Lieutenant Commander James Collier Buchanan

Lieutenant James Collier Buchanan

Lieutenant Commander James Collier Buchanan (1943 – 2023) joined the RAN in October 1962 as an aircrew officer. He began his flight training in March 1963 and after qualifying as a pilot he was posted to HT 725 Squadron in February 1964.

Following several postings at sea and ashore Buchanan was posted to the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, arriving in the Republic of Vietnam in October 1970. There, he became the commander of the Second Lift Platoon, flying daily combat assault missions at the controls of a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter in which he routinely came under heavy enemy fire.

On 4 December 1970 Buchanan performed an extraordinary act of flying skill while operating in the U Minh Forest area. While engaged in the medical evacuation of a wounded crewmember from a South Vietnamese patrol boat the group came under heavy attack, with another patrol boat, 50 metres away, exploding following a direct hit from an enemy rocket. Realising that the boat with which he was operating was disabled and drifting towards the enemy-held shore he pressed the skids of his helicopter onto the deck of the vessel and manoeuvred his aircraft to push the boat to safety. All the while, his aircraft was receiving heavy automatic weapons and 82mm mortar fire. For his coolness, determination and courage under fire in the face of a determined enemy, Buchanan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.