Archive number: 422
Date interviewed: 28 August, 2003
You are listening to the interview audio
Barry can we start off with you giving us a brief summary of your life from start to present day?
I was born in 1944, at Berri a town in South Australia on the river Murray. At age ten the family moved to Adelaide where I did my high school education,
and having left school I joined the Air Force, which I have spent there thirty five years before my retirement in that career.
If I could get you to briefly summarize your time in the Air Force, where you went etc?
I did my basic flying training was a Point Cook in Victoria, followed then by advanced flying training at Pearce in Western Australia, flying Vampire jets.
I then moved to Williamtown where I headed my career as a fighter pilot in flying Sabres, Mirage but mostly at Williamtown but also overseas tours in Butterworth with three tours of two years each in the States flying F4 [Phantom] on exchange. Following that I then started flying a desk at Canberra in Glenbrook Air Force Headquarters.
At what point
does your family life fit into your professional career?
I was married about three years into my career, then divorced in 1989 and my kids a scattered around Australia doing all sort of various career streams.
Thank you very much for that and that’s very concise we know where to delve in deeper
so we will go back and do that. You mentioned that you were born in Berri in 1944, what can you remember about Berri at that time?
It was hot and dry, I’ve got good memories of the Murray and that sort of a childhood. My up bring I thought was a better way rather than city life, I learnt all sorts of life skills,
so I’ve got good fond memories of that. When we moved to Adelaide the change it was more academic schooling, live got a bit more serious I guess, but the country is still my love not so much South Australia because it’s to hot and dry.
How old were you when you moved to Adelaide?
You spent most of your early childhood in Berri?
What can you tell me about your parents, if we could start off with your father, what was he like?
Dad was a good father and good provider and all of those sorts of things, the love of my air force through him because both he and his brother were both in the Air Force during World War II. He was always supportive I guess because of his air force background,
not staying on in a career after the war too, but he went back to his engineering background at Berri.
How close were you to your father?
I think a normal relationship. He was in a business where he had to work hard, and of that generation I think work seemed perhaps a bit more important and demanding more than
perhaps family life but in general a normal childhood in that regard.
What work was he involved in?
At Berri post war he was a chief engineer at the Berri Co-op Packing Union, now I think its just Berri Fruits, they do fruit juices, dry fruits and canned fruits and now
also into the wine business.
You mentioned that he was in WWII, in the Air Force?
How much did your father talk about of his experiences of WWII?
Not a great deal, he used to tell the odd story, I guess I didn’t ask a lot of questions and he wasn’t forth coming with a lot of things. He flew in Catalinas
as a wireless operator air gunner, a frustrated pilot I think. It wasn’t really with much encouragement that I took up flying, in that I mean he didn’t push me in that direction he supported my wishes and followed my career very closely.
It seems quite a common
theme amongst WWII Veterans is that they didn’t really talk about their experiences much to their children, whereas that seems to have changed with the grandchildren. You mentioned that he told one or two stories can you remember those things, or was there anything that captured your imagination which fostered this love for flying?
They were just stories about some missions.
In later years I started going through and getting books and tying his stories together with actual missions. I guess the things that use to amaze me was how long the airplane stayed in the air, we are talking eighteen, nineteen or twenty plus hours flying all the way from Darwin all the way up to China and mining and then flying all the way back with rather primitive navigation equipment and they survived, I thought was always an amazing story.
He was flying out of Darwin?
I think the base was actually at Marvel Island [?], also based at Townsville, Cairns all up and down and occasionally around as far as Broome, they went where ever the need was and were rather more mobile the nature of the flying boat, than the land base system.
What about your mother, what was she like?
She’s a country girl,
a good Mum. It’s a bit hard to describe going into personal things she was always off the generation of mums were always housewives. I know she did part time work when we were small kids to make ends meet I assume.
I think she had a pretty rough early life. I heard some interesting stories of the type of living and housing particularly they had to put up with, like canvas sided huts with no flooring and no heating and all of those sorts of things. In later years her father who was a brick maker, he obviously built a nice home.
Her childhood was a bit on the rougher side of life more than perhaps those of her age.
What about brothers and sisters?
I have one sister, Wendy, she’s in Adelaide and has always lived closed to Mum from the time she was married and she is still quite close, more so than myself. I left home at eighteen
and did the duty every couple of years and go back to Christmas when I could and when I was in Australia. She has a different relationship, a closer one than what mine has been, by necessity a distant one.
What was your sister like?
She has a straight forward
personality, a spades a spade, a good country girl I guess is the background, and she hasn’t changed over the years. If she doesn’t like something she does things very direct, a bit like my father.
Were you close when you were younger?
Yes I would think so, once we moved from Berri up to Adelaide just about every
weekend we’d go out camping or fishing it was a very much an outdoors up bring and the whole family as girls do when they get older they prefer to stick with girlfriends and she sort of fell of that sort of participation in later years, we are fairly close and still are.
What sorts of things would you get up to on the weekends
and after school when you were in Berry?
Things that we weren’t suppose to like going to the bush, down the river, swim the river, we weren’t suppose to do that but as boys and kids do they do all these things that they are not suppose to. Mum was always petrified of snakes so we use to always go and catch the snakes because it was the thing to do to annoy Mum, and those sorts of things the country boy stuff.
Where did your ambition to join the Air Force begin?
I don’t really know, I think it was largely in the background association with my father and my uncle. At my first high school in Adelaide there was the air training corp,
so I became interested in that, I wasn’t in the boy scout movement. The air training corp attracted me more so, so I opted out of that and a flying scholarship was apart of the opportunities. At fifteen I got a flying scholarship through that and got a pilots licence and it just went from there.
Why did the family move to Adelaide?
I think it was job opportunity, my grandfather had a garage, a motor repair business. Dad’s brother was a motor mechanic by trade once he left the air force after WWII. The family sort of get together and pull the resources and I think that was the basis of it, I’ve never questioned
or tried to find out the history to it, but I image that was the story.
What was Adelaide like back then?
It was quieter than it is now, it is still the city of the churches. When we moved down there it was like moving out to almost country, not many homes around. Adelaide was always very quite, not much going on. One of the biggest thrills of the
week or the month was the drive-in theatre or something like that, but there wasn’t much else happening particularly where we were. By the time I was eighteen, things had changed a little bit, over the ten or so years since we’d moved to Adelaide and started growing up, we went to dances and all those sorts of things that the teenagers enjoy.
What can you recall of your high school schooling?
I got wrapped up in flying, I guess my priority in life and my schooling suffered a little with it. Where my other friends were playing sports and things I was off flying, I streamed myself quite early into the Air Force style of life.
I know that to be a pilot you also have to have a certain knowledge about certain subjects, so you must have had to have maintained your schooling?
Yes, I met all the requirements that I needed to do, I always did well at maths and physics and those sorts of things, they were the primary prerequisites.
I didn’t totally abandon study, because I saw that as a requirement. Rather than have other interests, my interest was flying.
Tell me more about what you did about part of the air training corp?
It was much like the scouting movement, I think there was more discipline and it was more streamed to an end.
Perhaps not so much about life skills like the scout movement, more about discipline and the aim from the time of its inception was to stream people into the Air Force without pushing. The basics of discipline and elementary military skills were taught
and they were invaluable and it was a great stepping stone to get into the Air Force.
What would make up a typical air training corp session?
From memory it was Wednesday afternoons instead of sport, there was parades, drill instruction, there would be a couple of academic periods on for example service knowledge, we had the old 303 rifle and we use
to do shooting. There was always airmanship and aircraft type subjects as well.
How did you come to win this scholarship?
The Air Training Corps has always had flying scholarships, and I think there is normally three or a four year with each state squadron. It entitled and provided with the aero club, training to
private licence standard and that was done under the supervision of the Air Force flying instructors, so that the flying club had to meet standard level of instruction and to meet Air Force requirements, and that took you through to your private licence.
That’s obviously a real achievement to get your licence
at such a young age, at this point what were your ambitions with your flying?
Join the Air Force, I never had any inclination towards civil flying, like any young blood fighter flying was what I saw at the end of the tunnel, and it came to pharisian.
When was the first time that you actually got into a plane?
When I was fifteen I had a glider flight, I got my student licence when I was sixteen and I had to wait until I was seventeen before I could be licensed, I was fully qualified quite some time before that. I think I was seventeen and one month when I was actually handed a licence.
What memories do you have of your
first flight ever?
I guess it’s a book type answer, suddenly you are by yourself, it’s a classic situation where you did a couple of circuits and the instructor said “go do it yourself”. You did it, and suddenly after, or perhaps after landing or somewhere in a circuit you suddenly realise that there is nobody back there to keep an eye on what you are doing so you better do it right,
so the thrill came later.
Your first flight was actually a lesson, was it, a flying lesson?
Yes, I had flown once in a DC3 from Berri to Adelaide and my memories of that was my Mum got very very sick and I thought that it was great. My first lesson, yes was really a flying instruction,
in a Chipmunk.
I’ve heard what makes a good pilot is the ability to judge distance and landing, among other things, this is from talking to some of the WWII guys when they were applying for the Air Training Scheme, they’d be scrubbed if they couldn’t judge distance
from the plane. I was wondering if you ever had struggles with any part of your flying during this early stage?
No, not at all. That’s true, that’s perception, your ability to think in the third dimension whilst traveling at speed and be able to put the brain and the hands together
and get the aircraft to do what you want it to do safely. Unfortunately we all don’t have that, and not all Air Force pilots have that skill that stream and therefore a put on all different sorts of aircraft. But no, I really didn’t have any problems in that area.
As part of the scholarship when would you be doing this training?
Mostly weekends, there was also air training corp camps during school holidays and
I did quite a bit of flying during those periods, it was easier then to do those out an airfield, when we were at school, or when school was on it was just weekends, Saturdays and Sundays. Part of that training was also helping out the aero club refuel aircraft and we used to hand start propeller aircraft and all those sorts of things and it was
always looked upon as a great thing to do, the whole weekend was tied up pretty much flying.
It sounds like you from a very early age, from your mid to late teenage years you had pretty much worked out your ambitions for the rest of your life, in terms of your career and this took up a lot of your time, would you describe yourself as a light hearted person or a serious person?
I think by nature you learn to be a serious person, a conserved person, a very careful and very disciplined with your actions, because the wrong action at the wrong time you could end up with some very serious consequences. You become very disciplined, conserved to a degree which is sort of a
contrary thought that a lot of people have about a fighter pilot and I have always thought of as reckless people, but a good fighter pilot is never reckless, he knows exactly what he is doing.
I think Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer [American actors; a famous 1980s film about fighter pilots] have a lot to answer for, don’t they?
You believe what you want to believe about that.
I’m wondering what your other mates were doing around this time?
My other mates were doing the same thing. In my last couple of years I changed high schools, and because I was tied up with the air training corp and flying I didn’t participate in a lot of sports, I didn’t form a lot of close friendships in that second high school. Most of my friends were doing exactly what I was doing in the air training corp, flying, that was my circle of friends.
What school had you been at before and what school did you change too?
I started at (UNCLEAR) Technical High School, I basically chose that because there was more inclined to be more on the technical side in education I guess, in the South Australian public school system in the normal school but with a technical bent.
Because I was one year ahead of my peers, I had to mark time in the high school area so I went to Marion High School which took in the South Australian system the extra one step in terms of what school of leaving honours which was a precursor to university, so that was the basic reason I changed to Marion High School.
I don’t quite understand because you
said before that your school worked suffered and you were a year ahead of your peers?
My school work suffered when I started flying, suffered is an incorrect word. I did quite well and I met all my requirements, and the Air Force requirements in my education. I think my school teachers perhaps would have liked to have seen me do something
different, and they saw me doing about 80% effort into my school work and 20% flying and nothing much else. The example of was I wasn’t the prefect in the second school and they thought that I should be on top of things and they were looking at more participation at school but I wasn’t interested in that, because I had other things.
obviously your flying was a social outlet as well as an activity to do, what other things did you do, social life and entertainment?
I guess flying took up a lot of the time because as I said the weekends were spent at the Parafield with the aero club with flying. With that group of friends we use to go out and entertain ourselves. Mum and Dad had close friends
they’d go picnicking and traveling around and when possible I would join up with them.
You mentioned the drive in, was that a regular event?
When we first moved to Adelaide yes, the novel thing. The only entertainment in Berri in those days was the bug house, the local theatre and
for a young country kid the drive in was just magic, you could drive up in your car and you always got your favorite drinks and confectionary or whatever, so it was a big outing in those days for a young kid.
What was on at the movies that you saw?
I have no idea, I would of imaged that they were censored, if you could think of what movies were around in the
sixties, I just don’t know. It would have been just general exhibition type things I would think.
It sounds like the experience was more important than the actual movie itself?
I can relate to that. You also mentioned briefly that there were dances a bit later on?
Yes, that was just the aero club they would put on a dinner dance and do fund raising and that type of thing, the normal social occasion.
Being young fellows we would participate in those and do our own thing. The air training corp also provided, which is another interesting phanomium, the old débuting ball, we were always figured to be the partners that was all associated with the Air Force Association whose daughters were coming out and so we had that task.
What did that involve?
Learning how to dance properly, the good old pride of Erin, and all those sorts of things, it was a very formal occasion. We had fun, if you weren’t partnered with a good looking girl, or something didn’t meet your requirements, it was a bit of a chore, or some guys saw it as a chore.
What about girls around this time?
They were around,
I had, I guess a couple of girlfriends. There was one that was introduced through my sister and I reciprocated by introducing her who became later her husband. Because I guess I was so involved with flying and I going to
join the air force it was silly putting down roots, or close ties, so it was a normal social teenager type of interaction.
Were there many girls flying at that time?
In the aero club there was, a couple that I recall. They were in there twenties, they were young girls that I recall at the time.
Where were you when you heard that the Vietnam War had broken out?
I was here at Williamtown, and I got to Williamtown in 1965-66, there was the normal press information available. In 1967 I was part of the first selection to go to Vietnam
as a forward air controller. At that stage my first child was on it’s way, it was really volunteers were actually called although names were mentioned “you you you” but there was no problem with stalling my involvement at that point. Subsequent
postings saw me up in Butterworth when my name finally came out of the bag.
What happened after you left school, I think we have missed a bit of a chunk there, you graduated from school and what happened then?
I joined the Air Force. I finished school in December 1962, and I joined the Air Force January 1963.
What was involved in joining the Air Force?
The preliminaries were the normal medical, there was physiological tests, aptitude tests in hand and eye coordination, and those sorts of test, and all the normal medical ones, plus physic interviews and selection board interview.
What was involved in the physic interview?
It was part of the aircrew interview,
I don’t think I actually appreciated that there was a physic there that was just a face and I’ve seen my records since and seen what he had to say. They were all flattering words fortunately, he detected no problem. If was a bit overbearing I suppose, I was seventeen years old at the time to have been exposed to, it was a whole new thing, there was no
preparation really provided, it was a bit of a culture shock yes.
Where did the interview take place?
In Adelaide. I think it was in a recruiting
centre at North Terrace in Adelaide, joint services type thing, but I think in those days it was simply being the Air Force recruiting and the navy and army were elsewhere in Adelaide.
What did your parents think about your enlistment?
I think Mum was always apprehensive, and she always have sort of expressed that view. Dad
had no problems with it to my knowledge, he signed the parent consent without any hassles.
What did your mother have those feelings do you think?
I think probably memories of the war, not necessarily memories of the war but potentially being involved in the war at some point and the usual Mum
How would she express those concerns?
By ignoring the problem, that generation tend to. She never really did say but the feeling was that there was concern.
What happened after the enlistment?
A notification came through the mail
with a train ticket, to catch a train from Adelaide to Melbourne and with instructions on what to bring, clothing and all of those sorts of things. Generally telling you very briefly what you were in for in the, those stages.
What did you have to bring?
The normal clothing was civilian clothing and the instructions I think from memory
talked about what you’d be issued with like uniforms and those sorts of things. Basically personal items like toiletry type of equipment. The Air Force in those days did provide underwear and you have to see them to believe them.
Can you describe them?
They were boxer shorts, large boxer shorts. Part of our disciplinary
training I suppose was to keep a nice neat, clean and tidy room. You’re draws had to be laid out in a particular fashion, your socks folded a certain way and lined up, underwear folded a certain way and all lined up. The only underwear that you were suppose to have was the Air Force so they never moved from the draw. They got dusted and that was it, the rest you hid in the dirty washing bag or whatever.
So you never actually used the Air Force undies?
No, you don’t want to go there.
I think we have covered that part and that’s interesting, but what colour where they?
Lovely. What was the name of the base at Melbourne?
What can you tell me about your arrival at Point Cook?
Not a great deal, I don’t recall much other than being met and taken
to our quarters, being allocated a room. Our warrant officer, our WOD [Warrant Officer Discipline] who was in charge of the cadets, he told us what was expected and where things were. Where we were eating and all of those sorts of issues and what the daily regular program would be. He was addressing a whole bunch of civilians
like myself and a couple of those who had no air training corp or military cadet type background. He had to get them up to speed really quick.
You mentioned during the enlistment and I presume this might of carried over into your training that there was a bit of a culture clash, or being in this new environment was new and crazy. Can you tell
me more about the culture the change?
The main change and the obvious one is the discipline, that your hours would be irregular, you couldn’t just jump into the fridge and grab what you wanted, you’re whole life was structured. You had a timetable to meet, you couldn’t get up in the morning when ever you felt like it, you had to get up at six
and do various things and get dressed fast and make your room tidy which is probably the biggest culture shock. Mum wasn’t there to make the bed type of thing, but you also had to make it in a particular way.
What about homesickness?
Too busy, my parents wrote regularly, I responded regularly. I don’t think we had a phone on at the time, not like these things that we have these days like the mobile phone.
It was regular but a distant contact.
Can you talk us through a typical day during your training period?
I think it was normally getting up at six, I think we ate at about seven I was at a cadet’s mess, which was almost
like a cafeteria style I suppose, where you ate a whole bunch of greasy eggs, a whole bunch of greasy bacon to select from. In the first three months they had academic programs all day, there was probably three or four periods in the morning and likewise in the evening, scattered amongst all of that would be drill and sport periods. The academic subjects would range from service knowledge, to
meteorology, radio, aircraft construction and why an aircraft flies, aerodynamics. I think every Tuesday was what they called a panic where Monday night you had to clean down to the last scattering of dust at the barracks and your personal room and presented it in the morning
for an inspection. That was always in a mad panic because you’d have to hid the things that you weren’t suppose to have and the things that you were suppose to have were particular things that you had to put in your draws like socks, underwear, hankies all folded in certain way.
You mentioned the undies that you weren’t suppose to have, what other things weren’t you suppose to have?
I guess from memory simple things like civilian clothing, we were only suppose to have a certain range of things, because basically we were in camp and restricted to base for the first three months. If we went off base we were suppose to have a suit, suitable tire which ordinarily an eighteen year old wouldn’t have, so it was a bit stricter in that regard.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 02
During this three month training were you wanting to be a pilot or did that come later?
That was the specific direct entry pilot course. The other way to get into the Air Force was through the academy, which is a degree training for three years plus then one year flying training. The direct entry system was just a straight pilot training.
Why did you go this route?
The system sent me that way, they assessed that there was a risk of not getting into the degree stream at the time. All my friends we all applied to the academy at the same time, with the thinking that maybe it might be a good thing. We all hoped fingers crossed that we wouldn’t be selected
because we all wanted to fly. There was four or five of us at the air training corp applied because of different age groups we enter two different courses we all went through the same system but we ended up fighter pilots, it was quiet an amazing coincidence that the whole stream of us followed one after the other into the system.
Have you kept in touch with those men?
Pretty much, whilst I was in the Air Force they were always in a different squad at Butterworth while I was here in Williamtown and they were elsewhere. The initial guys yes, every once a year we might run across each other at Anzac Day or some function from passing through where they are now residing and drop in and see them.
Was there much training on actual planes at this point?
Not for the first three months, we had to get through the academic side of things, particularly on the aircraft aerodynamics the engines and all those sorts of things. With my background it was an easy run for me obviously, but for the normal direct entrant who could be a farm boy as many were, they had a bit of a plus but the city boys
had no idea about a lot of the stuff. It was a necessity to train people up to a given standard and then we started flying.
The amount of men that started off in the training, the amount of men that finished the training what was the difference in numbers?
I think about fifty percent failed, they were just unable to meet requirements for a varying number of reasons primarily just flying
skills, academically most were able to manage, but no it was just hand eye, physically able to do something, or unable to do it. The system sorted them out very early because they (a) couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money trying to get someone up to speed who was never going to meet the end requirements. The Air Force has always been quite
ruthless by necessity and the numbers at the end of what went in and what went out didn’t really matter the product at the end was the primary thing.
What trainers or instructors stand out in your mind from this initial three month training?
There were three or four I guess who I really enjoyed flying with, they were very good instructors, then there were three or four which didn’t meet my
requirements as an instructor, I say that perhaps with hindsight although at the time there are people you like and you don’t and they’re attitude to you or their mannerisms in their instructing.
With the ones that you did enjoy flying with what were their qualities that stand out?
you do something you virtually found out the hard way, but were firm when you did do something wrong correcting the deficiency or technique as against the other guys who perhaps yelled. I know of a story but I was never involved but I do know of stories where the instructor used to get angry is to hit the student or make him walk back with his parachute instead
of just taxiing out to the tarmac area. Those sorts of guys to me weren’t good teachers at all.
You did the first initial three months training at Point Cook?
Then you do basic flying training on Winjeels and in those days on Winjeels at Point Cook, and that lasted I think another
six months, then you moved to Pearce in Western Australia at Perth, to do jet training on the Vampire.
At Point Cook, that was the Winjeel was it?
Could you describe the Winjeel as a plane?
It’s an Australian built aircraft, the derivation of the Wirraway which is an old trainer, piston engine, a good aircraft, it was difficult to fly but
it was an honest aircraft. It sorted out those that could and those that couldn’t.
When you say an honest aircraft what do you mean?
An honest aircraft is an aircraft which would do what you demand of it, it will tell you when you try to push it past it’s limits, in a positive way. Most modern aircraft are designed
for very average people to fly, so they are very docile so they don’t have any vices where as the Wind Jewel had some vices which was good because it use to say ‘no, you are pushing me, I don’t like what you are doing’, and would demonstrate the fact that you had exceeded it’s limits, and it made you very positive in flying the aircraft and very conscience of the fact that it would bite you if you
What did it look like?
Ugly, it was a low wing metal aircraft with a radial engine, a big circular engine, with a two bladed propeller. The cabin was two part sitting side by side and it had provisions for a third person which was used occasionally for long ranged navigation exercises where
you could fly to a point and then you could swap over students and the other student would sit back and enjoy the flight instead of having to work.
What other planes did you fly during this six months period at Point Cook?
That was the only aircraft that you flew, when we moved to Pearce we then flew the Vampire.
What was the Vampire like?
I really enjoyed it, it was the first up jet aircraft, it was a British
built aircraft and by nature it was uncomfortable. The cockpit was a mess and it looked liked they grabbed all the instruments and chucked them in, and where they landed they just screwed them in so it was all over the place. It was very uncomfortable for two largish people, you were very much shoulder to shoulders and the elbow room was non-existent. Having said that, it was a good airplane, it was a fun airplane to fly.
What was the base like at Pearce in Western Australia?
A typical Air Force base I guess, in most respects. Because we’d been in the system on nine months, there was no major sort of strangeness about it, you were very familiar with the surrounds and your expectations of it, and it was a more enjoyable time. You were treated as a senior cadet rather than a junior cadet
so you had a few more privileges and access to things that you didn’t have at Point Cook.
What were some of the privileges?
You had a cadet’s mess, we were able to use the officers mess as well as against just using the cadets mess.
We ate in the officer’s mess, as against the cadet’s mess. We were allowed off base during weekends, where as at Point Cook we were restricted quiet a lot, just little creature comforts I guess.
At this point had you met your wife?
No, it was towards the end of my training at Pearce.
How long did the training at Pearce go on for?
I think it was about nine months, so the whole program was about eighteen months.
What would be a typical day at Pearce?
Very similar to Point Cook, there was the initial academic phase, and then you started flying
perhaps after two months. You had less academics to do because we knew about aerodynamics and we had to learn about the Vampire itself, and it’s various flying techniques and in a more advanced way.
Was the training difficult here?
No, it was a bit more of a challenge, suddenly you went from a one hundred and ten knot aircraft and then one that was capable of about three hundred odd knots.
It had an engine which had a peculiar handling quality which we had to learn, and it was a bit strange. The jet aircraft has different characterists than a piston aircraft. More speed, its response to engine changes and those sorts of things.
You mentioned at Pearce you had a
few more privileges, include being able to go off base for the weekend, what was a typical weekend off base?
Typical boys, the odd pub crawl, just to get out of the Air Force environment , the odd football match and those sorts of things.
At this point did you have your wings or did that come after?
You got your wings on graduation, completion of training.
And that was at the end of Pearce?
How did that feel to get your wings?
It was a combination of eighteen months of intensive training, a relief to say that you finally got there and then looking forward towards the end of training that you were able to nominate what stream of Air Force life you were going to go into,
in other words fighters, transport or helicopters. Towards the end, the knowledge of ‘yes, you got what you wanted’, and in my case flying fighters, other people they didn’t want flying fighters they wanted transport aircraft or helicopters or whatever. It all suddenly came to a head and you suddenly realised that you made it.
Why did you choose fighters?
Actually I don’t really know,
it was I guess the boyhood dream I suppose, the fighter pilot was up there against say a helicopter pilot, and the culture. Many of the instructors were in fact fighter pilots, whilst they weren’t forcing the issue on you, just what role was better than another. They were able to guide you,
and say ‘yes, we think you have what it takes’, so they were able to advance you training in certain areas where if they detected that the person wasn’t likely to meet that requirement they would guide them into an area where they would be more suitable, so there is no big disappointment at the end of the day.
Was it regarded that the fighter pilots were in a sense the cream
of the crop?
Yes, I think so, I do know a couple of guys that were bitterly disappointed that they, I guess as a young person in those days you would have been looking ahead, the reality of the fact that they weren’t performing particularly well and should be told that they weren’t going to make the cut. The Air Force
certainly wasn’t going to put someone in every available money training hours, which they couldn’t afford to promote someone that’s not going to make it at the end of the day.
Did you feel that you were treated differently once you had your wings?
I don’t think treated any differently because as the course matured towards the end
we were getting more and more privileges and the officers mess and we were expected to behave and act that way, it sort came natural that you’d see how your instructors would conduct themselves so I guess you emulated that. So, yes it was something that just slowly developed itself and you weren’t probably aware of it.
What about treated differently in civilian life?
We really don’t have a lot of contact with the civilian population. For example, when you got to an operational base you normally had married quarters and in those days they were fairly readily available, so you weren’t housed
out in the civilian population, you intended to stay in an enclosed environment and you intended to do that anyway. At the end of the flying days you’d be in a bar and you would be talking about what you did that day. For example, you’d be talking flying, and it was always difficult to talk about those sorts of things to civilians who don’t have that sort of interest,
and I guess that’s one of the life skills that you learn as you go on, that not everybody is interested in flying so you had to accommodate that.
What I meant by that was some of the WWII guys that we have spoken too that become pilots and had their wings they were, I guess they became more popular with the girls for that reason of prestige that we were talking about before, did you find that?
I guess to a certain degree yes. If you said you were a fighter pilot or a pilot in the Air Force you were different and you acted differently, not perhaps conscientiously although there were a few out there who played up for all that it’s worth, all the Tom Cruises of the world. I think that
we were up there on a little bit of a pedestal, because people admired your skills for example, that they perhaps could never achieve themselves.
How did you meet your wife?
It was just coming home from an afternoon, I don’t know what we were doing but we decided to have one last beer at Perth Airport bar and
she was in the parking lot, as we had arrived they were just arriving and we did the typical silly thing, she was with her mother. We marshaled the car into a parking spot and it kind of just developed from there.
So you met her in a parking lot?
That was while you were at Pearce?
By this time had Vietnam broken out?
That would have been in 1965, so I guess it would have started somewhere in there.
What was your understanding about the Vietnam War at that time?
Probably very little, I was still under training and I didn’t have much time for anything else. Back in those days television didn’t exist, I think we use to get some form of
lecture or discussion point about politics and world affairs but I don’t recall much about it and I don’t recall it suddenly being in my face and we might get involved, it just crept up slowly.
What is your understanding of communism?
I guess typically of a western country, it was not the way to go,
it was all doom and gloom type stuff. In hindsight you read about MacArthur and all those things, my basic view is horses for courses and that’s the system that those countries wish to pursue then it’s none of my problem and it’s not forced upon us.
Posted to Williamtown and more training, the Air Force is all about training so you are continually training. We did what is now called Leading Fighter Training, these days it’s done with Hawks at Williamtown and Hawks at Pearce as an interim before the guys come here from Williamtown. That included things like tactical flying, formation flying,
weapons delivery, and honing on to those sorts of fighter type skills at a very early period. We then, I think after about six months then did Sabre conversion onto the Sabre aircraft and that probably took a year to a flying squadron.
What was the Sabre like as a plane?
A great aircraft, it was a big step from the Vampire because your first flight was your first solo, whereas a Vampire you had an instructor with you, the Sabre was get up and go, and being so much faster than the Vampire was a big step. Most guys get through
it but they are a bit wobbly on the first take off and they wouldn’t want to talk about or brag about, but because of that it was a great air plane and suddenly you are there by yourself and in those days it was a top line airplane, as a first generation fighter I guess you can call it. No instructor to tell you what to do, you made it or you didn’t by yourself.
Were there many accidents?
There was two or three that I can recall, when I was going through training, basically pilot error from my memory. The court inquiry came to that conclusion there were some question marks and things which could never be determined.
The Sabre was getting old and was having a few aircraft problems as well.
What happened during these accidents?
The only one that I can really recall, he was on the course before me, they were out formation flying and the aircraft I think came into collision during
a turn at low level, because of that the aircraft flew into the ground. The aircraft problems I can remember we had a wing spar problem which was cracking and if you pulled too many G’s [force of gravity equivalent] or strong turns the wings would just collapse. There would be no longer flying so I think we lost two or three guys with that.
That was an engineering fatigue problem that developed about the time it was being phased out.
What kind of an effect did those accidents have on morale?
Initially it was devastating, but then the reality of the causes, what the engineering people were doing to prevent it, it kind of then
put your confidence back into the aircraft. They were able to detect and determined when the aircraft was getting to the point where they should be grounded. You were always a little bit cautious and it built in as far as I was concerned more discipline I suppose. We had restrictions on what G we could pull in the aircraft, and you became more aware if you pull more gee you were putting excess
strain on the aircraft and it could cause it to fail. It sort of enhanced or reinforced the discipline of the flying.
Did you have any close calls during this time?
Not that I can recall. The only one I can remember is that we were low flying tactical formation and the leader turned around a hill
and it put me between him and the hill which meant that if I stayed where I was suppose to of been he would have just run me into the hill. I kicked up a fuss about that in debriefing saying “he put me into a situation which compromised my safety” and his response was “you shouldn’t of been there, did you hit the hill?” and I said “no”, and he said “well you learned something”. He was one of the guys that I thought wasn’t a very good instructor
and I didn’t have any time for him.
Had you started a family by this point?
No I came to Williamtown, I was hear six months to a year and then got married?
How did that work, you mentioned living married
I elected not to stay in the married quarters, from the point of view I thought that getting out into the civilian sort of environment gave you more options, gave you more access. Most Air Force bases are built on swamps or a long way from nowhere, so my view was and always has been you are better of off base. So we rent, we couldn’t afford to buy, but we always rented
initially in Newcastle a unit, a flat, a house and then down here at Salamander Bay before we went to Butterworth. I stayed away from married quarters and I’ve never had one.
I have heard that when you marry into one of the forces, that for the
partner in this case the women, there is a lot of cultural changes that happened, and I’m sure when you first arrived at the air force like we talked about before, how did she adapt to Air Force life?
I think Anne, like most wives probably was not really aware of what married life
in the services involved. I guess as young guys you don’t analyse that before marriage and you don’t talk much about it either, it’s just one of those things. It probably doesn’t happen now even, so I guess it is a bit of a culture shock and the biggest one would be that the Air Force would say ‘go there’, and then the husband would go away, and he’d be away for however long it took,
so there’s always that feeling that the Air Force is running your life, I image from the wife’s point of view, the Air Force is a dominant character in the relationship. For example in the early days there we’d be six weeks here in Williamtown and then six weeks in Darwin, through that sort of deployment, which made I guess for a
young married couple, life a bit difficult.
What was her personality like?
Very quiet, would be the best word to describe.
What about support groups amongst the wives, was there anything like that at this point?
Being a good fighter pilot I was not aware of it.
When we were on deployments obviously the close arrange of friends was the guys in the squadron so the wives got together, but I don’t think the Air Force particularly in those days say like the Navy really good well fare type organisation, backing just go away, there was a whole system set up to look after
wives and make sure that things happen, were as in the Air Force it was a kind of an individual happening.
What other aircraft were you flying at Williamtown?
We started off with the Vampire, for that initial training, then onto the Sabres, at that stage the Air Force was introducing the Mirage.
My fellow course mates from the Sabre when to Butterworth. Just being recently married I opted out of that, and I could also see the Mirage coming down the stream very quickly so I thought I’d jump on that band wagon, rather than being caught up there for two or three years and miss out on the new aircraft.
It turned out that way and I was picked early on the Mirage course and converted to that.
You mentioned that you chose not to go on the first intake over to the area in South East Asia, what strong expectation, was there much pressure for you to go?
No, it was just like on a pilot’s course, you were asked which aircraft you wished to be streamed onto.
Towards the end of the Sabre course you were given the option of where you wanted to be posted, like which squadron, which squadron overseas. It just suited my requirements at the time, what my election was. I guess if the Air Force had said ‘we need guys over there and do as you are told’, I would have quite happily have gone.
I don’t think that we have described the Vampire yet, have we?
Can you describe the Vampire for me?
British built, the derivation of a single seat fighter also like the Vampire, which was around towards the end of the Korean War, we had a number in the Australia Air Force. They just put two seats in it, it was all metal with a twin boom tail rather than a single fuselage, twin boom engine with an exhaust in between
those tail booms. A very good airplane, demanding to fly, it had guns and could drop bombs so it was a versatile aircraft as a training platform.
You also mentioned the Mirage, what was that like to fly?
One of the great airplanes, it was second generation fighter, it had a radar
and it had a good capability air defence and ground attack roles which it was used in the Air Force, it was a delight to fly.
It feels like ones going overhead now.
That’s a F18 third generation.
It’s a Mirage, it’s a third generation Mirage.
F18 third generation fighter yes.
You can tell by?
By the noise, yes, I always prick my ears up.
What makes a good fighter pilot do you think?
A good fighter pilot has got to have basic naturally ability, and we are talking about brain hand eye coordination and he’s got to be able to think quickly, be able to analyse
the three dimension situation, he should be fit, and very disciplined.
Very confident in his own ability. I guess that of others that you have to work closely together, it’s a team. Whilst
people view the fighter pilot as the loner out there, he’s not he is very much part of a team, because we always flying in a team with at least two but normally you’d say four. All those elements have got to be characterists of all the guys because you depend on each other for your own safety and to get the job done efficiently.
That’s an interesting concept the idea of the lone
fighter pilot, that they are the ones that do it all, in terms of support crew how many people and what types of crew was involved in getting the plane and you up in the air?
A typical squadron you would have say twenty or thirty pilots, these days it’s probably less
because there’s just not enough pilots being trained and retained. Particularly of the Mirage squadron for example and the F18 Squadron until recently you’d have twenty odd pilots. You’d have fifteen to twenty aircraft and in support of that the squadron you’d about one hundred fifty ground personnel. The ground personnel would be
engines, air frame, avionics and those sorts of trades under control of the engineering staff. That team would be responsibly of basic maintenance of the aircraft, fixing things when they break engine changes and those sorts of issues. On a typical flying program each aircraft would have two or three ground personnel associated
with the aircraft preparing it for the pilot. The pilot would be doing his own debriefing with the formation would come out and check with the engineers and sign the various documents, releasing the aircraft to himself. Then essentially checking what the ground crew had prepared in terms of ensuring the aircraft is safe for flight. Then the aircraft
would be sorted and then the ground crew would relax and do whatever they do and then they’d meet you when you came back, then the pilot would release the aircraft to the engineers, with all the gripes of the air service abilities. Then we’d go back and go through his cycle of debriefing following the flight.
What was the relationship like between the ground crew and the pilot?
Quite close, particularly in the trades who were the most involved in the preparation of the aircraft, they were largely the armored teams, more so than probably any other trade. I guess that’s because there had to be a very close relationship between their safety role and the preparation in the aircraft and
the pilot relationship with them to basically do the same thing, the safety of the aircraft and everything had to be done correctly and it’s a very close identity between the armored trade and the pilot.
I have heard that the ground crew were often very protective of their planes?
Can you tell us a bit about how the planes were regarded?
A better example would be the American system where and we have gone that way a bit more now. In the American system a ground crew would be allocated to an aircraft, that is his aircraft and it has his name painted on it. It’s his
and he kept everything perfect on it and he was responsible if the canopy was dirty or the types were flat or whatever. The Australian system is a little bit different in there is no sort of ownership, it was a squadrons airplane from one day to the next or from one our to the next, the guys would be working a different airplanes. That doesn’t make any different
the attitude of the ground crew to a particular airplane or all the airplanes, these aircraft are ours and we’d make them the best possible, whereas in the American system was ‘this aircraft was mine and I’m responsible for it’. That could lead onto a whole new subject in that our philosophy verses the American philosophy in terms of
maintenance of aircraft.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 03
In terms of training, were you successfully flying the Vampire, Sabre and the Mirage or was this all happening as part of an integrated period of training?
They were separate flying periods, there was a transition when I was flying Sabres I was also
flying Vampires, but that was an unusual circumstance and they needed somebody to fly the aircraft and there was nobody else around so I was given the job for a short period. Particularly as a young developing fighter pilot you intended on staying on one platform. Later on when I was an instructor at our conversion unit I was flying three airplanes, the Mirage, the Macchi and the Winjeel.
That’s a bit of an unusual circumstance because unless you fly aircraft consistently a lot you tend to lose some of the skills.
You have used the term platform, what do you mean by platform?
Aircraft. Often we talk about a flying platform rather than saying the Mirage or whatever because a lot of things about a fighter are very similar although they may look different
and obviously the techniques and tactics a frequently very similar.
Just before we continue on with the story, I understand that you had a knee operation at quite a crucial point?
Yes, I had a motor scooter accident before I joined the Air Force which didn’t create any problems at the time but then with physical training and sport activities during pilot training it
flared up and created a point where a knee operation was required. Back in those days there was no key hole surgery and all of those sorts of things so it was a major operation, I considered it a major operation. The result of that was, the policy was if you were going to be unfit for flying for five weeks you were considered medically
taken out of the Air Force and grounding you in a fact or just removing you from the training program which was what happened in my case. The medical advice was that I wasn’t going to recover so they just couldn’t leave me hanging around. That happened the week before I was due to start flying, it was considerable.
It took me back into civilian life for a year to get fit again, and build all the muscles up and convince the Air Force over a couple of attempts to show them I was roaring to go.
Did you actually leave the Air Force at this time?
Yes, I was medically discharged, unfit for further service I think it was called. Fortunately when I did go back through subsequent interviews the CO [commanding officer] of the squadron, the flying
school, when I was discharged was the same guy on the interview board and his comments straight away was “what are you doing here?”, I said “I’m trying to get back in”, and he said “when do you want to start“, so two days later I was back at Point Cook from Adelaide and I was flying on the third day. So he kind of looked after me in that and took a lot of cuts and I was put back midway rather than having to start again.
It must have been a difficult year?
A lot of hard physical work. There was a point I guess where you say ‘what am I going to do now?’, and I believed that I could get fit again so my whole effort everyday was getting fit, and I don’t think that really met with Dad’s requirements, I was suppose to get a job.
There was a bit of not conflict there but a bit of pressures to get a job and find out where you are going in life and all that sort of thing, I knew where I was going so it was just a matter of convincing the Air Force that they really needed me.
How did you fund yourself in that year?
I got a part time job, I was helping Dad at the garage which he was running with his brother at that stage, so I was working
there a little bit getting some pocket money. I took a job at Woolies, a temporary sort of part time job just to satisfy Dad I suppose, stopping funding, I was still flying at that stage. Six pounds an hour which is a very big slab of money in those days.
A lot of standing around at Woolies though?
It wasn’t one of my better years, I will never join Woolies again, I know that.
You probably have a diversion to go in and buy anything?
It’s a necessity.
Once you were trained, how did you feel once you had completed your training at Williamtown?
I guess relieved that most of the basic
training was completed, even though it was just development as a fighter pilot. Every mission was still training but it was doing the job what all your basic training was about, so it was just an escalation of that level of training, complexity of the type of training.
Did you see yourself at that time as being part of an on going tradition?
Not really, no. No I guess if Dad had been a pilot or fighter pilot in WWII I guess you could say that the tradition was growing there. There was sort of unlike an American tradition where the son would go to Hartford University then goes to Indianapolis it was never to be. My grandfather was in WWI as a
Third Light Horse trooper, his Dad was Air Force and his brother was flying fighters but it was more a military tradition than perhaps a pilot tradition.
What happened once your training was completed?
I went into the route of squadron life. Flying two or three times a day,
doing squadron type duties. All squadrons have a navigator who looks after the maps and charts and have times off, you might look after all the administration associated with that and lots of other little odd jobs, the SLJs we use to call them.
Shitty Little Jobs, as against your
real job of flying.
How much were you flying at that time?
Two or three times a day.
Was this mostly on the Mirage?
Yes, all on the Mirage at this stage. Those were the days where the funding for the flying hours was not really restricted much, se we were doing a lot of flying, a lot of good flying.
Was this still 1965?
I did the march course in January of 1967. I was fortunate and that was the stage when the Vietnam fir call up if you like for forward air controllers or the use of the Australian pilots in Vietnam over and above the helicopters and the (UNCLEAR) force. At that stage
the men were training on the Mirage and the men were experienced on the Mirage went under what was called a Fighter Combat Instructors Course. It was a bit of a feather under my cap because I had minimal experience and I was up there with guys who had five years plus and that training was to work up advance flying. The end of the training you were instructed on fight aircraft, and responsible for squadrons
that were developing tactics and training people.
Where did that take place?
So you were still based at Williamtown throughout all of this period? What did the instructor’s course consist of?
A lot of hard work for six months. The initial phase was training as an instructor, learning instructional technique in terms of briefing and
academic instructing, that flowed then onto airborne instructing, the aim then was to teach the guys to fly the Mirage as a backseat instructor. That was done at the Operation Conversion Unit at Williamtown. When you went from there to a squadron and you were responsible for the squadrons training, instructing young guys as they come off the conversion unit into
develop their skills and training the squadron.
Can you explain to me what the conversion unit was?
The conversion unit was a squadron dedicated to training people on a particular type of aircraft. At Williamtown and was and still is number two conversion unit, at the moment they run F18 training.
Back in those days we had Mirage training and Macchi training. The Macchi was lead-in fighter, the Hawk now has taken that role off. The Number Seventy Six squadron at Williamtown is now conducting that activity.
When you had finished to instructors course what happened to you then?
I was posted to Number 3 Squadron and we went to Butterworth in Malaysia.
I understand that you took your wife, did you have a child by this stage?
At that stage
I had two children and one on the way. We initially went up by ourselves because we had to fly the aircraft up, whereas the people posted to the Seventy Five Squadron, their aircraft was already at Butterworth. The 3 Squadron flew their aircraft up by Darwin, Surabaya and Indonesia and then to Butterworth, the families followed
a month or too later.
Can we just pick up once again the fact that you took your wife and children to Butterworth, can you retrace that?
Yes. When I finished the FCI (Flight Combat Instructor) course I was posted to the Number 3 Squadron and our aircraft were in Australia and we had to fly them into Butterworth as against Seventy Five Squadron they were established in Butterworth
via Darwin, Surabaya and Indonesia then to Butterworth and the families followed about one more or so later.
Could you describe Butterworth to us?
Butterworth, not having traveled overseas was a bit of a shock, it was tropical, hot, humid and being part of the Malaysian environment different sort of people, different
cultural habits and facilities, some of it was quite shocking, the worst being the smells. Being on the coast the fishing villages and they’re drying of fish was creating what we considered quite horrific smells but you learnt to live with it.
Were they there all the time?
The housing was different, a different style of home that we were use to. Officers were entitled to a cook and a house keeper, so that was another person in the home that you weren’t use to, so it was a bit of a cultural shock particularly to the mums and the kids I think, more so not with the fellows because they weren’t home a lot.
At that stage we were deployed down to Singapore every six weeks or so as well.
You said the housing was different, apart from the staffing of the housing in what way was the housing physically different?
Totally open, just to get air through them, there was a mosquito problem, they was always a little man running around with his truck spraying God knows what in our faces, that was always a health
concern, and I don’t think they do that these days. You kept the mosquitoes down and the basic thing was with kero or something, but it put a film on the monny drains to keep the mosquitoes down.
So you were concerned even then that this might be a health problem?
There were a hell of a lot of mosquitoes around, malaria you read all the horror stories about that, the Air Force was concerned
but they couldn’t afford to had aircrew particularly with bouts of malaria, so we were on Chloroquine and those sorts of medication.
How isolating an experience was Butterworth for the wives?
Quite because it was a big change for them, because
we were deployed a lot down to Singapore we had a commitment down there. They were in an environment which was totally alienating to them. There were no supermarkets, most of the shopping was done with a little man coming around with a cart with fruit on it, there was the local guy who imported things Australian
at a great cost. So if you wanted to maintain your lifestyle your Cornflakes or your various Australian products which normally weren’t available. You really had to adapt to the local food, most did, most of it wasn’t so nice, but a lot weren’t able to cope with that so they paid through the nose with stuff imported from Perth. Mind you the ice cream from Perth was worth to buy
every now and again. The type of bread and all the basic sorts of things were totally strange. Mind you the cook was able to present good food which was the sort of westernised version of Chinese, it was always most suitable.
What about schooling for the kids?
The Air Force provided primary school
for the kids, and that was on the Panang Island, which entailed then going on a Air Force bus across the ferry, so that took a best part of two hours morning and night, which I think was a bit of a challenge for the wife or who ever was doing the bus duty in those days, with a whole bunch of screaming kids on a hot bus then on a ferry. They survived,
life up there was pretty good for the kids, good for facilities the schooling was good and with swimming pools and tennis courts and lots of activities. Socially it was well run and setup.
What was the nearest large town?
Butterworth was sort of a largish village I guess you could call it, it was down the road. Butterworth had been
there since WWII, there was the associated merchants, restaurants and those sorts of things that had developed over the years. Just down the road there were any number of eateries and those sorts of things. Georgetown on Panang Island it was the capital of the state of Panang where you could get most things
that you couldn’t get on the mainland.
I’ve been to Georgetown and it’s quite a wonderful place.
It has it’s moments.
It’s become very modernised actually.
Yes, it’s changed an awful lot. In our days there were opened monny drains for monsoons, and you’d just go to the restaurant and you’d walk outside and see them just cleaning the utensils and plates in a little bucket straight into the monny drain, you questioned your sensibilities,
but we survived.
It sounds quite idyllic actually?
Yes, I enjoyed it, I spent three tours up there and I enjoyed every one of them.
At this point, why exactly were you sent to Butterworth?
That was in 1969.
You started to refer to when we were talking a little bit earlier, the earliest deployment of RAAF aircraft and personnel into Vietnam, could you give us more explanation to that?
The first I heard of it was the CO saying to me “do you want to go to Vietnam?” just out of the blue. There were two of us,
Peter Smith and myself that I was aware of anyway. Peter went early in 1967/68 somewhere in there, and then people started following rapidly from there. It was out of the blue, I was unaware of negotiations between governments to put fighter people in there. Although earlier on there was some talk about I think from memory now
perhaps sending Sabres, Mirages weren’t considered because we had a problem with our cannon bullets, if you like rounds, were supplied under licence from the French. The French gave us a bit of trouble there so that gave us virtually precluded sending the Mirage into Vietnam for ground attack.
What sort of trouble was that?
I don’t know the politics behind it but I don’t recall what the main reason for not sending the Mirage and the Sabre the same round in fact so he didn’t go, so the next option was we’d support the bombing effort if you like, the air support effort by sending forward controls as part of the American air system.
You earlier also mentioned Iroquois at what point were they being sent in?
I don’t know the exact time but both the Iroquois and Caribou were probably sent the, about late 1960s, and I think they were there certainly before the air defence.
You were starting to say when you first knew of going to Vietnam at a certain point, can you take the story on from there?
As I mentioned I was basically asked did I want to go and would I be happy to go and I mulled it over for a week or two and then said essentially because the child was imminent I’d prefer not to be put on the first deployment, but after that no problems.
Was this while you were at Butterworth?
No, this was at Williamtown.
So obviously by the time you got to Butterworth you knew that you were going to Vietnam?
Again no, because I didn’t know, that was I late 1967 when it first came up, then I presumed because of the SCI course that precluded me going and then I think the
posting and deployment of 3 Squadron became the predominant requirement to have aircrew available for that. Other guys were from other squadrons and they were going instead.
The next step once you’ve been asked would you like to go up there?
What was actually the next step at that point?
The next step was nothing. There was no warning that I would be considered the next group to go, or anything like
that. Now I’m Fighter Combat Instructor at Number 3 Squadron, and 3 Squadron had only deployed and formed and we needed stability in the ranks and in the training up there.
So, lets just stay with this for a moment. Can you describe your activities as a trainer?
Since the FCI’s [Fighter Combat Instructor] role
is to advise his operations officer on the training program for the squadron, it was part of that would be weapons requirements so the engineer can plan, ordering of those sorts of issues. Then on a day to day basis briefing the squadron on techniques and tactics, that would be used during the training, and monitoring the performance of the squadron
and achieving the aims.
How many students were you dealing with on a day to day basis?
They weren’t students they were operational fighter pilots. At that stage I think we had twenty plus pilots. The way in which an FCI would go about his tasks would be to fly with
in various capacities either in the backseat of a dual aircraft to check the performance of a junior pilot for example, or fly as a wing man or a deputy element lead in a formation to see how the leaders and the other guys are performing their roles.
What things were you looking out for especially?
Standardisation, that’s important in all military forms of activities the standard operating procedure is established and all operations are conducting in accordance with that procedure. You’re role basically as a standardisation and evaluation I guess, and we set the standard and is everybody meeting it, and evaluating the progress of people. Those standards are set,
the squadron is developing along the lines of which you have chosen as the FCI.
To what extent were the standards and procedures being modified as you went along?
The part of the FCI’s role is tactics flow from past experience, we hadn’t had the Mirage all that long, so
a lot of Sabre tactics flowed through across naturally, and they weren’t suitable for the Mirage. The Mirage was a higher speed, it didn’t turn as well, so instead of having a typically Korean turning fight it was a slash and run type flight. You’d use the speed of the aircraft to keep you safe, you never turned if
the other guy had a better ability or capability than you and got away from him and then came back in under your terms not his. We had to get the mindset of the older Sabre guys who had been doing one thing for a long long time and teach them the new way of doing business with this new second generation aircraft which had different characteristics and be used to an advantage.
You used the term
slash and run type flight, what does that mean?
It means maintain speed, and don’t mix, never get involved with a fur ball. A fur ball, cats fighting and you get them all mixed up in a fur ball you are going to loose because someone’s going to eventually hit you with a missile or a gun attack. The illustration, if you had a fur ball there you’d go through it
and then come back, under your terms and with your speed and shoot from a distance. If you get in there with hand to hand fighting you will loose.
I’ve got a very hazy idea of what a fur ball is, can you tell us a little bit more specifically?
It’s a modern two airplanes in the same piece of sky, maneuvering, trying to out turn each other and what ends up is there is a very small
activity of a number of aircraft in vary small space of sky. There is no end to that, part from somebody getting shot down, because someone will make a mistake or do it a little bit better than the other person. The slash and run type tactic utilizes the best advantage of your aircraft if you had a missile there’s no need to get into the fur ball you can shoot from outside, if you have to get into the fur ball
you keep your speed up. Basically instead of a nice steady predictable shot at somebody, you might use what we call a ‘fly through shot’ where the aircraft would fly into your bullet path which you’d just put out in front of him rather than try and smoothly track with a gun sight.
What sort of enemy aircraft were you expecting to engage?
Theoretical, clearly in the South East Asian environment and if we were involved in something I don’t think at any stage we would of thought about the things like the Gulf War and those sorts of things, we were mainly centered around South East Asia environments. In that environment the only aircraft that we would have been concerned about would have been in Indonesian back in the early 1960s
they had some Migs a Russian aircraft, and China who had Migs also, and Vietnam who was also starting to get Migs through the Russian and Chinese type involvement. So they were the sort of aircraft we would have been potentially fighting, we knew a lot about those through various intelligence sources.
They were similar capabilities so there was nothing new there and we basically managed I think to maintain a superior of aircraft in the region to this point.
So if you say that the motion of enemy aircraft in training was theoretical, can you just talk me through how you would actually train a junior pilot in the techniques
of slash and run?
It’s quite simply done, because we use to fly against Sabres, they are a turning type airplane and they can’t go particularly fast, and the type of fighting that you used for those was the fur ball, unless you were smart. Because the Mirage if you turn very tightly you loose energy and you get to the point where you can’t do anything, you cant accelerate and you cant turn and you become a sitting duck.
So we used the Sabre, we use to fight again the Sabre, an aggressor, a differential type aircraft. Even the slower Macchi was a very good adversary, it could turn very tight, it couldn’t go very fast but it could turn very tight. It taught you not to turn with them, because the Macchi could beat a Mirage and you could try and fight a Macchi’s fight. A good illustration of that was
on a number of occasions flew again F14s in the navy and whilst they could shoot us down from one hundred and fifty miles with a Phoenix missile we could get inside a couple of miles to get them to turn their wings would fold forward and they couldn’t accelerate and they couldn’t really turn and we’d run rings around them by slashing them. That program really started in the mid 1970s,
as a result of an American development, the US Navy were having a lot of success because they were dealing with similar aircraft, training. The US Air Force was not and there success rate was appalling, they were loosing more fighters than they were shooting down until they learnt the lesson.
During that training period did you loose any aircraft or pilots at Butterworth?
We lost a couple of guys, one I can recall just ran into a hill during a night navigational exercise, they put that down to pilot error. I think that was about the only one from memory in that period.
Were you generally satisfied with the standard of the pilots, the trainee pilots?
That was my responsibility, I was the hard task master.
In being a hard task master what kind of quality things would you emphasise?
As I mentioned before, discipline, standardisation, don’t break the rules and that way you survive.
What were the main discipline issues?
Again, obeying the rules, essentially. The rules were defined by a standard operating procedure and they were developed through a lot of experience over years and years and years they were able to be modified from various aircraft types. Changed through the exchange of the pilots when they came back with better
ways of doing business and all of those things, and putting them together as a package and training the guys up and educating them.
How long were you involved in this training activity?
From 1968 right through to when I stopped flying, so up until
1982 I was flying Mirage as a Flight Combat Instructor, I had three years in the states doing the same job, with the United States Air Force. Part of my tour in Vietnam was basically doing the same thing, but flying forward air controlled aircraft.
At what stage did your tour of Vietnam actually begin?
In my second year at Butterworth, I went to Vietnam in
January of 1970 until September of 1970. It was a little bit unexpected because the squadron as I said was just developing and we had to a lot of work in developing the squadron in tactics and techniques, which then left the squadron without a FCI. Fortunately we had a squadron commander and flight commander who were
FCI’s so it wasn’t as though the squadron was destitute. I guess it was fortunate in many ways for Butterworth and when we did get R&R I just jumped on a FC130 [Hercules transport aircraft] and two hours later I was home, so it was a lot easier than if the family was back here in Australia for example.
I think the first place you were sent to in Vietnam was Vung Tau, wasn’t it?
Yes. The C130 [aircraft] out of Butterworth and I landed
at Vung Tau, I was part of the twice weekly run I think it was and that was for troop replacements, equipment and also medical evacuations. I think the next day I went to Saigon and talked to the Australian people there, it was just a courteously call to find out how I was going to get paid,
and all of these sorts of things. Then I think I went from there to Cam Ranh Bay. Whilst I was in Saigon I was introduced into learning the American system and found out where I was to be deployed and how I was going to be trained etc., and then orders were given to jump on a C130 to Cam Ranh Bay for O2 training.
So going to Saigon, where did you actually
go to in Saigon?
We went to Bien Hoa airport, and that’s where the American unit was that I was assigned to the Tactical Air Support Squadron and there was some training done there. For example escape and devotion training and they took various particulars down so that if you were ever captured, we had passwords and escape
type things, and the old mugs shots. A little bit about their organisation and how it worked, and how it fitted in with the over all scheme of things and a number of intelligence briefings which I cant remember all that much about.
Their organisation you are referring about?
The Americans, we were assigned to an American Air Force, not as exchange officers but purely assigned to them, we weren’t part of the Australian Organisation,
but we were supported administratively but not operationally.
Was this first off?
It was first off, right.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 04
Once you went to Saigon, this is a bit of a side track from the professional side what were your impressions of Saigon?
The first night at Saigon I stayed at Bien Hoa I was allocated a billet and I think it was quite late at night like at about nine o’clock
and I was just interested in getting down and having a sleep. About two hours later dead to the world, the world blew up, what I didn’t realise was over the back of where the quarters were a set of one twenty two millimeter guns or some monstrous bloody things, and there had been a mortar attack on the base and these things were responding to that.
Not having been briefed it might happen and not having thought much about it, it was just another air base and it did get my attention. I wasn’t sure whether I should be ducking under the bed or what so I just laid here and thought if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. The next day I found out where my flak jacket and helmet was and all of those sorts of things. As I was there for a short time and the only time I was off base was
when I went to the Australian contingent or the Embassy and I can’t remember whether it was co-located. The traffic was horrendous and everybody seemed to be in uniform and everybody seemed to be carrying guns, everybody was fair game you didn’t know if they were the bad guys in this environment. I guess it’s a bit like Baghdad now, all these guys just running around and you don’t know who’s the good guy or who’s the bad guy
and that really stuck in my mind that the American government forces have a real problem here because there was no way of distinguishing good from bad.
You felt that from this day onwards in Saigon did you?
What about the city itself?
I cant remember how far we drove it probably was only about half an hour away if that and it was into the building to just talk with the RAAF guys
there and sort out the administrative needs and back to the airport and jump on a C130 so it was all happening very rapidly.
What were your first impressions of Vung Tau?
A quite little town. When I finished my O2 training I went back to Vung Tau and entered my unit and there were three or four airplanes and four O2s, half a dozen guys,
in a little riveted area. Met them at the FAC [Forward Air Controller] unit at that point, we then met back at our quarters which were in Vung Tau itself it was an old hotel and very poor condition. It had a little kitchen and a bar and we shared rooms and the water was cold I think from memory, and it smelt musty
and it was a bit of a shock. Actually Vung Tau was a quite nice little town, it is relatively secure. There was a bit of activity whilst we were there at the harbour I believe, there were no mortar attacks whilst I was there, and you could virtually drive around freely. When we did get the odd day off you could grab the jeep and you could run up the hill
and go to a quite pleasant old style French restaurant, and have very nice lobsters and wine meals, it was very civilised.
It was a former French resort wasn’t it?
Yes, and it was a R&R [Rest and Recreation] centre. There was a major military hospital there and Vung Tau was an army air force base so I guess and predominantly the activity was
we had the Australians of course and (UNCLEAR) and the chocos were there also.
Why was Vung Tau relatively secure?
It was pretty easy to defend and I guess being so far south it was well and truly away from infiltration through the Ho Chi Minh trial and Laos and so on. Being so far
south again there was no bombing, the zone between the two countries until things started hotting up later on. Most of the activity I think from memory was really in the Delta further to the north of the border at Laos. The Phuoc Tuy Providence was relatively quiet and had been for some time I think
and it sort of quashed a lot of the activities, we got bombed every now and again there were little small skirmishes and things, but relatively speaking it was pretty quite.
In speaking with one of the other Vietnam veterans they had the sense that there may have been Vietcong operating covertly or simply coming in to do some black market trading in Vung Tau itself?
You had that sense as well?
Yes, as I said you’d never know
these guys could be running around as fishing merchants and fisherman and they could even be working on base, you’d never know. I don’t think the US Army intelligence system or recruiting of local civilians was probably really capable of culling out anything like that anyway.
At this point and also later on what opinion or view did you hold
of the Vietcong and also other affiliated areas like the NVA [North Vietnamese Army] as an enemy?
I think the Vietcong not so much the NVA we weren’t involved with them but I think the Vietcong were a very dedicated bunch of guys and did marvelous things with minimal equipment.
If you believe what the press in those days and the military where telling you that they were pretty nasty pieces of work, but I think they were just there to counter what we and the Americans were trying to do to their country, so it was probably a just cause from there point of view. In hindsight you question the American way
of going about business and what the South Vietnam army tried to do in their hearts and minds programs and getting everybody into so called safe villages and everybody else was bad, there was a lot of really mouth politics and all of that.
The line drawing on the sand by the sounds of it?
You said that the
Vietcong did some marvelous things using limited resources, what sort of marvelous things spring to mind?
I think their resourcefulness in their re-supply for example, the resourcefulness coming out of Ho Chi Minh trial with weapons and the medical side of things. There ability to seemingly disappear in God awful country by digging themselves
into villages, and tunnels and so on, so they were very cunning and resourceful people.
You said resourcefulness and re-supply did you ever have a sense of how they were re-supplying?
Not really, in Phuoc Tuy province it was very quiet, we on occasions were able to make movement through trafficking on paths and through the jungle
and so on. Whether it was there through VC running around or deer, elephants or whatever it was neither here nor there you really couldn’t tell. All you could tell was you’d put SAS [Special Air Service] out and sus things out. So yes it was a little game. The big difference in our operations,
the Australian operations was, until proven nothing was ever claimed or accepted whereas the Americans, we very quick to claim kills and if they put a bomb on a target they obviously have two or three KIA [Killed in Action] out of it but as the Australians wouldn’t do that until SAS or somebody had gone in and confirmed. I think the American system was very frustrated with a few of us
because we would not put in a bomb damage assessment that was false. American facts some of them use to do it and would come up and say ‘this is damaged and that’s damaged’, and to the point of saying blatant lies about KIA. It was a similar thing on the coast, for example naval gun fire it would destroy anything that was on the coast
in Vung Tau but regularly they’d put in naval gun fire and reclaim damaging military structures and whatever else.
It sounds completely farcical?
The American way.
Once you had arrived at Vung Tau can you describe your duties from this point on and chronology of what went on?
Our primary role out of Vung Tau occasionally we’d fly out of Nui Dat, and spend a night there and liased with the army headquarters, but predominantly out of Vung Tau. A typical week would be flying out six or seven days and putting in one or maybe two sorties, two or three hours each. Those sorties
would consist largely of visual reconnaissance, with the occasional preplanned air strike or if you got involved with some ground activity for example SAS, that would be a bonus I guess you could say. Our visual reconnaissance sorties would be eighty percent or more would be conducted with the
Possum aircraft, out of the 161 Aviation people at Nui Dat, they’d do the close low level visual reconnaissance, with flight top cover navigate for them, protection I guess.
So top cover was protection?
Yes, down low they couldn’t navigate so we use to help them do that in that regard, keep them in the grid square
that they were searching. You could look at the theory if we were overhead and anybody on the ground would be reluctant to take a pot shot because all hell would break loose not long after. By the same token they could see and hear us for miles and miles, not long after that the chopper so they know when to keep their head down. So that’s basically the week, we’d get a day off
about once a week. On that day off, generally speaking I’d go flying with 9th Squadron or with the Possum helicopter, it was a silly thing to do in hindsight.
The good old Possum is down there searching for the bad guys and you were down at low level and now where to go in a little light observation helicopter
and when you deliberately go out to find these guys we’d find bunker systems and paths and showing obvious signs of activity that somebody was around. Then we’d be silly enough to drop a smoke grenade into the bunkers system or call in an air strike or artillery, that’s silly.
Your telling of silly at the view point of putting yourself at risk?
Safety, yes. It was a job that they had to do, and they were very good at it, but it really upped the
ante in the terms of over exposure and survival.
You mentioned before being trained in techniques of what might happen if you were captured, were you trained in the techniques of what might happen if you were interrogated?
No, out of the American system all I remember we got was your mug shot,
your identification passwords and that consisted of your mother’s maiden name, some other thing and only you would know. If you for example were shot down, you were on the ground to help identify you as against somebody reporting to be you, they would ask the question ‘what is your mother’s maiden name?’, over the radio and say it was ok,
they didn’t ask the question and look out here comes the artillery. It was just a way of authenticating.
Authenticating you to the allies?
Were you ever concerned about what might happen to you or your fellow pilots if you were captured and subjected to interrogation?
It was always in the back of your might but we’d had no real training. A few guys
I remember it was in the late 1960s were involved with some of the army training, code of conduct I think it was called, and I don’t know how far that training went and they were not obliged to tell anybody. The sort of thing that I’d image would be some deprivation of sleep over at a long period of time, questioning and those sorts of things just to teach you
without them actually pulling fingernails out. But no, there was no other form of training, for whatever reason but perhaps it should of happened, clearly. You don’t even need to be shot down you could just have an engine failure and you’d find yourself in the jungle.
Did you ever hear stories of people who were captured and interrogated?
Only what I’ve read in the press or
subsequent tales in books or whatever.
Your role at this time was forward air controller wasn’t it?
Have we defined the role of a forward air controller?
Could you describe that for us?
Forward air controlling was developed in the Korean War where they saw the need to place artillery and fighter ground attack weapons close to own troops.
The forward air controller as there to control the fighters, he knew where the troops on the ground were, he was talking to the troops on the ground and he was also talking to the fighters. He could direct them and control them to the point of weapons release so that he ensured that there was no friendly fire on there own troops. The forward air controller in Korea too was also
doing artillery spotting, so it was a deprivation of the artillery spotter, when they had aircraft doing close air support work with your own troops. So, that’s basically what a forward air controller is, supplement your roles as the reconnaissance and those sorts of issues. Our role was part visual reconnaissance which was probably sixty to eighty percent of the work
anyway, most work in Vietnam. The other twenty percent was a little bit of artillery adjustment not a great deal, but when I was instructing the new guys coming through that was part of my technique they had to learn how to do that because the artillery is the first thing that you can put on the ground, fighters take half an hour or longer to get there.
What precisely is artillery adjustment?
it’s normal in support of it’s own troops but it could be a target of opportunity on the ground, called in by SAS or seen by yourself. In which case you’d contract an artillery unit and give him the coordinates and then put in initial rounds to make sure that the artillery
guys are able to hit the target that you are after. Once that is fired in and bring on board all the other guns and put down how many rounds you need to put down. You do that whilst flying in the area and talking to the people on the ground as well as the artillery units.
What sort of aircraft were you flying?
It’s called an O2 Oscar Deuce
it’s a Cessna 375 I think or something like that, it was a high wing Cessna with a boom tail, an engine in the front and back of the fuselage (UNCLEAR) fuselage. It was developed of that civilian aircraft but beefed up with stronger wings, hard points for rockets and guns, and a whole bunch of radios, we had five radios
on board which we had to operate simultaneously basically. We were talking to air traffic control on UHF [Ultra High Frequency], we were talking to the people on the ground on the two FM [Frequency Modulation] radios, we had HF [High Frequency] radio to our own tactical air control party who looked after ourselves and we’d often have a VHF [Very High Frequency] radio in there as well, we were busy.
When I think of the Cessna
I think of a rather a fragile looking aircraft?
The original forward air control aircraft from Korea and initially in Vietnam was the old Bird Dog 01, and that was a high wing fragile plane, it was a little light aircraft in fact. I think they had the capacity to put three or four rockets on the wing, or even as we did throw smoke grenades threw the hatch.
The O2 came along, to me as a better and faster aircraft, it wasn’t a great deal faster but it could carry fourteen rockets and a bunch of radios which the other aircraft didn’t have. It had two engines with a better survival ability and could carry two people, in fact three people, so it was a more versatile aircraft.
There was an interim aircraft before the OV-10, the Bronco and that was a high speed turbo jet, turbo propped aircraft purpose built with rockets and guns and all sorts of things all over it, and that was sort of the ultimate, we still had the O2 and if was perfectly adequate for the job.
Being a light aircraft I image there were advantages to it being able to land and take off from relatively small airstrips?
The Bronco was designed to be operated out
of rough airfields, but it never really could do that, it needed a lot of hard runaway to actually operate.
So if you are talking about putting down weapons, how would this physically be done?
Our own weapons?
We had rockets onboard, and a primitive gun sight and you simply pointed the airplane at the target, using the gun sight you could hit the target within five meters,
with a bit of training. Those rockets had white phosphorus put up a big white cloud of smoke, certainly enough to keep everybody’s head down as well and you could use them as a weapon if you wanted to, but the predominant use was to mark the target for the fighters. You’d put it down as close to the target as you could or call the target relative to your smoke. If you are working close to your own troops
you could put it down quite close to them and they could they ‘yes, it’s just there, we need the bombs three or four hundred meters the rockets that we are going to use, about three or four hundred meters west of that’, so you could tell that to the fighters and control basically their attacks fairly well. You can tell as they are rolling in and pointing that yes they have got the target and hopefully with their skill that they actually hit the target.
So yours is a very central crucial
monitoring as well as tactical role?
Yes. It was a essential role and fighters weren’t allowed to put weapons on the ground close to there own troops, we didn’t want any unfriendly fire. Unless you had a forward controller or somebody who could talk to the people on the ground they didn’t know where they were, they didn’t have GPS in those days and the only way you could find out
was with mirrors and smoke and other little tricks to find out where they were and then mark the target in a safe way.
How many other O2s were flying out of Nui Dat, it was out at Nui Dat at one time?
At Vung Tau.
Sorry at Vung Tau, how many other O2s were flying?
We had four, there were two others but they belonged to another unit who use to work in an adjacent area.
You were talking about firing, delivering
fire onto targets on the ground and also onto other aircraft as well?
No, just purely on the ground.
Ground targets. Do you remember the first time that you actually did that?
Yes. All the guys that went to Vietnam as forward air controllers had done forward air control courses in Australia. They were all fighter pilots, they had all fired rockets and bombs and strafe guns so they were familiar with the techniques.
The only thing they hadn’t done I suppose was fire rockets from a FAC aircraft because we used the Winjeel as a FAC aircraft and it didn’t have the capacity to fire rockets it was just smoke markers and just throw them out the window, or they had a little carrier under the aircraft. So that was the only thing different, apart from a different airplane, it didn’t take long to adjust too.
Our guys were very familiar with the role, the technique and the weapons delivery and all those things and it was an ideal situation that a fighter pilot controlled fighter pilots because they knew how they thought and how they could maneuvered and all of those sorts of things. The Americans often didn’t use fighter pilots, so they really didn’t know what a fighter could do in terms of
what he could see from high speed, high altitude, how he could maneuver, what amount of airspace it takes to turn him around, so they really had no appreciation for that. Towards the end of my tour, probably the last six months of that nine month tour I was instructing Americans, they ranged from, pardon the expression ‘old farts’,
who had been out of the cockpit and in the Pentagon for a lot of years and they dragged them out because they had no people to replace the guys that had to be turned around and sent home for a while. Range from those guys to young fellows straight off pilot training, they had six weeks training on the O2 and we got them there raw. They had no idea of what they were doing so it took quite some time to train them and get them up to speed, so that was quite a challenge.
To get back to this
first occasion, the occasion that you actually fired on?
I deviated didn’t I. At Cam Ranh Bay, the conversion on the O2 consisted of firing some rockets from that aircraft, it was an airplane that we hadn’t fired from, and they were just shooting at markers on the ground or field
or any target in a range area, not a tactical area at all. When I got down to Vung Tau one of the American instructor pilots came out and his role was to check you out, give you the tick in the box. The best sortie was with John was rather interesting we had a Canberra out of Phan Rang
they came down quite frequently.
This is the Canberra bomber?
Yes, the Australian Air Force. They came down quite frequently and we saw a lot of them, and we seemed to be involved in a lot of their training with the new guys coming through and they’d come down to Phan Rang it was nice and quite and the weather is normally pretty good. We had this Canberra on a run in so long, a long straight
run in you didn’t mark the target until like of the last minute. Up to that point we were discussing where it was, because it was just green down there and trying to hit the supposed target. We figured out where it was and I put a mark down at the right time, but the good old over confident unfamiliarity forgot to arm the rocket so it didn’t come off. So, I’m pointing it at the ground, going quite fast
and quite steep, pulled off that approach and looked back for the mark and it wasn’t there and realised I hadn’t fired the rocket. I did just like a flying pilot and did just a loop and a bit of a flop up the top and pushed did down and just shot another one straight away. This Yank, John he nearly had a heart attack, he’d never been upside down, it’s not designed and you’re not suppose to do aerobatics in this damn thing, but I had to do what I had to do,
it was under control but according to him it was too much of an experience, he was kind of shaking. That kind of sticks in my mind because I kind of scared a Yank which was good fun.
Was he shouting?
Mostly colourful language?
Yes, something like ‘what the ‘, and I want go on.
We don’t mind if you occasionally do.
‘Damn, what did you do that for’, he gave me a tick in the box.
Can you just explain again the relationship between the Australian Task Force and what you were doing in connection with the Americans. Because the researcher indicated that you were attached to the Australian Task Force, is that correct?
Yes. All Australian FACs were attached to an American Air Force, they were subsequently then attached in support of US Army units in particular areas. In my case, I was attached to the American Air Force unit who was in
support of the Australian Task Force at Vung Tau. I was working for the Americans in support of the Australians. My only relationship with the Australians was I was in an American unit in support of them. It’s fortunate I suppose at Vung Tau I had access to the Australian Intelligence System,
briefing system and so on, at 38 Squadron. It was fruitless I suppose and good from my career point of view that I really got to understand how the Australian Army work in a tactical sense, whereas the other FACs we were working in the American system didn’t have that exposure and the Americans did things quite differently.
The relationship there was we’d be tasked, on a daily basis to do visual reconnaissance in certain areas. The task force would perhaps order up preplanned air strikes on a particular target area which intelligence had suggested there had been activity and we would go out and attempt to hit that target.
Our other responsibility was responding to events on the ground and I recall about half a dozen where we had SAS patrols out in grid squares and they’d be out there doing their thing and they’d be sitting and watching. Occasionally they’d get themselves caught out, by either being discovered or a larger force was coming through and they’d wanted out of there. They’d contact us, because they knew we were overhead
they could hear us, and you’d just hear the whisper on the radio saying ‘help’, they say they’d be going to an extraction point and you’d go back to the task force with the word from patrol or whatever the call sign was wanted extraction at whatever point. You’d call up the Bushrangers which were armed helicopters and get them in there, if necessary you’d call up artillery because they are the first response.
The Bushrangers would come up and provide cover whilst the SAS guys were hitting the rendezvous point, their extraction point and at the same time the Slick helicopters, the unarmed helicopters would be extracting them. So it’s a pretty well oiled machine providing everything went all right. Then if it’s necessary you’d have fighters called up for immediate air strikes coming in behind all of that.
That’s a very good explanation actually,
you made me feel as though I was there. I just want to clarify, you would hear the SAS calling out help?
How would you be communicating with them?
You didn’t, we knew where they were because of the intelligence briefing, we knew that we had the SAS working in this particular grid squares,
and the aim was really to stay right away because you went over there whilst you tried to contact them, the people on the ground might say that there was something going on with that aircraft, and it might compromise their position. You could only hear them on the radio if they needed help normally, if they needed an early extraction or if they were compromised. The radio calls were normally whispers because they didn’t want their voices to carry,
you’d hear this little whisper in the background and think ‘what the hell was that’, and then suddenly you’d realise probably who it was and you worked from there.
Would you have headphones on all the time?
Yes, you’d have the normal crash helmet.
With headphones in built?
Yes. Normal helmets that the pilots wear or the choppers wear or the fighter guys wear.
Headphones with sound insulation?
Yes, headphones with insulation because
the O2 was a very noisy airplane inside of it so you had to have sound insulation as well.
You were obviously communicating with the other aircraft?
Yes. All those radios were pretty busy, if you were out on a visual reconnaissance you’d have a Sioux helicopter you’d be talking with him, at the same time you’d probably we talking
to air traffic control to let them know where you are. You’d be talking to the tactical air control party the FAC organisation, because they’d want to know where you are all the time. You could be talking to other helicopters in the area, telling them that you are operating the area and you have a Sioux down below you, keep out of his way because he’s looking down he’s not looking out, so to look out for him. With all of that you were pretty busy and plus there were fighters
coming and you could be relaying or being the first contact for fighters coming in and then relaying to somebody else, so there was a whole gamut of things. Then you became very clever with sorting out the chatter, the stuff that is important to you, the stuff that’s not important to you and that was another skill in itself, you’d have radius at various volumes. If you’d had a good briefing
before the mission you are tactically aware of what’s going on you could hear some call signs and say ‘that’s nothing to do with me so I’ll put that out of my mind, I won’t even bother listening to it’.
Can you describe what an average briefing covered?
It normally started with the weather, what’s going on in the area, what other activities and how many
units maybe deploying by helicopters, or being extracted from that area. Artillery fire going into these areas, or there was a SAS patrol out in particular areas. General intelligence brief, what they think might be going on if anything, things to look out for. Intelligence might suggest there’s activity in an area so your task might be without over doing have a quick
fly by to just see if you could see anything, and then they might have a quite look with a Sue without being too obvious, or they might just bang the hell out of it with artillery or things like that, and go in and see if there was something there.
What usually were your targets if you had to open fire on them?
Generally bunker systems, anything suspicious, if you found new ground, it might be an elephant or something like that, digging
up around and you’d never know whether it was a development of a bunker system or human activity or animal activity. Generally most targets were bunker systems or for example if we were putting an army unit into the area, soften it up with artillery, or air strikes perhaps
where the artillery couldn’t get to or they may wish to distant an artillery unit so you had to use air strikes from fighter bombs and that sort of issue.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 05
What was your understanding of the hearts and minds of the strategy of the Americans?
Essentially it was to show them that there was a better way of political democracy, those sorts of principals and they believed that
everybody’s wish and not necessarily the people of South Vietnam wanted that, I don’t know, but it certainly was going to be forced upon them one way or the other.
At this time did you have much interaction with the local Vietnamese people?
Not really, we had a cleaning lady, bar guy other than that no. The only other interaction would have been
at restaurants or something like that. Most of those restaurants were old French restaurants and had been around for years and business was very familiar with the westerners. They were probably quite as comfortable with us as we were with them.
I believe you also started to visit an orphanage at one point?
about half way through my tour and then getting to know the other RAAF guys there that the opportunity came up. Dave Robson the guy there with whom I replaced was involved with as well he gave me visits to the orphanages. The RAAF use to provide money and toys for the kids which they got sent up from
Australia and Butterworth, it was just a matter of giving the kids something and make their lives a bit more fun.
Did you hear any of the stories of these children how they came to loose their parents?
No, I don’t recall getting down to that level, they were just quick and very short visits. The padre’s would have
probably been more aware of, as would of the Vietnamese people running the orphanages or the church or whom ever, no, it was just sort of having fun with the kids and giving them a bit of something.
What would you do?
Just play games they always made a big thing of having to sit down and having something to drink like a cup of tea or a biscuit so it was a big deal for them as well,
it was a mutual exercise.
That’s a really nice thing to do. That was like a formal community service organizational thing that the RAAF put together?
Is that kind of thing common?
I would think so yes, even in M*A*S*H [M*A*S*H – Mobile Army Surgical Hospital – American television comedy series about the Korean War, made during the 1970s] we saw that portrayed, it’s the Australian way that the civilians are
not part of the deal when they are under some sort of a hardship. Most military people go out of their way to make or rebuild just like in Timor, as the guys went they would rebuild and provide the electricity.
In the local community, how do you think the Australians were regarded as opposed to the Americans were regarded?
I’d like to think that they were thought of differently, our attitudes are totally different, in just about anyway that you can think of, ranging from humour and perhaps the treatment of people. I think our guys and down to the soldier would go out of his way to
make somebody’s life better and to go and repair damage that they weren’t responsible for. If they saw things that needed fixing like water or electricity, or rebuilding a home or roof they’d just do it.
Whereas the Americans?
The Americans and I don’t like to use the word selfish, but obviously a lot of them who do but as an organisation
quite as open or friendly as the Australians.
What other differences were there between the Americans and the Australians in regards to the ranking, discipline and that sort of thing with your American counterparts?
The Australian military whilst we are very conscience of rank and discipline it is a lot less so, and we have all heard the stories bout the troops taking out their officers or trying to get
them out of the way through fair means of all foul, you never hear that sort of thing in our organisation. Whether that’s because of the access to drugs and other aspects we hear about, and I was never a party to or aware of that thing. But we kept on hearing the way they use to behave or perform was always tainted with the possibility of drugs and
things, and I’m sure that some of our guys got involved in but again it’s not the Australian way.
What examples did you see of that difference between Australians and Americans in regards to rank and discipline?
Just the general attitude, they would tend perhaps to
make a judgment on something whereas an Australian would perhaps get on with it, and do as instructed and ordered. The Americans might if they didn’t feel that that was the right thing to do, would go half way there rather doing the job that they had been
ordered to do. They would confront to their superior officer, but they would perhaps not quite do the job, sabotage if you like of the intent of the order or whatever they were suppose to do.
You were working with the US forces at this time, weren’t you?
I could imagine in your position you would have to have a high level of trust of your ground crew,
it must have been a bit uneasy at times if you don’t have that level of trust?
Yes, there is always that suspicion at the back of your mind, somebody could do something silly to an airplane, and cause damage the aircraft of even put people at risk. I’ve seen that other times in the States where a crew shift was looking after airplanes and cutting electrical wires
and causing a lot of grief in terms of having to repair it all, but also knowing what they knew cutting wires which wouldn’t effect the airplane on the ground, but when it got airborne it would have caused the loss of the airplane potentially. That’s the sort of reaction these guys approach the subject if had been done wrong by. An
example was we had helmet bags which were rather nice and very attractive to a lot of the crew chiefs. The crew chiefs when I was in the States and asked me for one and I said “I’ll see what I can do for you, but you can’t have mine”, when I got back it was slashed on the ground, when you leave you leave it on the ground, you don’t take it into the airplane with you, but when I came back it was slashed
and I knew who did it, I couldn’t prove it obviously but that’s the sort of response that I’m talking about in terms of the way that they go about business. Simple example but taken to the extreme and you take life and aircraft at risk.
When he was cutting the wires was that a deliberate sabotage?
Yes, but they eventually got him.
Gosh, sicko. To what extent was your, this may be a bit repetitive but if we could clarify to what extent was your interaction, your contact with the US Air Force?
Other than the initial in briefings and working at the level of my organisation, none.
What about the ground crew, was that Australian or American?
It was the United States Air Force, we were hosted onto Vung Tau, we were there to assist the Australians as a USAF [United States Air Force] unit. Our ground crew we had four or five airmen who were responsible for maintaining airplanes.
We also touched on this also but if we could get a confined statement about what you thought about the US Forces in terms of their training, did you regard them as a well trained airmen?
Vietnam was my first contact with the American forces, to any lengthy period, my initial reaction to their training wasn’t as good as ours. It was proficient in
some of the training they did and some of the procedures weren’t were as well versed as ours, they were a bit lax in ways they went about things and they were a bit casual with some procedures. A quick example would be radio procedures it was attended as waffled, where more discipline clear short concise
only say what you need to say not embellish it with what I call waffle, saying something that doesn’t add to the original transmission, as an example. That was my initial impression and it was supported when I went to the States on exchange for three years. I didn’t think their training was as good as ours, and some the discipline was really a bit frightening.
As an example, when an aircraft is over stressed and a pilot imposes to much load G force on the aircraft that causes progression of fatigue and can damage the airplane. So therefore one of your disciplines is you don’t over stress the aircraft, if you do over stress it you report it, so the engineers can inspect it and clear it for the next flight.
Well the procedure there was, I’ve over stressed the airplane I’m going to get a little kick in the backside or a slap across the wrists, I wont report it. I will reset the G meter so that it doesn’t show that I have over stressed it, and pull a few Gs so it reads about right for the mission, and nobody will know the better. I’ve seen it done and I’ve been ordered to do it, and I refused to do it and I lost an American friend because he got a kick in the backside
because he over stressed the aircraft and he wasn’t going to report it. My G meter said ‘you’ve over stressed the airplane’, to a degree that I thought the aircraft had to be inspected. So that was the attitude and the discipline, the airmanship gap if you like.
What about in terms of lateral thinking?
On a par there, both forces were always looking for a better way
of doing things and particularly in the environment that I was in in the State. We were all top lined instructors setting an example for the rest of the United States Air Force, because Nellis where I was stationed, it was the fighter weapon school tactics we developed the instructors and it was the top of the line if you like in fighter tactics. Those guys were as good as
our fellows in terms of lateral thinking, development of tactics and getting and finding out better ways of doing things.
Was there a tendency for specialisation amongst American airmen?
Very much so. They were always amazed that one of our guy’s avionics type person could fix any piece of equipment, they were restricted to a specific piece of equipment.
You hear stories about an American coming up to an Australian saying “what do you do?” he’d say “I’m a radio technician” and saying “what part do you fix?”, in America you fixed that part but as an Australian it was a broarder base not specialising but a broard base cross training, able to turn his hand at most things.
Just getting back to
Vung Tau again, who was your commanding officer?
An American, I was the only Australian there, there was only ever one Australian in that unit.
Who was the American commanding officer?
There were three guys, they were all Lieutenant Colonels, now you are stretching, there was Baker,
Edge and the last guy escapes me.
What were they like as leaders?
They were pretty good regional operators, the three of them were not fighters, they came in late
but they were good squadron commanders, in this case as flight commanders. They had a pretty good handle on most things, they were on top of any shenanigans or lack of discipline or whatever in the unit.
Did you feel at times being the only Australian fighter a bit alienated
from the rest of the group?
No, not at all, the Americans are very friendly and they find Australians fascinating, you’ve just got to open your mouth and they just stop and listen, because we are different and our humour is different. It was a happy compromise in fact that that USAF unit being on Vung Tau surrounded by a bunch of Australians because we were right in the heart of Australian territory there.
I use to take them across the Australian messes occasionally for a meal or in the bar and that way they got to know the helicopter pilots or whoever was out in the field, by name. You’d recognise their voice over the radio and they’d call them up by name so it was a good situation in that you got to know the people you were working with. Whereas in most other cases the FAC unit was
divorced from any other contact with the people you were supporting, they were required to have an airfield secured, you were always away from the ground forces that they were supporting.
You mentioned the differences between the American and Australian humour, are there any examples that you can think of that come to mind about how that humour was, the differences that were shown?
The Americans are very gullible. You may have heard the stories about selling kangaroo feathers in Kings Cross. You had to be careful because they didn’t understand our terminology, it’s just like we don’t initially in contact with them I suppose, but I think we learn quicker.
We are different and our sense of humour is different, there is irony in there there is sarcasm and I can call Graham [interviewer] a bastard but there are bastards and bastards, they don’t understand the difference. You could take advantage of that if you wanted to, very easily. They don’t seem to remember the
differences between that examples, it doesn’t seem to sink in.
I imagine that humour was important at that time to deal with boredom or the stress of what was happening at the time, are there any examples of how humour was used?
Not off the top of my head, I need to think about that I might remember.
We will come back to that then? Where were you living in Vung Tau?
We were initially billeted in an old two story maybe three story hotel, old run down, but it was adequate in downtown Vung Tau. It had barbed wire around it, it had a very old Vietnamese man who
was the guard I suppose. There was never a threat to that building that I was aware of, I felt reasonable comfortable there. The drive to and from was not quite as comfortable, but you never knew when somebody might try and do something silly while you were on the road. About
halfway through, we for whatever reason I forget, moved onto Vung Tau base itself to live in the billets just across the road from where our unit was, and they were quite adequate also.
Did you have a room mate during this time?
The old hotel yes, for a short time then he left after about two months, and nobody else replaced him I don’t think.
So I was solo there for a while and then when we moved on base they were all single rooms.
How important were your mates and mateship during this time?
In the sense that there is always someone there to talk over problems. Basically off duty you spent time with the same guys essentially.
We didn’t do a great deal of night work, but we did do some. There was always the nights and plus I knew prior to even going up there a lot of the Australian chopper pilots, that was another avenue of maintaining sanity if you like, with familiar people rather than the Americans.
Are there any mates that stand out
at that, stand out at that time?
American or Australian.
There are a couple of guys but I haven’t kept in contact with any of them. I tried when I was in the States and I think that I did talk to a couple of them on the phone. My original room mate we got on quite well.
What was his name?
Chris Neill. He put me on the straight and narrow, in terms of he looked after me
initially, the normal sponsoring type activity. There was one other guy, my first initial instructor John McKinnon and he was a really nice guy and he got up to all sorts of mischief. He’d just fly down, he’d just take an airplane from Bien Hoa and fly to a restaurant and have a really good meal and a couple of bottles and then just jump back into the airplane and fly home and nobody knew that he’d gone, he got up to all those sorts of antics,
it wasn’t because of those reasons it was he just was a nice guy.
What else did you do on R&R, you mentioned the nice restaurants and a nice bottle of wine every now and then, was there any other activities that you got up too?
Not really, we were a bit restricted on what we could do off duty, you couldn’t go roaring off into the country side or things like that, it was insecure and unknown security. The odd
drive around, there was the beach, the Back Beach I think it was called at Vung Tau, it was a segregated area for military people. You’d go down there and do the usual Australian thing and try a bit of surf and sun. As I said, I used to fly with the chopper guys both the 9th Squadron and the Siouxs. I guess because there was so little to do I’d prefer to do that
where you were always learning something by involving yourself although you are not stepping back away from it but I didn’t feel the need I was comfortable with where I was and where I was going and I didn’t see the need to step back and try and get away from it all. We were entitled to two R&Rs,
those with families in Australia could only get to Butterworth, it was the only R&R centre so that suited me because the family was there. That was a week, and I think I did that twice so I must have been entitled to two. Most guys did that and went to Butterworth because all the fighter guys were going to the fighter base and everybody knew everybody so it was the appropriate thing to do.
Getting back to flying on
operations, what was your most fearful moment in Vietnam?
Nothing really on the operational scene, I thought our precautions we took, like flying not below fifteen hundred feet, to sort of remove the ground fire potential. The biggest problem really I suppose is not taking ground fire,
or being hit or being exposed to enemy fire is running into some other airplane, particularly helicopters because there were so many of them around. It seemed to me that the majority problem was people use to never talk to air traffic control, they use to just go from A to B. My opinion or my view was the American chopper pilots were all army junior warrant officers and I didn’t have a lot of time for
their airmanship. I was of the view that most of them didn’t take much heed to what was going on around them in terms of lookout and accident prevention and stuff like that, that was always my concern of running into another airplane, but I didn’t run into any.
I guess it was sort of an ongoing underling pressure that you felt rather than one particular incident?
Yes it was always there. Even our own
helicopters were busy doing things and if you put yourself in their way or their airspace you had to be very careful. Generally you were in control of that situation when you were putting in air strikes because you dictated where the airplanes went, but for the rest of the time where there was poor visibility or rain or haze and you get into chopper areas and rice fields and all that sort of stuff, the chopper will appear out of
that and within seconds you could be running into it so you really had to keep your wits about you.
How often did you come under fire?
The majority of the time you would never know, in day time you would never know unless a whole company appeared in a airplane, and I’m not aware of one appearing in my aircraft. At night time it was different because you could see tracer from ground fire, again our regulations
put ourselves in a situation where we always flew above fifteen hundred feet and it kept you pretty safe and it was only luck as we say ‘God be with me’ but that was the only time that you were aware that there was ground fire there. Some of the helicopter guys were more aware of it. For example if they were using some sort of mortar or mind, they’d either feel or see the effects.
I can remember twice, the fighters were using CBU which is a bomb which has a lot of little bomblets and it scatters them all over the place and it’s suppose to explode on impact, some never use to. Occasionally the Sioux would go back in to do a BDA [Bomb Damage Assessment], an assessment of where the impacts were, and it would go off underneath him and frightened the
hell out of him and all you can do is assume is you are under fire, and go do it again to sort out things. There were a couple of occasions like that where you were aware that there might have been something there.
That was on your day off when you were flying with the helicopters?
Yes. You can take the best precautions in the world and somebody perhaps might gets you. Another example is we put
a mark down on a bunker system and fly away, generally if you fly away a thousand metres, a kilometre with a M82, five thousand bomb you were safe, the theory is. We did this one day and we were heading and still going away outside of a kilometre and we felt something, an impact on the aircraft and thought about it for a while. The pilot said “I don’t know what that was, I’m not happy, we will go back
to base to check it out”, and sure enough it was a big fragment of a bomb that was stuck back behind in the engine. That sort of thing happens, that day the bomb hit a larger denser rock and a fragment was projected further than predicted, so it happens.
You were over a kilometre away?
At this point, I think you might of mentioned this before, you were on six week tours at Vietnam from Butterworth, you went off for six weeks and came back for six weeks, how long were you away from your family (in Vietnam)?
So there were two breaks in there, every three months probably in round figures I’d go up and see the family.
What kind of communication was allowed by the Air Force with family?
Mail, I used to use HF occasionally, HF radio back to Butterworth. I got to know the frequencies and call signs, and at Butterworth that radio was set up for the maritime aircraft
to come in from the Indian Ocean or South China Sea, and I’d talk to those guys and they’d pass on messages if I needed to get something there more urgent than the mail system, I was supported that way but it was totally illegal but it was done.
How hard was that being away from your family, young children?
No different from being in Australia and being deployed to Darwin for six weeks, seven weeks or two
months or whatever, it was something that you become accustomed too.
A group of you also did artillery observers?
What’s involved with that?
That was the control of artillery onto a target, that maybe generated by a preplanned activity,
for example they might be putting in an army company into an area, we would soften if you like the target up clearing it by putting a whole bunch of artillery down to ensure that there was no bad guys around before they were choppered in to a landing zone. The other need for artillery was in support of the withdraw of a SAS patrol
from an area, where they may have been compromised or under threat, you’d put down artillery fire where they were whilst they withdraw you may bring in air strikes to support that, or gun ships to keep their heads down while the other helicopters were extracting other people from the ground.
Could you also describe what took place during night time operations, and the difference between daytime?
The difference between day and night is in the mind, you do exactly the same thing but you are a bit more weary, you haven’t got a visual horizon you have to rely on your instruments, you cant rely on your senses because of vertigo and other things can give you some very weird sensations, so you fall back on very basic instrument whilst flying. That’s
merged with the need to do a lot of lookout as well, looking out on the ground for the target area, for the mark that you’ve put down for the weapon from the fighter, so it’s the transition and some people have difficulty transitioning between instrument flying and visual night flying and it’s something that you get yourself into difficulties very quickly if you’re not
aware of what attitude you have got the aircraft in or what you are trying to do.
How much could you see of the ground?
Nothing, it’s a black hole, quite literally. We carried flares which we released and you also used artillery flares to eliminate the target area but they only lasted a short period of time. They were in fact quite disorientating because you would be flying around, it’s like insects
around a light bulb, you tend to be drawn to it and you can find yourself getting closer and closer and steeper and steeper in a dive for example to release a rocket without being aware of the fact that you are too steep and you may not recover. It’s only good training and careful airmanship consideration that will keep you out of trouble.
You did have a visual reference, most of the time you’d have flares but if you didn’t have that most of the time you’d have a dot on the ground and you had to work your way around that.
I guess identifying your position would have been a challenge?
Yes, at night time certainly, you’d rarely would do close air support at night, because there is no way that you can determine where the good guys are, your own troops, unless they shine lights or things like that.
Generally speaking what you’d do was work in, put down a mark and fly miles away and put down another half a distance and work in to a point where they say “it’s too close, back it off and we’ll start there.” So there are ways but it takes care and time and not rushing into something.
Of course there would have been radio, but what other visual signals
would you get from ground?
There was mirror obviously, smoke. Generally if we had to put troops close to the target area or the striking area close to the troops as the fighters were on their delivery you would get the troops to pop a smoke and then they could see the line of where the good guys where, verses the mark where the FACs put down a mark. Depending on the weapon you can work very close, less than
one hundred metres and not hurt them, for example strafing or rocketing, with bombing you have got that kilometre with minimal safety distance.
When you were in the helicopters on your days off, which doesn’t sound like it was a day off to me, but we will call it a day off if that’s what you want to call it.
I usually didn’t fly helicopters.
I imagine, and there may not have been, but you would of picked up
some injured soldiers who had come out of some traumatic battles situations?
No, fortunately that never happened. I did quite a lot of training with the winching guys in and out of jungle and stuff like that but never injuries that I can recall. The chopper guys are fairly studious to when they would take me out
or not, they knew if there was something going on or potentially they wouldn’t want you in the seat, and that’s the 9th Squadron guys and the Sioux would be involved in lifting out people there so there was no room in it. I can remember operating the winch at one time, normally the crewman does that, we were operating with some South Vietnamese soldiers and a lot of these guys
had never seen a helicopter or had never been in one and this thing was going to lift them off the ground and take them away somewhere. This guy was looking at me with huge eyes and I got him half way up and I blipped it which gave a jerk and I’m convinced this guy thought that he was dead, his eyes were rolling back inside his head and he closed his eyes and the next thing he was in the chopper and I don’t think he realised, I think he still thought that he was falling.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 06
What would the FAC do if the Sioux aircraft weren’t present?
We were fortunate I suppose in Vung Tau that we did have the Possum as a Sioux aircraft, able to do most of our visual reconnaissance. They were down in the tree tops quite literally, so they could see bunker systems, see paths and determine whether they were used or not in the jungle.
From one thousand and fifteen hundred feet you cant see any of that, if there is a well worn path you can see, if there has been fresh earth dug in, you may see that depending on the jungle cover. So they were essential not only for visual reconnaissance but also for damage assessment after an air strike for an example to see if it’s done it’s job. They were there for as I mentioned, probably about sixty to eighty percent of the time, if
they weren’t there we’d still do the visual reconnaissance to learn that the physical characterists of the area so you didn’t really need to carry a map, once you go your readings of the area you can navigate without that almost flying a grid reference, in a green blanket of vegetation underneath you.
Having said that you probably can’t determine your position inside probably two or three hundred metres, and that’s why the Possum was an invaluable aide. If you didn’t have them you took your best shot at it in terms of putting down a mark and then you’d put down weapons. Then once the area has opened up of cause and the trees then you can start to work a bit more accurately, but it was in the lap of the Gods whether you could do it accurately or not without
somebody actually putting something on the target.
On practical terms what did ‘putting down a mark’ actually mean?
What it meant was it gave the fighter pilot something to aim at, if you didn’t have a mark down they would just throw bombs off and they’d land somewhere. Once you had a mark down be it another bomb your mark as a forward air controller or an artillery round on the ground, it all constituted a mark and it’s quite literally a
reference point. Not too often would you say ‘hit my smoke’ although that’s the standard phrase, you’d say ‘put your three hundred metres, east or long or short or whatever from your attack direction’, and then move it around to adjust, and that’s the same process with artillery, you put down a mark and then use it as a reference and then move it around and put it where you wanted it.
On the O2, we had on all FAC aircraft with white phosphorus rockets, they were about three or four foot long or maybe five foot long 2.75 inch diameter with a folding fin rocket carried in a pot of seven and had a warhead or a white phosphorus marking device installed in them, and all they did was create a very dense white smoke.
It would not often appear for thirty seconds or a minute and come up through the jungle, but once up it stood out particularly well.
You referred to smoke a few moments ago as a term that you would or wouldn’t use did that mean much the same sort thing?
The people on the ground had smoke generators, with all sorts of colours you could call for a particular colour or generally speaking they would throw a smoke and you’d say “I’d see yellow”, and they’d
confirm it, because the bad guys could be listening and also throwing smoke. When we ran out of rockets we’d pull out our smoke grenades which we probably had half a dozen or more on the aircraft with us and just chuck it through the window and it would disappear on the ground and slowly generate but it was a marker on the ground.
How often would you receive a communication through the head phones that you thought might have been generated by the VC [Vietcong]?
You would probably never know.
I’m certainly not aware of it ever happening but there is always a chance in a close, they did have radios they would of captured radios, we knew that and make that a very valid assumption. You can almost bet that someone would have been educated or could speak English enough even if just a grunt in the radio. So particularly working close with your own troops you really had to be sure that you were talking with the right guy, because
they could pretend they were somewhere else and then the next thing you know you expose choppers and other people unnecessarily.
Hence the need for specific colours of smoke?
Yes, it’s an authentication system there.
You mentioned before that the USAF inserted older as well as inexperienced pilots, what problems or challenges did this bring?
With the older guys, most of them were
coming out of sitting behind a desk for many years. One of my CO’s up there Colonel Baker he flew B47s which way back in sort of the 50s. He was on the outer limit of the capability and he took quite a long time to get up to speed, procedures, he could fly very well, but to fly and think and do was another matter. It took
quite a while to get him up to the point where I would certify him being capable.
When you say older, at what age?
He would have been in his 50s, at least. So I had two or three guys come through like that and they were the guys that were going to be operational officers or commanders in the
hierarchy of the unit. They created one problem in that they were a bit slow on the uptake, a bit more cautious perhaps which contrasted with the young person who is gung ho and wants to get in with all of these baddies and you really had to sort of push the old fellow to get him up to speed, you had to suppress
all this testosterone and all the rest of it. The old guys had been there done that, they had a lot of savvy if you like, whereas the young guys didn’t know squat about fighter activity, except what they had been taught in the short course at Hurlburt Air Force base in Florida. You basically had to teach them fighter tactics, as well as fly the airplane,
as well as forward air control procedures, and you had to start from scratch basically. Even though they had been taught it over there, you had to re-teach them, because what is taught in theory in training schools are quite often different to what actually happens. The training schools never keep up to date with what is being developed in the field.
It was really
you who was bringing them up to speed with the latest development?
Yes, different procedures came along to suit the area of operations. For example in Vung Tau there was one procedure if they went up to into the western areas close to the border there were other procedures. Which would dictate how high they will fly, what tactics they’d use. If they were working in high terrain
that was another factor that it was flat where we were accept in a couple of areas. Those sorts of things get the young fellows caught out because if they go from a flat area to hills so or later they are going to frighten the hell out of themselves because they will have hill in their windscreen. Our problem was in our unit as soon as we got them up to speed, they were looked upon as fairly highly qualified guys and they’d be poached off and stolen from us,
and sure enough you’d get another young fellow and start in a big circle all over again, it was a little training unit more than anything else.
What about the testosterone angle having to kind of maybe hose them down here and there?
Yes, that’s normal pilot stuff I suppose, most of these guys to them it was probably a second best shot at being a fighter pilot, they were shooting weapons and involved in a war and they use
to do a few rash things and there was always pleasant to catch them out, and demonstrate to them that they are not as good as they thought they were. Like tuning in the wrong NDB, radio beacon and they’d fly an eastern approach on that beacon, without having checked which beacon they were flying too, you’d tell them to look up about half a mile from the hill,
and had you not been there they’d would have been in that hill because they didn’t do the right checks, and if kind of brought them down to earth.
What’s the ideal age span for a fighter pilot?
Realistically probably 40s depending, it’s a very individual thing. I use to fly with a couple of Generals in the States and they were aged 40 plus and they could fly
as good as I could. They are unusual fellows, but the average person I’d really think once you hit 40ish you are about to hit the wall, you are slowing up. I did my Hornet training at 44, and I knew the old brain wasn’t as smart as the young fellows, I could out fly them because I had the experience behind me. I couldn’t out computer them sitting in there
pushing buttons and making the thing work they were used to doing that in front of a TV, or in computer games. These days it’s like simulators and it’s as good as the airplanes they depict. It was a hard struggle to get up to speed and stay up in front of the young guys but on the other side of things your airmanship skills and handling skills were better than theirs because they hadn’t learnt them yet.
that your reflexes are usually at there peak in your early 20s?
I’ve heard stories that some of the best Battle of Britain pilots were there in their early 20s?
Yes, because they were dead moments later, because they never got to be more than 20. It’s just a fact of life, but your mid 20s is obviously your peak area, and you sort of plateau out and you start to plateau out and in your mid 30s and 40s you are starting to push the limit probably.
Have we spoken about artillery observers?
How was Phuoc Tuy activity wise compared to other parts of Vietnam?
Pretty quiet, the biggest was Tet offensive and after that there were a couple of little skirmishes, sort of company I think not much larger type activities. They were more
self contained smaller in a skirmish sort of bracket in rather a major operation. That’s not to say that that’s not a lot of activity by the army in cleaning up and ensuring that the area was kept clear of bad guys, because it was so quiet in the north of Phuk Toey the time I was there they discovered a large hospital, it was underground and they had to bring their wounded back into that area.
This is the Vietcong?
Yes. A very quiet sort of area, there was no reason for them to be there so they chose that obviously and that was tracked down and discovered, and I’m not sure how it was and whilst in my time there was about three major, what I’d call major exercise where two or three companies were airlifted into an area to clean up what was perceived as a build up which probably wasn’t there
and had to be investigated.
I believe the fact that the Sioux helicopters could fly low was due to the relatively quietness in Phuoc Tuy?
Yes, you wouldn’t want to expose them at low level in anything other than in a very benign environment. Some of the Americans did it but they didn’t last very long, they use to try and sneak in and blow trees aside so they could see what was going on in there. They found themselves
either shot down or fired at very very quickly and so it just wasn’t done, it was silly.
Just returning to the VC hospital do you actually know what happened to that hospital subsequently?
As I understand it, it was hit and they went back in there and they found, I don’t know about evidence of any killed in action and things like that, but certainly there was fresh equipment
and bandages and stuff like that.
In the missions that you flew, were you ever aware or preoccupied by the fact that you would be taking actions that might of cost lives?
No, I guess I say that from the point of view that it was very quiet there and in a lot of cases it was a
process of attrition removing their ability to set up camps getting in there early, whilst they may have been setting them up, filling in the holes that they dug. Attrition by that method rather than, and I don’t ever believe there was the numbers in Phuoc Tuy that we would of encountered many killed in action from air strikes. The air strikes were normally denying an area
of use by knocking out bunker systems and such or just even for the sake of just putting down something there to say ‘don’t go in that area because we are going to keep going in there and hitting it, until we know you are not coming in there’, will do that over there too. It was more of a war of attrition, more of trying to second guess where they might go. Because it was so quite
there was never the major threat or a major Vietcong unit or anything like that, invading Nui Dat there it was just the odd little skirmish and I think you can almost say they were there perhaps to just do the same thing, probe a little bit here probe a little bit there but they were just small numbers.
How much of a close connection did feel with what was happening on the ground?
Only because I knew
the helicopter guys who were putting people in on the ground perhaps, I knew a few of the army guys through briefings and that, so I knew they would be involved on the ground. At least with my experience you never really had a really close feel for what was going on the ground, you knew that they were exposed to minds and were being shot at, and snakes and all these other things.
There was probably more danger from snakes than the other, but that was the nature of the country. I guess anybody in an airplane has difficulty perhaps appreciating what it was like on the ground, even if you were a helicopter pilot shot at more frequently more than a forward air control airplane or fighter until he actually see perhaps
the result of those close activities, you are a bit immuned from it all.
Did you see any causalities at any stage?
Not close up, was never involved in a medivac, I’ve seen wounded unloaded onto hospital buses and things like that at Vung Tau but never close up.
You mentioned a couple of times the way in which you worked in with the SAS I was just wondering if you can give us a more of a
all encompassing statement which defines how you did work in with the SAS and the procedures involved in working with them?
We were never face to face working with them. We were briefed on where their activities or their operations were being taken place, and at those briefings it generally said ‘stay away’, because we didn’t want to attract attention.
You’d normally talk to them going away from them rather than before then so there was no possibility of somebody listen on the ground, and they might make the assumption and they might try and locate where they are. It was sort of a bit like a big brother looking after them or the sense that you were looking after them and therefore doing the job. That was the closest, but apart from if they responded that they needed
help you got sort of involved but even then you could never see or detect, you knew they were there but you never saw them, they were always plucked out of the field and they all disappeared, very quietly.
During that preliminary briefing would you be told what they were going to do?
No, just SAS patrol course iron was operating in whatever grid square in such and such, don’t go there.
Did you ever have to extract SAS people?
I’ve been involved in two or three cases were they have called for assistance and brought in the artillery and the gun ships and did some air strikes on a couple of occasions, because they had been fired upon and they were being pursued and wanted to get themselves out of there quick smart, they were being out numbered or whatever.
Did you have any kind of terminology to define what your targets were?
No, but for example when a preplanned air strike might have been planned that information
would have to be transmitted to a supporting unit, the fighter squadron, who would then deploy the fighters, that would be encoded the actually location and time. When the fighters turn up on the scene it’s too late then to worry about because it is all going to happen within minutes, so there is no point in trying to be secretive or clever with the code words and things like that, it’s just plain language.
Who would do the coding and the decoding?
The process would be that the staff officers or the planning officers would be writing messages in the clear and go to (UNCLEAR) and then coded at that point then the code of the day.
The code of the day, and it would be changed day by day?
These were codes rather than deciphers?
I talk about those in the same breath.
They could be authentication codes. You say alpha zulu, and your code book would say that equals bravo, and you say ‘bravo’ and the correct response is you’ve authenticated the guy on the ground or whom ever you are talking to that he is kosher and you know that he is the guy that you really want to talk to. If he doesn’t you can drop a bomb on them.
You would be communicating in code yourself would you?
Only when it’s critical yes.
If your control party wanted to give you some grid references, which might have been critical to successful or otherwise of an operation they would encode that and you’d use the code book to decode it. It was a very simplistic code but in the time span that doesn’t matter.
So otherwise you would be communicating in the clear?
Do you think that a pilot’s way of thinking has an influence on other areas of his life?
I think so, your attitudes and your mental state has got to be reflected in your day to day life. A fighter pilot is
fairly conservative, whilst he may appear to be aggressive, he’s aggressive with quite a degree of considering his actions that down stream somewhere it’s not going to turn into something that he doesn’t really want to, so he’s careful and conservative. In life I think that reflects itself,
for example in my case financial, I’m a bit weary of jumping in on mortgages and loans and if I can get by I’m a cash man, so to me that’s a conservative attitude and it carries on, not necessarily in a fighter pilot but perhaps in military training in general.
Would this be definable as very much a black and white approach?
I guess so, yes,
I think you can describe it like that.
Do you think that has it’s disadvantages?
Probably, yes. I guess it could infuriate some, you’re not making a rash decision you consider the consequences of the purchase of something and you might analyse a bit more deeply about do we really need a 68 centimetre TV [television], or would a 51 do or something like that, or do I really need a
Range Rover [expensive four wheel drive] when a [Honda] CRV [cheaper car] would provide the same satisfaction.
In a pilots own professional activities as a pilot, do you think the conservative approach was ever unwarranted or unnecessary?
I think it’s essential. You have got to us a cautious approach but obviously you can’t be too overly cautious you have got to make
decisions, you have got to take action now, but you have got to have the ability to think the big picture and see where it fits in, and not concentrate on that one little thing because as sure as hell if you do that the whole ball game changes and now you’ve got yourself going off in a tangent, which might not be the way to go so you have got to think about the picture more, and have the ability to analyse rapidly and come to the right decision, every time.
It’s a very encapsulating statement really.
Just returning to the chronology of what you were doing there and the progression through things, you were there at Vung Tau over what period, and I know it’s here in the questions and the material, what period?
January to September 1970.
1970. Did things change for you in terms of responsibilities during that time
being attached to the US Air Force, was there any modifications to your duties?
Yes, I was a line pilot if you like, a forward air controller because of my background as an instructor the CO cottoned onto that real quick, I became what the Americans call an instructor pilot, it’s basically the same thing. So I was into that program fairly quickly, he was going to put me as operations officer
but that would of got the nose of the ranking American captain his nose out of joint so he got the tick and I didn’t, it didn’t bother me one little bit, better him do all the paperwork, and I got on with the job of instructing which I enjoyed, the young guys and keep them on the straight and narrow.
At the end of that period, what happened next for you?
well after Vung Tau and being involved with this training activity?
That went right through to the last day. Unlike a lot of Americans whom with a month to go they just had this count down, generally they were young ladies and they use to colour a little section they’d have thirty little sections heading in that direction. Thirty days to go they’d almost refuse to fly, and the
theory that your last flight is going to be your last one, so you don’t generated your last flight.
Can you clarify, these are Americans?
You used the term young lads or young ?
Just American pilots generally?
Just American pilots, yes.
We are talking about a huge degree of superstition here?
I wouldn’t say a huge degree, I think it became a common
practice, for no other reason that the expression was I’m getting short, the time to go home is getting shorter and shorter. That then gave the excuse perhaps for a lot more partying and not doing things which they ordinarily would have done. I flew right to the last day and in fact I had to convince my boss on that last flight I wasn’t going to bust his airplane, because all I wanted to do was fly up to Nui Dat and say
goodbye to some of the army fellows up there, but that was the other thing potentially that last flight was always labeled you as you do something silly with the airplane like beat up the airfield, what are they going to do, send you home type attitude, that was the American way.
Doesn’t sound like you were about to do that?
Nope, and I didn’t, which left him even more gun smacked.
Probably in shock?
Almost had them convinced I was going, I stirred him
up something awful but I played the game.
They were just waiting for the big ticking bomb two days afterwards?
Once that Vietnam experience had come to an end for you, what happened to you next?
I went back to Butterworth, that was in September and in December I was posted back to Australia to the Number Two Operational Conversion Unit here at Williamtown. I spent a year there and then spend three years in the States.
Now of course you had to move the family back to Australia as well?
So did they move back to this region?
We lived in Nelson Bay and rented a house there, because we were only here for a year I brought a block of land and was thinking of building all sorts of things
and then about half way through the year the posting warning came out for the States so everything went on hold and I brought another block of land this one, and away we went.
Just before we leave Vietnam altogether, once you’d been through your experiences there what was your general view of the Vietnam War and whether we were justified in being there or not?
In general terms I think the reason for being there
was justified and was always a worthy cause, the conduct of the whole thing was a shambles militarily.
Why do you say that?
Militarily things weren’t allowed to happen and it was driven by politicians, from what I understand. That was really reflected by the attitudes by my fellow pilots over there
who were saying “what we really need is to make one big effort and the whole thing might go away”, but they were never allowed to hit particular targets and they were allowed to put the bit efforts in, or if they were it was so orchestrated it was totally ineffective, and I’m talking about in the north, so in the end it was a very ineffective operation. Whereas I think we had a lot more success in the Gulf War where things were
run by the military in a very positive way and unfortunately you either have good old collateral damage, you’d have injuries in the civil population but those actions were positive and sort of clinical in those cases and GPA.
Whereas your theory about the Vietnam War was run too much by politians and run by
too much by restraint?
Yes. It got to the point that the president was selected targets so I understand, so that sort of level and that’s not his job.
Do you think Australia was justified in supporting the American effort in Vietnam?
I think it was an opportunity for us to exercise our military, we hadn’t been in a conflict for sometime, it justified I think in a lot of peoples minds
that our training was worth while, the money that was put into the military was worth while in a sense that these things can happen, and it’s been proved by the Timor type small operations and we saw it in Malaya before it became Malaysia, and then Indonesia started to get a bit angry. To me it exercises and proves the worth
on having a military, most people seem in my view having the idea ‘oh here comes something bad we will create a fighter squadron or an army or navy’, you cant do that it takes years to generate a machine that works well, and is training up and equipped and you just cant turn it on and off, it’s got to be there. You either have it or you don’t.
You’ve just previously said that the war due to political consideration was run in a very constrained
in perfect way, on that basis do you think it was right for Australia to be involved?
I think we were in the periphery, that we had no influence in that aspect, that was the war in the north, we were just trying to do our little bit in the south and that’s probably, you can take two views, like ‘why were we involved in that conflict’. I guess it’s a bit the same with Vietnam,
I don’t know if we actually invited ourselves or whether we were invited but we gained a lot from it, life experience and you are either apart of the team or you are not, and we put our hand up so you are part of the team.
Of course by the mid to late 1960s there was a lot of decent in Australia, whether we should be there or not, on the basis of moral grounds what’s your view of that degree of debate or even decent on that protest?
I’m not exposed to any of the protest
and I never saw it, because I think I left before it started and I was in Butterworth and as we were coming largely out of Vietnam in that time frame I wasn’t exposed to it because I was in Butterworth. I then came home to Australia for a short period and I then disappeared while it was still brewing so I was never really exposed. I was never personally had a finger pointed at me and all those sorts of things.
You must of formed
an opinion over the fact that people were protesting against the war?
My opinion of those people they are uninformed and uneducated and they don’t understand and they haven’t thought it through carefully enough. It’s like when a greeny says “you shouldn’t cut down trees”, we should cut down some trees in my view, and use the resources, but plan it and replace it.
You have spoken about the advantages in terms of lessons learnt in Vietnam but what about whether we were justified in the first place?
Personal opinion, I think we were justified.
Why is that?
Whether I can argue that to satisfy a lot of people, I don’t know.
Could you define why you think we were justified in being there?
I think we went there
with a view of trying to assist a country that was having difficulties, and I put us moving into Timor in the same sort of category. We saw a problem, a country you know we are only a small part of the American operation in Vietnam, we put our hand up, we see a problem and we can assist, we are prepared to assist and we were apart of the operation. Just as in East Timor we jumped in and put our hands up, in the Solomon Islands we put our hand up,
it’s apart of a multilateral activity, but personally we did the right thing.
With that, there were many who said ‘we needed to be there to keep America onside’?
I don’t think that is the case. That to me is just trying to make political points, and that’s the sort of statement you get out of people who are trying to justify their point of view.
Certainly that may have been supported by President Johnson, confirming Harold Holts view that ‘it was away all with LBJ’, which was a bit inflammatory actually, that did stir a few people up?
That showed up those who wanted to make a name for themselves and provided them with a bit of something
to start throwing mud again and is probably a good ploy actually because it brought them out of the woodwork and you knew who your enemy was.
That’s interesting that the only comprehensive film footage record of a very violent protest in Sydney held against Johnson is held in President Johnson’s own library?
Is that right.
I discovered that only quite recently, it’s certainly none of the Sydney footage shown, or the Australian shot footage.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 07
Just sticking with Vietnam for a moment, a number of army guys have spoken in fairly bitter terms about Vietnam, what’s your view about the strong feelings they harbour about their involvement and maybe the lack of recognition they have had?
I’m not sure, sometimes I get the feeling they want some recognition that they expected or
perhaps maybe even said they were going to get. I think they would have been upset by those that didn’t participate or expressed right though rallies and marches, and when that impacts on you personally I can understand why they are up tight about it. I suppose I had the same sort of
feelings, understanding their attitudes and whether there attitudes are that they believe were deserving of more recognition or what I’m not sure.
Do you have any general view of Vietnam Veterans beyond that?
No, most of the guys that I’ve been associated with and I’ve been with a group of mostly army, one navy, a program called ‘Heart Moves’ by Viet Affairs and the Heart Foundation and they got us together down the gym for a year and it was a sponsored program and the aim being to
a better lifestyle, look at your consumption of alcohol and cigarettes and the types of food you eat and get your weight down and get fix and get flexible again and get yourself moving again and you will live longer, so that’s what the whole program relates to that I think. They are just normal guys and there is no bitterness among them. The sort of
things that we see in the States particularly where you get some really weird Vietnam Vets and they use their action and things that I think is an excuse. They may have problems resulting from Vietnam but I think a lot of it is self inflicted and it’s hung on the hat of Vietnam.
Of course there is the very real situation of post traumatic stress disorder?
you can’t eliminate that, that’s aside from that all these other hanger-oners that I like to term them, I don’t have any time for them at all. Yes I recognise there are guys with real problems and I know a few of them, and they need help. There are a lot out there that I don’t think are playing the game, they are just tagging along and getting what they can.
Bring us back to Williamtown, you were involved in training for the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU)?
Can you tell us about that activity, that training activity, and what you were aiming to do with that training?
As a result of the FCI course, a part of the fighter combat instructors role is apart from the squadron which we have talked about, development of tactics and getting the squadron up to speed,
and getting the squadron operational. The other role for the FCI is at the conversion unit and the role there is purely as an instructor developing and teaching a new pilot coming through the ranks, to fly a fighter, yet to fly a fighter and to use
a fighter there is a difference, anybody can fly an airplane but to use an airplane in the designed role is a whole new process. The OCU, the courses that were run there are academic phases, the aircraft systems are learnt. Since the Mirage and in fact since the Sabre we have had simulators, we use a
simulator to run the guys through emergency checks before actually getting into the aircraft itself. So they get to know all the systems of the aircraft, through their lead in fighter courses they learnt basic fighter tactics, formation flying and maneuvering and so on and weapons delivery. At the OCU in the case of my exposure through the Mirage and now through the F18, the guys are taught to
fly the aircraft, in other words so they can safely take off and land, and any handle any maneuver in any situation that might turn into emergencies. Then they are taught to use the airplane in the air defence role, on a ground attack role, air to air refueling and all these other aspects of what the fighter aircraft are all about. With the Mirage it was about I think about a
six month course, the F18 now I think is a nine month course or something of that order. All the instructors there are either FCIs or qualified flying instructors. They haven’t done the FCI course, but they are qualified flying instructors normally teaching guys at PS and basic flying training.
You did that for twelve months,
and at the end of the twelve months you were then posted to the USA?
Yes. I went to the States for three years, and then came back to OCU for three years.
Doing much the same activities?
Doing the same job.
Could you talk a little bit more about your activities in the United States?
I was posted on exchange to Nellis Air Force base which is at Los Vegas in Nevada
and that unit there is called the Fighter Weapons Instructors Course, at the Fighter Weapons School. That school was setup during the Korean War or just prior to the Korean War to train instructors to go to Korea to train up the fighter pilots over there on tactics and how they are going to handle the Mig and all the rest of it. So it’s got a long history in tactics
development, a long history in developing the American equivalent to flight combat instructors. My job there and there were two others, a Canadian a Brit and myself on exchange, and our job there was to just fit in with the American system. We were instructing the top American fighter pilots to become fighter combat instructors. It was a really challenging
exercise, because some of the guys are really good, and we were trying to teach them to be better so we had to be very good. It was the best job in the USAF, and it was certainly better than we could generate ourselves here in Australia, but just by the nature of the size of the organisation. We were doing all sorts of things and no other unit was allowed to do it in terms of development, fly faster slower and do
silly things with planes safely in a controlled way. The courses were very much parallel to what the SCI courses is here, in that it was air defence, aerial combat tactics, ground attack phase and there were also two other phases which I wont go into a great deal, but the nuclear delivery phase and the other
one was called electrical optical weapons, which was guided rockets and things like Maverick and those sorts of things that they were just developing in the mid 1970s. We got involved in the whole gamut of the use of the fighter aircraft. As I said it was a real challenge and I saw
things that I would never even thought to do with an airplane.
Nuclear weapons delivery techniques, the Americans were far more advanced with electronic counter measures and using that sort of equipment to take out radars and guns and things like that, we didn’t have any of that sort of equipment. Different sorts of weapons delivery which the Mirage wasn’t capable of like radar
bombing etc. It was a fascinating period and I was very fortunate to be able to bring that back and start to feed that into our organisation and just prior to getting the F18 that we were developing as well. The other aspect to that period was not long after I got there the USAF were having a lot of trouble in Vietnam they were losing far too many people and too many airplanes, the
US Navy were doing a hell of a lot better and that was because of the tactics and training. We went down to the US Navy top gun school at Miramar, I did a couple of courses down there and flew with those guys and some of the USAF said “we know what we are doing wrong”, and so they stole all their ideas and called it something else of course,
but basically used the same tactics. We then drew off from them some of the better pilots and all of the fellows coming off fighter training and specialised for the best part of a year I think it was, in training them and getting them up to speed in this circle of new tactics.
Their pilots, do you mean the US Navy or USAF?
USAF itself. What were the main differences, what was some of the main things that the US Navy was doing correctly that USAF wasn’t doing?
They were using Korean War tactics. They were using the same formations, which were WWII formations. We were more advanced than USAF.
Yes. We developed further
than what they had. The USAF really hadn’t learnt that there was a better way of, and they were very blinked in their approach, ‘the US navy’s doing that so we are not going to do it that way, we know better’, but they didn’t.
How had Australia developed further?
Just through analysing how to fly airplanes. We had the Mirage, if you tried and fight the Mirage as I mentioned earlier, like a Sabre
you will lose, you have got to use your advantages of the system. With the Mirage you had a radar, you had speed and so slash and run techniques were the best, and that’s what the US Navy basically did. Occasionally a few of them got tied up in a few fur balls but occasionally a couple of them got away with it, their first two aces go away with it, they were dead meat but they just had lucked out.
We’d started using the aggressor the similar aircraft tactics at probably about the same time but I think we developed further than they had and towards to end of the period of was there we had the aggressive squadron setup at Nellis specializing in Russian tactics, which the Vietnam guys in the Air Force
were using so they trained with a different airplane, similar to a Mig 21 performance using Russian tactics and suddenly they were starting to win.
This is still in the US?
No, this was the training unit and they took that training across to Vietnam and started there and had a massive turnaround and a success rate. To be part of that was quite a
How did they absorb these Russian techniques?
I can’t talk a lot about it, but through various intelligence sources, through getting hold of airplanes through various sources, Russian aircraft through various sources and then actually getting them into the States and flying against them and building them and finding out how they work and go fly, and our guys were flying those
aircraft and we were flying against them.
Sounds like a huge advantage actually?
Yes, an essential advantage.
This was happening while you were there?
Yes. We use to get into a fair bit of strive, the Brit and the Canadian and I because being what was termed ‘no thorns’ we weren’t and shouldn’t have been at Nellis because there was so much classified stuff going around, it was all
over classified really but it was classified in the Americans view. It made our job almost more untenable really because we use to go to briefings and the boss would say “you’re out of here”, we knew what they were going to talk about and in fact most of the time we just walked outside and walked around the back and sat around the back and the boss knew we were there, but he had to, but he heard and witnessed that we were out of here.
If we didn’t get it that way he came straight out of the briefing and told us anyway. We were there teaching these same very tactics or methods or whatever, we had to have the knowledge if we were going to teach it, with ways and means we got around it.
If you were finding out anyway, why did your job become untenable?
It was headquarters, at the working level there wasn’t a problem,
at headquarters they were playing the game, they were just plain staff officers, and a piece of paper said ‘these guys shouldn’t be privy to this’ so it was black and white to them, and as good intelligent officers that’s their job. The fighter weapons school was also road shows so they were going out to units all over the States and the pulled off two or three guys at a time, and they had guys in Vietnam
maintaining their training and anything knew that was learnt, taking that across, so we were deficient in about six instructors, and we were one third of the squadron strength, and if they would deny us the ability to instruct and fly on these missions so no one would of got their job done.
Did your job actually become untenable?
I was the last guy there, it got to the point there they
that I understand, that the tactical Air Force headquarters just said “no we will move the exchange post”, so I went to Luke Air Force base flying A7s I think until the next guy went across. So there were just two of us, the first guy did two years and I did three years at Nellis.
Who was the first guy?
And he had a similar background to you?
You talked about nuclear delivery systems, was nuclear war been considered at that stage to any extent or was it a defensive thought?
What for Australia?
For the United States.
The United States had nuclear weapons for years prior to that, it was part of the role, the F4 which was the aircraft we had at the squadron. It was developed as a nuclear weapons delivery platform and
all the guys in Europe their secondary or probably primary role in fact take a bomb across into Russia, and I cant say much more than that.
In Australia there were moves that I believe in the late 60s early 70s to build a nuclear facility down at Jervis Bay, and you asked a moment ago in Australia, were you away of any
plans in Australia at that time to develop nuclear weapons?
I’m not aware of nuclear weapons no. I would of thought what they were talking about there was either a nuclear power station or a different site for Lucas Heights.
There has been a bit of a debate to what was planned there, and there was a documentary a couple of years ago which took a certain line, but couldn’t prove it so it was all speculation and I’ve wondered since then what the situation was.
I have no idea.
It was at Nellis Air Force Base was it?
How many pilots were being trained at any one time?
Our classes were quite large, about thirty, twenty five to thirty I think, or something of that order. The course was a full month long very intensive
training and we started work at five o’clock in the morning and flew through until six or seven o’clock at night everyday.
That’s a long day?
Yes, long days.
Was your family over there as well?
Yes. That was one of the better three years of my career.
I could image. You said you were the last person there and then the next exchange
ended up doing other duties, was this because of their security concerns?
Why were they so concerned?
They had intelligence sources and activities which were classified beyond our need to know, it’s as simple as that. They had problems with what we already knew,
so it was the writing on the wall very early in my posting that I was probably going to be the last one.
Did you have to sign any forms?
A few, yes, there were a few incidences which we got involved in which I can relate but not in details. You might have heard Dreamland or Area Fifty One which is an airspace in Nevada where they do a lot of testing
and other stuff. Dreamland was scheduled clear or prohibited entry and one of our trainings was we use to go skirting around to get to a weapons range and if you couldn’t get through Dreamland, it was a long long winded way and we would reschedule the sorties sometimes. We got airborne one time and it wasn’t passed to us that Dreamland
was closed, in there and on the radar we found and we saw things and we got closer and closer and we had a good view of what was going on, and completed our mission and as we were landing we saw the same airplane landed at Nellis, and the next thing we’d hardly jumped out of the cockpit and we were zipped away “sign here please, and what did you see”, “nothing sir”, so they took that flight very seriously.
Did the document sign you to indefinite silence, were there any other equivalent situations?
To me it was an over reaction, there was nothing particularly I’m sure if you search back into Aviation Weekly you’d see the same information, but it was.
Dreamland, what an appropriate name?
Yes. We trained Israelis for a little while as well , and that was
another real bloody headache for them, how much could they know, where can we take them and stuff like that, so that created a bit of a problem.
What were you training the Israeli’s for?
It was a bit of give and take, we wanted to find out what they were doing and they wanted to find out what we were doing, it was a very cooperative period of time. For the Americans particularly,
gee whiz these guys have shot down, or one guy had shot down twelve Migs, and he was the grand pooh bar of all fighter pilots for quite sometime there, when you flew with him, but against him you suddenly realised he was just a fighter pilot. His circumstances were that he was able to get kills and not to take away his skills or anything like that, but the
threat of the enemy he was flying against was not so high grade.
I imagine you learnt a lot at Nellis which you could bring back to Australia and apply?
Yes. It was very difficult in fact to get that message across, the attitude was this guy has come back from Oz and he wants to change the way that we do business, and
a lot of the guys and the senior people were quite closed minds in terms of accepting that there is a better way of doing things.
What sorts of things were you wanting to institute?
Tactical formation flying, tactics in general in the aerial battle.
We in the Australian Air Force hadn’t really considered and hadn’t had the need to consider for example a ground threat, air to surface missiles. To succeed in that environment you need to change the tactics in terms of formation and the formation sizes and positions and how you manouver. To try and upgrade our system, my
intention was ‘ok, here is the problem, if we do go, the situation we will get involved in a situation which has air to surface missiles we have got to know before we get there and how to manage it’, which involved doing some strange things and it was very difficult to get some of the higher ones to understand what we were doing and why we were doing it. It was kind of rejected out of hand for quite sometime.
At the time we also had USAF exchange officers with us and they were saying ‘listen to him’.
So people finally did get the message did they?
I was going to say.
It was inevitable when you can prove with knowledge of sand tactics and so on, how you can survive in it and you can prove it quite easily, so they have got to start
How long did that process take for them to start listening?
Three months, six months, quite sometime. I was doing it all behind the scenes. Taking out other instructors and saying ‘this is the way we should be doing it, and why we should be doing it’, and they were saying ‘yes, yes, yes’, but some of the bosses were saying ‘no, no, no’, so we didn’t tell them that we were doing it.
When they did say ‘ok’, we said “we have been doing it all along”, but they just didn’t know it.
Not a bad tactic.
It’s the only one you can do sometimes.
It must have been a bit frustrating initially?
Yes, very much so. Particularly when you know you are right, and it’s been proven, the processes of improvement in situations by other Air Forces, you have to sit up and listen.
When you came back you spent
another three years at Williamtown, what happened after that?
At that time it was 1978 and I went to Canberra into personnel, a director of personnel management. Then I went to Butterworth flying Mirages again for two years then back to Canberra at the Staff College,
and stayed at the Staff College on staff what we call ‘directing staff’, or ‘syndicate instructed’ if you like. I got very tired of that very quickly, escaped and went back to Butterworth into headquarters in IADS which is the Integrated Air Defence System. Which was setup in the 1970s for five years but it still is in existence and that was setup to provide and
form an air defence system in Malaysia and Singapore. That ranged from radars to fighters and air defence in general.
So it still is in existence now?
Yes. It started off as a short term thing in the 1970s, as a five power nation thing, New Zealand, ourselves the Brits, Malaysia and Singapore. It was just really headquarters, the staff they run it
when it was first started up it was the development of the fighter forces as well as air defence radars and so on. It’s still there, they are still running exercises, not so much in assisting Malaysia and Singapore but its more really trying to get together and exercise together and to learn to work together and little things like that, it’s more political now perhaps more than military.
You mentioned going back previously to fly Mirages, what sort of activities were involved there?
The same thing a fighter combat instructor.
And by then the Vietnam War was really and truly over by then?
Yes. The second Mirage trip to Butterworth was 1980, 1981, 1984 and 1986, then following that I came back to the
Operational Requirements Fighter it’s a staff job defining future needs of fighters. Then F18 conversion to headquarters Tactical Fighter Group in Williamtown and two years there and was there as a Staff Officer in Plans and Policy. Then to air headquarters at Glenbrook.
I spent three years there in Standarisation Evaluation role and then Plans and Policy, then down to Canberra as a Tactical Fighter Pilot Project Management Area and then ended up with the best job that I had in a staff area,
in over ten years behind a desk rather than a cockpit was at an organization called Directed for Trials, a part of DSTO as a part of Defence Science and Technology Oranisation. It was a purple unit, three services trialing anything from boots to rockets to submarine equipment you name it we ran trials.
My claim to fame was setting up a rocket range between Broome and Headland and firing off four ballistic missiles there and that involved about eighteen months of work on a cattle station up there and dragging out four rockets from the States and helping seventy five people on the ground and a whole bunch of radar support and all the things that go with setting up a weapons range, so that was very challenging,
and unusual because I was my own boss, this was my baby and I reported but I wasn’t directed on how to do things because they didn’t know how to do it, with two other guys we set up this range.
How were you finding out how to do it?
It was all common sense, a weapons range is a weapons range, whether it’s a bombing range, or rocket range you define a piece of
ground and air space and sea surface and you promulgate it and you go through environmental impact statements, and we talked to the Aboriginal people to make sure the land is not sacred ground. Get all of those sorts of clearances you set up the domestic side of things, accommodation, food, vehicles, ranging right
through to fire trucks just in case you set fire to things. At the air space we had a RAAF radar, clearing aircraft out, we had a navy patrol boat and a coast watch type people, they were out at sea checking if there were no yachts or ships in the area, police and military police on the ground to keep everybody out of the property.
Once that’s done you just fire your rockets. You have to talk to NASA because you might hit the shuttle, because the thing went up two hundred kilometres, so that’s very simple step by step, it was common sense.
What was the object of this?
The object was to assess the usefulness of HF radars against ballistic missiles.
And you say that it was the best job, what of your entire career?
Of my desk bound career.
What made it the best?
Freedom and a challenge, freedom to do what I wanted, if I wanted something it was given, arranged. Because I was left largely with my team of two, trials
person who setup equipment like radios, video links, coms and all of those sorts of things, and an engineer, the three of us set it up. We did our own thing, with very little interference. DSTO is part of the old Weapons Research establishment and it use to run rocket trials
and stuff at Woomera, bur most of that had all gone. This was a one off, out in the middle of nowhere and we set this thing up, and a lot of fun.
Sounds like it. How long were you doing that?
The whole program was about eighteen months, all in the order of twelve minutes rocket flight.
After that period
what happened to you?
And since your retirement?
I’ve renovated the house which took about eighteen months, and Julie and I have always talked about performing some sort of voluntary work once a week or what ever and I’ve got myself deeper than that, working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life with the coastal patrol based at Port Stephens.
When did you meet your second partner?
Through the Air Force. She was an administrative officer, it was essentially getting back to Williamtown after the F18 training and we generated a friendship there.
And you have
Four children, and how many boys and how many girls?
Three girls and one boy and in that order. Two nurses, one police woman, physiotherapist turned religious person.
That’s quite a skite, no pilots?
No pilots, not at all. Although Natasha the rebel third daughter she would probably make a good pilot.
There’s always grandchildren too?
Have you maintained contact with the mates that you made during your time in the Air Force, including the time at Butterworth and in Vietnam?
Yes, around the Port Stephens area there is probably a dozen whom I have worked with over the years. There is probably about a dozen others who
I maintain a reasonably regular contact with. We get Anzac Day gathering, we in fact had a reunion with all the guys three years ago and it’s basically the guys locally of course that you see the most of.
Have you become a member of any Veterans Associations or the RSL [Returned and Services League]?
I did join, or Dad joined me RSL organisation in Adelaide a long long time ago, and I just haven’t persevered with that. I was a member of the Air Force Association for a little while, but because I was remote from most of the activities I never continued it.
Have you been back to Vung Tau at all?
No. I wouldn’t go back there to
see for the mere fact that I was there, I would go back to Vietnam as a country to visit to enjoy it’s country side and it’s people, it’s good, I wouldn’t necessarily look at the war history type of things.
We are coming towards the end of the interview, and I was just wondering if there are any other things that we haven’t covered that you would like to mention?
I don’t think so, not unless you want to talk about unusual weapons in Vietnam or some of the things that the Yanks use to get up too. I’m thinking here of a single commando vault who was a great piece of kit. It was
dropped from a Hercules, a C130.
Interviewee: Barry Schulz Archive ID 0422 Tape 08
You were going to mention some of the weapons that the Americans were developing in Vietnam?
Apart from the conventional gamut of high explosive bombs, the Americans didn’t actually develop it in Vietnam it was used in Vietnam as a weapon, and a very effective one of clearing a landing zone, LZ as they say. Essentially it
was fairly accurate, it was directed by radar and dropped by a C130 on a pallet and lowered by parachute and it was dropped from quite a high height like about eight to ten thousand feet. So the radar and weather predictions had to be spot on otherwise it could end up anywhere. As FACs we were utilised as air traffic controllers I suppose clearing
the area of helicopters and making sure that there was nobody around so they went elsewhere. So that basically was our role. The weapon I think fifteen or twenty thousand pounds and I think there were two of them and it was called a commando vault. It was just a big tank or construction on a few pallets and suspended under three or four big supply parachutes, with some sort of triggering
device on the ground, like a big rod. The aim of the whole thing was basically to clear jungle, and it did very effectively, like for almost a kilometre.
What was the explosive?
A blast. I don’t know what they used but I think it was a liquid type of explosive and it’s whole purpose was to just blast, and they just blow trees over and just flattened it to allow four or five helicopters to land and
off load troops. That was it’s whole purpose, it wasn’t designed to do anything else, other than to clear some space.
What was it actually called?
There had been a similar experiment in North Queensland in 1963 called ‘Operation Blown Out’?
Had you heard of that at all?
Yes, I saw that documentary sometime ago.
It was quite vivid film coverage.
Yes. We put in quite a few of those and they were very, very effective, and in some area where they
couldn’t get troops like in the long high mountains to the east of Vung Tau, they put quite a few of those in there to help to assist getting rid of VC in reconnaissance caves because there was no other way of getting them out.
So they actually did use them?
They set them off?
Yes, they put them into areas where they were going to land ground troops
to do sort of clean up operations. There was no other way of getting them in there because these guys that had the choppers were down on the caves to land so they just popped their head up and just start pegging them off, and this changed their mind and maybe their ears ringing somewhat and cleared the area for the choppers so they go do the safe arrival.
What years are we talking about here?
Were there any other weapons that you got to hear about or know about?
No, not really.
They tried a few other tricks up in the long highs again with a Chinook with a forty four gallon drum and some sort of probably diesel fertilizer mix or Napalm type mix, suspended below the chopper and they were trying to drop that into cave systems and setting that alight with
rockets or whatever. On one occasion and I remember it was a quite funny occasion, they got a bit low and the drums struck some rocks and of course it exploded, and just below this chopper and all you could see was this big cloud of dust and smoke. I thought ‘oh no’ and the next thing, here comes the chopper with his hands waving getting the smoke out of his face and it was just so funny, but it was serious.
You were obviously an eyewitness to that?
Did you see this other weapon, this 1969 weapon that you referred too, did you see that being used at all?
The commando vault, yes. That was in the 1970s when I was there, we put quite a few of those in there.
Quite a few, how many altogether?
About half a dozen.
Half a dozen commando vaults.
They were quite fun because after the first couple you knew how close we
could get, we got one thousand feet above them and as they went off the aircraft leaped into the air and it cleared your ears, it popped your ears, it was very effective in the humid type climate, you got this really nice cloud of condensation as it expanded through the air.
How much ground would it cover?
I think Just under a kilometre, a circle.
The trees in the first three or four hundred metres there was nothing there, and then it was progressively laid back.
Did you ever witness people, particular people in tunnels or in villages that might have been taken out by this?
No, they were only ever used in the long highs and in one other area that I recall and that was in the flat in the open and the whole purpose was to create a landing zone for helicopters.
Probably there are these large circles in the jungle to this day that people are wondering.
What overall do you think are the main differences between military and civilian outlooks?
Military and civilian outlooks, the point of view of a military person and a civilian?
Probably not a great deal of a difference, the military person is a sort of different person, has a different attitude to many things, they are more disciplined
and I think that is the biggest difference, and we could do a lot better with our youth in creating discipline. I, like a lot of ex military people would promote the concept of national service or even work for the dole type of thing, creating an area an environment where
kids learn discipline and make them work for what is handed out and the object totally for not straight hand outs. We have created a culture of handouts and its wrong in my view.
Were there things that you learnt in your military training and experience which you were able to beneficially apply to bring up children?
Discipline, would be the only one I would think. In life I think you have got to have that, think about things before you rush in like loans and financial things, even to the point of relationships, and how to treat others.
You obviously from the word go had a very focused clear outlook on what you wanted to do in life, do you think you have been able to pass this onto your children as well?
I think so, yes, starting off probably at school where they wanted to go what I would call soft subjects, I got my way and they stayed with the sciences, maths, physics and chemistry and
within a year or so they suddenly realised that was the best move that we ever made because they needed that educational background to get into nursing to get into physiotherapy or whatever, so in hindsight they’d say ‘Dad you bettered me in that point’.
Unless there is anything else that we can think of collectively, I wanted to thank you very much on behalf
of Rebecca [interviewer] and myself and the Australians at War Film Archive, for a really quite absorbing and engrossing interview.
Thank you, I’ve enjoyed your line of questioning and not knowing quite what to expect, I found it very relaxing and enjoyable even.