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Invited to a War

Air Vice Marshall Alan Reed AO

16 December1933 – 24 July 2021

[Australian Air Campaign Series – 5]



AVM Alan Reed, AO

Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2022

Paperback   240pp   RRP $19.99


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, March 2023


Based on Alan’s autobiography with the same title, this impressive publication has had added supplementary material on the aircraft Alan flew in over his long and distinguished service added, as well as background on the RAAF’s process of adopting new aircraft to replace ageing machines.

In 1952 Alan did six months of RAAF National Service training as an equipment assistant. Six months later, he joined the permanent Air Force – leaving 37years later as an air-vice marshal. During his outstanding service there was almost no item on his ‘bucket list’ that he did not fulfil.

Alan went solo in a Tiger Moth on 24 August 1953, and in 1954 began flying converted Lincoln bombers in an anti-submarine role. On 9 Aril 1955 he declined an offered seat on a Lincoln mercy flight from Townsville to Brisbane. It crashed into Mt Superbus (65 km off course) killing all on board. In May 1958, he met his lady of the sky’ – the Canberra jet bomber, and two years later, flew one of three Canberras around the world in seventeen days. Subsequently he was posted to Butterworth, Malaysia on reconnaissance flights over Indonesia.

In 1968, delivery of the F-111 ‘was imminent’, but Australia had to lease two squadrons of F-4E Phantom II fighters as interim aircraft until delivery problems with the F111 had been sorted. Before leaving for the United States, Alan had his first jet fighter flying in Sabre jets. Wishing to have combat experience before instructing on Phantoms, Alan applied to be posted to Vietnam. In May 1968 Alan received his temporary duty order: Squadron Leader Alan R Reed this unit is invited by the Secretary of the Air Force to proceed on temporary duty for approximately 179 to the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (USAF), Tan Son Nhut ˆ. This was Alan’s ‘Invitation to a War’! Six Australians airmen went with the USAF to Vietnam – four in combat roles and two, flying RF-4C Phantom II aircraft, in reconnaissance roles. After 100 missions and two US Distinguished Flying Crosses,  Alan returned to Shaw Air Force Base as an instructor in 1969.

Wing Commander Reed was chosen to command No 6 RF-4E Phantom II Squadron at Amberley in July 1971. A year later Alan was a student at the Joint Services Staff College (JSSC), then wrote the paper recommending the acceptance of the F-111C rather than extend use of Phantoms. The arrived in late 1973, and the F-111 management team at Amberley wanted their representative in Canberra to have a knowledge of the aircraft, so Alan had two weeks training and fifteen hours flying the aircraft in 1974.

After instructing at JSSC for two and a half years, Alan was promoted to group captain and was posted as Staff Officer Air Training at Support Command Headquarters. In 1979 Alan became Air Staff Officer at Amberley – a base with F-111Cs, ‘Huey’ and Chinook helicopters and his beloved Canberras. Alan became competent in flying all these aircraft. His next posting was as Commandant of the RAAF Academy and Officer Commanding Point Cook, before, as an air commodore he was off to Washington as Air Attaché in March 1984.

Promoted to air vice marshal as Air Officer Commanding Support Command in Melbourne in 1987, Alan became responsible for all basic training, provisioning, maintenance, and supply for the RAAF. The Command consisted of 12,500 people a little more than the then strength of the Air Force.

On the 60th anniversary of his Tiger Moth solo, Alan did a ‘re-enactment’ in a Tiger (VH-CXY) purchased with his son in 1999, and which he donated to the Temora Museum in 2019.

A wonderful read, extremely interesting, and well-illustrated. Another fine Air Campaign production.




The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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