To establish where the remains of these two airmen might be today, we need to consider not only what happened in November 1970, but also what may have happened to them over the past 30 years. Maybe they are not where they died.
The Board of
"Despite all this evidence, and given that it could not come up with a more probable cause, the court decided that 'the possibility of enemy initiated action cannot be ignored', clearly implying that there may have been SAMs in the area which allied intelligence did not know about." 1
"Despite the slender odds of an occurrence such as a bomb becoming hung up in the rack, the circumstances of Magpie 91's loss certainly point to a catastrophic mid-air explosion having caused the aircraft to disintegrate. No other scenario accounts for the lack of a distress call, or the, aircraft's abrupt disappearance from the tracking radar at Udorn." 2
Government Mission of May 1984
Although it has been reported that “many in the Squadron suspected a North Vietnamese SA-2 surface to air missile was responsible” for the crash of the Canberra on 3 November, 1970, it appears that this may not have been the case. During the visit by the Australian mission to Vietnam in May 1984 discussions were held with Colonel Le Hai Ly, Deputy Commander Military Forces Da Nang Area. The report states: “The purpose of the meeting was to confirm the types of antiaircraft weapons which were deployed In the Da Nang area during 1970 (a number of questions had been put to him at a previous meeting). Colonel Le advised that air defence weapons had been deployed in the area of Da Nang but these did not include surface to air missiles (SAMs). Nor were SAMs deployed at that time along the Ho Chl Minh Trail. Colonel Le went on to explain that the largest calibre anti-aircraft artillery deployed in the Da Nang area at that time were 57mm and 37mm guns. The capabilities of these weapons were enhanced by deploying them on high points where possible.” The Mission concluded that “given the last reported altitude of the aircraft (22,000 feet or 6,706 meters), and the information provided by Colonel Le, it was unlikely the aircraft was shot down unless it had, for some reason, descended to a lower altitude” 3
The range of the AA weapons
that were possibly deployed in the area are shown here.
Considering the even the (maximum) ranges given in the table and the height of some of the terrain features in the area (3,000' to 4,000'), along with the fact that the aircraft was reported to be at 22,000 feet at the time of the incident, this would put the aircraft out of range of 57mm AA. Furthermore at the time of the incident (8:22 PM) on the 3 Nov 65, the sun had set. See here for data on sun and moon.
Nevertheless, whatever triggered the initial incident appears to have been instantaneous and could have impeded ejection of one or both airmen.
The Possibility of Ejection
If one or both airmen survived the initial incident (while airborne) and were able to eject from the aircraft and landed successfully, it is most unlikely that the point of landing would be in the vicinity of the aircraft wreckage. 22,000 feet is a long way up and drift while descending relative to the falling wreckage could be considerable.
Anecdotal evidence from a reliable source has it that one airman possibly ejected from the aircraft and a parachute was seen descending in the general area. Later, in the same area, an airman was seen sitting, propped against a tree, but his condition was not established.
If one or both airmen landed successfully, they were obviously unable to E&E so as to reach habitation. However, even if one or both had been injured movement by one or both of them may still have been possible and their final resting could again be quite remote from the site of the wreckage.
Although unlikely, and no evidence is available to indicate thus, it is possible that either one or both of them could theoretically have been taken and held as POW for a time. If so, since nothing was heard to indicate Herbert and / or Carver had survived as POW, it must be assumed that they died in captivity. Under these circumstances the enemy may have taken time to bury the body or bodies. Depending on the timeframes, the burial location could be somewhat remote from the incident area.
If either or both airmen were not able to eject, one or both could have landed with or in the vicinity of the wreckage of the cockpit of the aircraft. Also, it must be remembered that the the circumstances of Magpie 91's loss point to a catastrophic mid-air explosion which caused the aircraft to disintegrate. Therefore the size of the main parts of "the wreckage" may be somewhat smaller than the intact aircraft. The fact that an extensive aerial search at low altitude was conducted (67 sorties over three days) and no sightings of any wreckage were made could indicate (but obviously not "prove") that the pieces of the aircraft had been scattered as opposed to landing as a sizeable, and therfore more readily "spotable" portion.
Also factors such as the effects on the bodies of the initial explosion; any subsequent fire; and, the impact on hitting the ground, need to be kept in mind.
If the enemy subsequently found the bodies of Herbert and / or Carver, under whatever circumstances, they may have taken time to bury them, if only for hygiene reasons.
Herbert and / or Carver's
remains buried or not buried could have subsequently been found by anybody:
enemy, civilians or any other party who had access to the area. If such
did happen, the remains may or may not
have been buried near incident location;
or, at that time or subsequently, moved to new location either to be re-buried,
stored or disposed of. Such "disposal" could include handing over the remains
to the government and possibly, eventually to the US agencies.
It is noted that the
document from the US Library of Congress
4 reports that dogtag rubbings
with the name "R. C. Carver" were obtained from an unidentified person on 25 May 1991.
Although I am not suggesting that these "dogtags" belonged to R. C. Carver RAAF,
the question arises, as to how the name of Carver was picked
up in Vietnam in 1991 for use in the rubbing? Is it possible that Carver's dogtags were found by "sombody"?
In all cases the effect of the environment in which the remains survived must be considered, including the fact that the remains may have been interfered with by animals.
On 3 November, 1970 at about 8:22 PM in the vicinity of GR YC857430 Herbert and Carver were in an aircraft which experienced a catastrophic mid-air explosion that caused the aircraft to disintegrate. The evidence that is available suggests that one airman may have been able to eject from the aircraft whereas the other most likely hit the ground with the cockpit section, at least. As a reult of the incident in 1970, the evidence suggests that the initial location (1970 style) of the remains relative to the wreckage may be either:
The possibility of the remains of either of the airmen having been recovered by the US agencies should not be totally discounted. CILHI have a variable number of accessions pending ID at any given time and the possibility of an Australian being amongst these should not be ignored.
Access to any other intelligence
held by the Department of Defence would be of benefit in
determining the likelihood of the crew hitting the ground with the aircraft or whether one
or both may have landed elsewhere.