Hot extraction - Brian Senn

Submitted by Editorial team on

Slideshow of images showing the 'hot extraction' of an Australian SAS patrol in Vietnam, 1971. The term 'hot extraction' was used to describe the withdrawal of troops from the field, usually by helicopter, while under fire from the enemy. The images were taken by New Zealand helicopter pilot Brian Senn, 9 Sqn RAAF. You can listen to Brian describing the hot extraction and read a transcript below.

Extract from an interview with Claire Hall, 25 April 2008

Reproduced with permission of Brian Senn

[Picture of red smoke in jungle] The first one here is just a wisp of red smoke coming out of the jungle – the SAS patrol would've popped a smoke can and it would've seeped up, so already 01 would've been in contact with them and asked them to pop the smoke and they were identified, so we knew we were going to the right place and it was the right guys on the ground, cause later on it got the point where, not so much the smoke but at night with the dust offs, you'd ask them to pop a strobe and several strobes would come up. So the enemy were on the radio frequencies, and so you don't know where you're going. So you just have to go home.

To confuse you? So at that stage you'd just have to abandon it.

That's why they had different colour smokes. They'd pop a smoke and you'd say 'I see a red smoke', or 'I see a blue smoke'. Because if another smoke turned up it could be the wrong one. So that was the first thing, to get to the right place.

[Picture of helicopter over jungle] So you'd come into the hover and whilst you're coming in – again, all pre-understood by the communications between 01 and the guys on the ground that the enemy were south west of us here or whatever – so the gunships would be coming in and doing their gunnery and firing rockets into the area to suppress anything that might be coming from that area. So you'd be sitting there, and you might even have your own guns, on the left-hand side of the aircraft, firing into the jungle maybe.

[Picture of helicopter gunship] So there you can see the gunship doing its pass, firing pass, just pulling out of it there and this photograph was taken from 03 sitting back so its 02 actually doing the extraction.

[Picture of helicopter winching soldiers] The next one I've got, we've got again 02 is sitting there winching, and you can see the wire, the winch wire coming down, and down here you can see some SAS guys on the wire being pulled in, usually there were two of them. It's quite a long winch actually when you look at it. So at that stage there's probably quite likely still somebody on the ground the last two people would always come together, you'd never leave one guy on the ground by himself, and they'd be perhaps firing into the jungle, depending on the circumstances.

[Picture of crewman winching] So you winch them up and then here, this one is taken actually in the aircraft and you can see the crew and gunner who operated the winch. So he's moved out of his seat – he had a gun an M60 in his pylon seat there - he's moved out of his seat to operate the winch, so the first SAS guy that came on board, his first role was to get straight into the pylon seat with the crewman gunner's gun and if need be, be firing into the jungle – whatever was the appropriate defensive thing.

Then you can see the guy here being dragged aboard. [See picture inside helicopter] And eventually the last photograph is of that same fellow. We've obviously come out of the hover now because the crewman has swung the winch, swung the winch in and this fellow here is happy, he's no longer manning the gun so obviously we've left the site or we're flying away and there's the other SAS guy who we saw earlier being dragged on board and you can see the look of joy on his face and sort of relief that he's got out of it, he's still alive and the helicopters have picked him up.


Vietnam War Oral History Project, Manatu Taonga Ministry for Culture & Heritage


Submitted by Terryc on Thursday, 16 May 2013 - 8:53am


Well done Brian.

Brings back memories of this stuff. I recall how grateful we were for the relationship and support from 9 Squadron.


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