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
Final Mission of U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 66-01172
There are two accounts of this incident: Account one - On January 5, 1968, aircraft commander WO Dennis C. Hamilton, pilot WO Sheldon D. Schultz, crew chief SP5 Ernest F. Briggs, Jr., gunner SP4 James P. Williamson, and passenger SSGT John T. Gallagher, passenger were aboard a UH-1D helicopter (tail # 66-1172) on a mission to infiltrate an indigenous reconnaissance patrol into Laos. The reconnaissance patrol and SSGT Gallagher were operating under orders to Command & Control North, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their 'cover' while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, 'Shining Brass' or 'Prairie Fire' missions. As the aircraft approached the landing zone about 20 miles inside Laos south of Lao Bao, it came under heavy 37mm anti-aircraft fire while at an altitude of about 300 feet above ground level. The aircraft immediately entered a nose-low vertical dive and crashed. Upon impact with the ground, the aircraft burst into flames which were 10 to 20 feet high. No radio transmissions were heard during the helicopter's descent, nor were radio or beeper signals heard after impact. Four attempts to get into the area of the downed helicopter failed due to intense ground fire. During the next two days more attempts to get to the wreckage failed. The pilot of one search helicopter maneuvered to within 75 feet of the crash site before being forced out by enemy fire. The pilot who saw the wreckage stated that the crashed helicopter was a mass of burned metal and that there was no part of the aircraft that could be recognized. No signs of life were seen in the crash area. Weather delayed further search attempts for a couple of days. After the weather improved, the successful insertion of a ground team was made east of the crash site to avoid enemy fire. The team was extracted after the second day, finding nothing. The crash site was located near the city of Muong Nong in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Account two - SOLDIERS MIA FROM VIETNAM WAR ARE ACCOUNTED FOR The Department of Defense POWMissing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that group remains of five U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, will be returned to their families soon for burial with full military honors. They are Chief Warrant Officer Dennis C. Hamilton, of Barnes City, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Sheldon D. Schultz, of Altoona, Pa.; Sgt. 1st Class Ernest F. Briggs Jr., of San Antonio, Texas; Sgt. 1st Class John T. Gallagher, of Hamden, Conn.; and Sgt. 1st Class James D. Williamson, of Olympia, Wash.; all U.S. Army. The group remains of this crew will be buried on August 14 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. Gallagher's remains were individually identified, and his burial date is being set by his family. Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army. On Jan. 5, 1968, these men crewed a UH-1D helicopter that was inserting a patrol into Savannakhet Province, Laos. As the aircraft approached the landing zone, it was struck by enemy ground fire, causing it to nose over and crash. There were no survivors. All attempts to reach the site over the next several days were repulsed by enemy fire. Between 1995 and 2006, numerous U.S.Lao People's Democratic Republic Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams, all led by the Joint POWMIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted more than five investigations, including interviews with Vietnamese citizens who said they witnessed the crash. Between 2002 and 2006, JPAC led three excavations of the site, recovering remains and other material evidence including identification tags for Schultz, Hamilton and Briggs. Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains. [Taken from vhpa.org]
Photo provided by Harlan Spain