and help in this situation in Vietnam,” Farthing said. “That’s really how it happened. And in 1966 in Australia, there wasn’t much opposition to the war. It was part of getting the job done.

It was a job that members of the Royal Australian Army simply weren’t trained for.

“We had these Royal Australian Navy sailors permanently assigned to the US military,” Dunaway said. “They joined their navy to be on a ship somewhere on the sea, unassigned to the 135th Assault Helicopter Company in the jungles of Vietnam.”

US Army unit receives Australia's highest combat citation
US Army unit receives Australia’s highest combat citation(Photo source: Fran Dunaway)

Farthing was very impressed with the work done by the members of his outfit. “We had a cook who ended up working as a door gunner,” Farthing said.

Training in a kitchen, according to Farthing, was far from the same as training dragging through the door of a helicopter, shooting a gun.

Dunaway was sure he would never experience the recognition of the success of this unusual combination of forces.

“I said it would be a hundred years before our government and the Australian government realized the importance of what we just achieved with this experimental military unit,” Dunaway told WLOX.

He was wrong … it had only been 50 years, and all of the living members of the American side of this unit and the families of those who died were there to receive their rewards from their American commander and a retired commodore. of the Royal Australian Marine.

US Army unit receives Australia's highest combat citation
US Army unit receives Australia’s highest combat citation(Photo source: WLOX)

“This award is presented by the Governor General of Australia,” said Farthing. “We are going to make sure that the recognition that has been given to our people is given to the Americans.”

This recognition was proudly received by these UEMs who are just as proud today as they were 50 years ago.

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