SANFORD IRA FINGER
Remembering An American Hero
As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.
May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.
With respect, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir
Crash Information on U.S. Army helicopter CH-47B tail number 66-19143
There are two accounts of this incident: First Account - The flight mission for Warrior 66-19143, a CH-47B, required a flight from Camp Holloway to Cha Rang valley and An Son. The crewmembers were aircraft commander CW2 Leonard G. Maquiling, pilot WO1 Albert R. Trudeau, flight engineer SP5 Michael I. Lautzenheiser, crew chief SP4 Mickey E. Eveland, and gunner PFC Thomas F. Green. At 0750 hours Warrior 143 departed Camp Holloway with cargo and two passengers. The aircraft dropped off its cargo and two passengers at Cha Rang Valley and went on to An Son, arriving there at 0900 hours. At An Son Warrior 143 received a mission to proceed to Cam Ranh Bay with a stop at Tuy Hoa. Warrior 143 left An Son with cargo and eight passengers, arriving in Tuy Hoa 1115 hours. The aircraft was refueled and shutdown. The cargo and four passengers got off, and the crew had lunch. At approximately 1340 Warrior 143 picked up one more passenger. At 1350, Warrior 143 took off with its crew and five passengers: SP5 Robert A. Nichols, SSGT Sanford I. Finger, SGT Edward L. Himes, SSGT Rufus P. Falkner Jr., and SFG James C. Skinner. Warrior 143 called Tuy Hoa radio and stated his ETA to Cam Ranh Bay was 1420 with ten persons on board. The call to Tuy Hoa radio by Warrior 143 was monitored by Big Windy 519, a CH-47C, who was flying to Saigon for maintenance. He had called off Tuy Hoa a few minutes ahead of Warrior 143. Big Windy 519 went as far south along the coast as the deteriorating weather would allow, and then returned to Tuy Hoa. As he was completing his 180 degree turn, both pilots observed another CH-47 continuing on south and entering a heavy rain shower. Radio contact with Warrior 143 was attempted with no reply. He then called Tuy Hoa radio and passed along the information. Big Windy arrived back at Tuy Hoa radio and reported Warrior 143 overdue his position report. At 1430, a check by radio was initiated. Pleiku radio stated that Warrior 143 was down at Nha Trang. At 1555 hours, Warrior operations request verification that Warrior 143 was on the ramp. Warrior 143 was not located. A check also revealed that there were no other CH-47's flying in the area except for Big Windy 519. At 1830 Ton Son hut SRCC called 17th AVN GP and stated that a king aircraft would be overhead on the 27th of October to assist in the search for Warrior 143. At 1930 a report from Ghost Rider 3 stated there was something at either grid CP 0597 or CP 0984. At 2150 a U.S. Navy visual recon failed to locate anything in those areas. During the next 14 days the search effort utilized U.S. army, U.S. navy, and Vietnamese navy assets. In the first four days of the search, three bodies, a leg and a partial torso were recovered. Two of the bodies were identified by name and were placed as having been on Warrior 143 when it departed Tuy Hoa. The remaining six bodies are missing. Second Account - Before dawn on the morning of October 26, 1971, Mickey Eveland was awakened by his assistant platoon leader, G.J. Curry and told that he was needed as crew chief for a resupply flight from Camp Holloway at Pleiku to Cha Rang Valley and An Son. SP4 Walia, the crew's usual crew chief had to be present at a promotion board that day, so Mickey Eveland was selected to fill in for him. PFC Green, gunner, WO Albert Trudeau, pilot, CWO Leonard Maquiling, aircraft commander, SP5 Michael Lautzenheiser, the flight engineer, were also awakened. The crew flew from the 52nd Aviation Battalion, 'Flying Dragons'. Mickey had a hard time waking up, and Curry had to return to reawaken him. Maquiling, the oldest of the crew, had just turned 23; Trudeau had just turned 22. Eveland and Green were barely 19. Mike was 20. The CH-47B, serial #66-19143, call sign Warrior 143, departed Camp Holloway at 0750 that morning and arrived at An Son at 0900 hours after a stop at Cha Rang Valley. While at An Son, the aircraft received further orders to fly to Cam Ranh Bay with a stop at Tuy Hoa. The helicopter arrived at Tuy Hoa at 1115 hours and departed there at 1350 hours. Shortly after departure from Tuy Hoa, Trudeau radioed that he had 10 people aboard and expected to arrive at Cam Ranh Bay at 1420 hours. He had taken on 6 passengers for the flight, Finger, Nickol, and three others. The weather was expected to worsen south of Tuy Hoa, and the pilot was cautioned to contact Coastal Center for weather conditions. The last time anyone saw Warrior 143, it was near Nha Trang, headed south into bad weather. Search and Rescue was initiated at 1555 hours. Between October 27 and November 1, debris identified as being from 143 was found washed ashore on Hon Tre island, just offshore from Nha Trang. The condition of the debris recovered indicated that the aircraft had struck the water at high speed. In all, four crew members' remains were found during the search period. However, there was no sign of Eveland, Trudeau, Nickol, Green, Finger or Lautzenheiser. An extensive search continued through November 9, without success. In 1972, the missing crew members were declared Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. An additional recovery attempt was made based on the possible sighting of the wreckage of the aircraft on October 9, 1974. Two South Vietnamese scuba divers spent 1 hour and 30 minutes each in an underwater search, but did not locate the wreckage. [Taken from vhpa.org]
It is a privilege to be able to honor you for standing up for what was right and for the courage that you demonstrated.
I know that there are many who say that your service was in vain and that the Vietnam War was a senseless war, but for this American that is not true. What you did for the freedom of others was not in vain but has always been and will always be an example of good and honor today and for generations to come.
You will never be forgotten by me and I will honor your name and your sacrifice all my days.
In your honor I leave this poem for you:
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never, ever the same.” ~ Unknown
PS - It is my prayer that you are alive.