On Wednesday 12 October a new interactive - Vietnam: Aeromedical Evacuation - was officially launched in Gallery Three of the Australian Army Museum of South Australia based at Keswick Barracks, and is perhaps the most inventive to date, representing the artistic and computer skills of their volunteers.
After introductions by Brigadier Nick Williams representing the AMOSA board, the official opening was performed by Colonel Peter Scott DSO (former Commanding Officer of 3RAR). The display consists of a mural of a helicopter painted high on a back wall, the skilled work of South Australian artist, art teacher and theatre set designer Brian Budgen. It represents a familiar M.A.S.H. like scene in both wars in Korea and Vietnam, when injured military personnel were airlifted by being strapped into a flat rescue basket and hoisted by crane into the helicopter.
In his speech, Colonel Scott reminded us that aeromedical evacuation with a helicopter using the now familiar ‘Stokes’ litter (named after its inventor Charles Francis Stokes, retired Surgeon General of the US navy) is commonplace in both war and peacetime but it was first used in Korea 65 years ago. Two Vietnam Veterans Edward Czerwinski and Trevor Sharland were then asked to recount their memories of being rescued in this manner, with dramatic stories of swinging perilously beneath the helicopter narrowly missing flying bullets.
The formalities were complete when Colonel Scott pressed the appropriate button on the interactive and the litter containing the wounded ‘mannequin’ was hoisted realistically up towards the metal arm projected from the painted helicopter, to the sound of whirring rotary blades. The re-enactment was met with much enthusiasm by the gathered crowd and many spent time examining the display, which includes a diorama of the Battle of Long Tan as well as trying out the other buttons on the interactive. The photos and film clips caused much discussion and reminiscence which was continued at the morning tea in the OR’s canteen afterwards.
Vietnam : Aeromedical Evacuation is another in a series of interactive tableaux at the museum including Watson’s Pier during the WW1 Gallipoli campaign, the WW1 trenches of Amiens on the Western Front, and the desert sands of El Alamein during WW2.