'Possum' 1st Tour
A Bell Sioux Helicopter piloted by 2nd
Lt Bob Askew (inset) of 161 Reconnaissance Flight is seen here
touching down on a narrow rocky outcrop during Operation Queanbeyan
where the battalion was engaged in clearing a Viet Cong strong-hold
from the Nui Thi Vai Mountains. The battalion had wounded and the
Bell was the only aircraft that could possibly fly into such a tight
space. Captain Bob O'Neill, author of the book 'Vietnam Task'
describes the event depicted by the photograph thus:
Sioux aircraft which was directly supporting our operations came
overhead within minutes of the trees falling and began an attempt at
landing. Lieutenant Bob Askew, the pilot, made a few preliminary
passes over the rock to estimate the difficulties of the approach.
It was an acid test of his judgment because once he was committed to
landing it was not possible to pull out at the last moment without
grave risk of crashing, but we knew that Askew's judgment was to be
relied upon. After loading the wounded, the helicopter lifted a few
inches off the rock and began to reverse outwards taking great care
not to back the tail into one of the trees which were close behind.
This feat was delicately accomplished."
The pilot flew back onto that ledge later that day to extract the
body of Cpl Norm Womal who had been KIA. The pilots of 161 Recce
Flight performed outstanding feats of flying in support of our
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