FRANK JOSEPH GUNDAKER
FRANK J GUNDAKER
Remembering Captain Gundaker while stationed at the U.S. Army Aviation Maint Center in Germany.
Final Mission of MAJ Frank J. Gundaker
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
Submitted by the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial Foundation
Crash Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 64-13772
On August 1, 1966 this aircraft from the 48th Assault Helicopter Company, 10th Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade crashed while moving a sling load of a main rotor blade to a clean-up area. The blade was not properly secured and subsequently on climb out it began to oscillate. The load made contact with the main rotor system, damaging the rotor blades and causing the aircraft to roll inverted, resulting in a crash and immediate fire. All four personnel on board suffered fatal injuries. They included pilot MAJ Frank J. Gundaker, crew chief SP4 Donald D. Wallace, and passengers SP5 Ernest M. Shuman and PFC Ronald J. Russell. Personal Account of this incident: I have lived with the memory of the day I was saved. I still think about it to this day and the young man who saved my life. I was part of the unit with MAJ Gundaker, SP5 Shuman, SP4 Wallace and the young man PFC Russell. The unit method of destroying rotor blades was to take a pick-ax and punch holes into them. Then they would take them out and dump them in the sea (when not located by the sea they were burned). I was going to fly that day with the above crew, but PFC Russell was new in-country by just a few weeks. SP5 Shuman asked me if it was ok if Russell took my place, and since he was new to the aviation company, I responded OK. They proceeded to tie the rotor blade with a 15 x 20 foot rope and hooked it to the grab hook under the ship. I went back to my tent and watched as the ship took off. This is my story of the events that happen that day: The flaps were up on the sides of the tent, as was often the case. I had a clear view of the ship flying over the other tents and the field where my other company members were playing a game of football and other sports. The blade started to oscillate from side to side, gaining a bigger arch. The major could have released the blade at anytime and would have likely saved the aircraft, but if he had, probably a few of our troops on the ground would have been killed. The major tried to fly the ship to the sea, past the troops on the ground, and in the process give up his and his crew members lives. I don’t know if any medals were given, but those crew members all should have received one for placing the lives of others before their own. (From Albert H. Piña, security guard, Pathfinder Dec 1965 - Dec 1966) [Taken from vhpa.org]