Helicopter CH-46A 150955

Information on U.S. Marine Corps helicopter CH-46A tail number 150955
Date: 06/03/1967 MIA-POW file reference number: 0720
Incident number: 67060310.TXT
Unit: HMM-165
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
for Troop Extraction , Hot Area.
While on Landing Zone this helicopter was on Take-Off at UNK feet and UNK knots.
UTM grid coordinates: XD795050 (To see this location on a map, go to https://legallandconverter.com/p50.html and search on Grid Reference 48QXD795050)
Count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.
The helicopter was hit in the Fuselage
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = 05 BNR 01 POW 01 WIA . .
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Reference Notes. Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: 0720, LNOF, 70359, TWIX, NSC, SOG P:90+ (Naval Safety Center. Lindenmuth Old Format Data Base. )
Summary: This helicopter was shot down while attempting to extract part of a Nung Hatchet Force company on a SOG operation.
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:

Passengers and/or other participants:

REFNO Synopsis:
On June 3, 1967, Capt. Steven P. Hanson, pilot; 1Lt. John G. Gardner, co-pilot; Sgt. Timothy R. Bodden, crew chief/door gunner; LCpl. Frank E. Cius, doorgunner; SFC Billy R. Laney, SFC Ronald J. Dexter, SFC Charles F. Wilklow and an unknown number of ARVN personnel, all passengers, were aboard a CH46A helicopter (serial #150955) on an extraction mission in Laos. The USMC aircraft picked up a U.S. Army Special Forces team attached to MACV-SOG, Command and Control, and the ARVN troops they were working with. 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 (not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions. The aircraft received extensive automatic small arms fire upon takeoff from the Landing Zone, took numerous hits and crashed 350 meters from the LZ, located about 15 miles inside Laos west of the A Shau Valley. The helicopter did not burn on impact, and continued to receive fire. Three ARVN troops were able to return to the LZ where the troops remaining at the LZ were extracted the following day. The troops waiting at the LZ could not search because of the hostile threat in the area. Air searches located the survivors of the crash, but they could not be evacuated. The only America found to be in a position to be safely evacuated was SFC Wilklow. He gave the following account of what happened to the crew and passengers aboard the CH46: SFC Dexter appeared uninjured and left the wreckage with a large number of ARVN troops. Capt. Hanson was wounded and outside the helicopter, but stated that he had to return to get his carbine. The Marine Corps believes he died of the wounds he received when the aircraft was overrun, although Hanson's wife later identified her husband in a widely distributed Vietnamese propaganda photograph of a pilot being captured. When last seen, all the other Americans were still in the wreckage, and enemy troops (the U.S. Army says they were Viet Cong; the U.S. Marines say they were North Vietnamese Army - possibly a joint force of both) were tossing grenades toward the aircraft with no attempt to capture the personnel inside. Wilklow left the crash site, and noted that gunfire suddenly stopped. He continued to evade the enemy and was picked up 3 days later. When Mr. Ky, the Nung Commander was being evacuated by the last helicopter out, he noted several men (undoubtedly Dexter and the ARVN) in a large bomb crater firing red star clusters from a flare gun. Frank Cius was taken prisoner and released from Hanoi in 1973. He was one of the dozen or so captured by the Vietnamese and taken immediately to Hanoi claimed to be the "Laos" prisoners. In reality, none of the dozen had been held in Laos. Ronald Dexter, according to Frank Cius, was captured, and died in captivity on July 29, 1967. John Gardner, according to the USMC, died on the ground after the crash of the aircraft due to intense enemy fire. Billy Laney was last seen lying wounded on the floor of the aircraft between a crewmember with a broken back and the door gunner with a head wound. NOTE: the USMC states that Bodden, crewchief/door gunner was shot in the back and never left the aircraft, but reports received by the National League of Families indicate that he was definitely alive after the aircraft crashed. The U.S. did not know Cius was captured until he was released, evidently believing he never exited the aircraft, and Wilklow had indicated that the Vietnamese were not trying to capture the occupants of the aircraft. Therefore, as door gunner, he must have been the "door gunner with the head wound," and Bodden the "crewmember with a broken back."

War Story:
The ARVN force mentioned in the synopsis report was a U.S. Special Forces lead Nung Hatchet Force company on a SOG PRAIRIE FIRE operation in Laos. Generally, a Hatchet Force operation was launched when SOG believed they could hurt the NVA without incurring high risks. Immediately after a nine aircraft B-52 Arc Light, a combined helicopter force of nine VNAF CH-34s and five USMC CH-46s inserted the Hatchet Force. Soon after the landing, it was surrounded by a large, well organized NVA force. The next morning, June 3rd, a large helicopter force left Khe Sanh to start the extraction. An A-1 was shot down during close air attacks. According to the SOG account, two USMC gunships were also shot down but the VHPA currently has no record of any UH-1Es taking damage on this day. Also according to the SOG account, the first helicopter, a VNAF CH-34, to attempt to land in the PZ was shot down, crashed and burst into flames. Next, a USMC CH-46 was able to get in and lift out some of the Hatchet Force company while taking some hits. Then an USAF F-4 was shot down and plowed into a hill-side. CPT Hansen's CH-46A was the second helicopter to land in the PZ. After it was shot down and crashed, only two Americans from this ship would survive. Special Forces SFC Wilklow was wounded during the shoot down. The NVA, seeing that he was virtually unable to move, used him as 'rescue bait' for four days. That night he managed to crawl and drag himself nearly two miles and miraculously found a rescue panel in one of his pockets that the NVA had not searched. He put out the panel and passed out. When he woke up, he was looking at SOG SSG Lester Pace who had come down on a McGuire Rig to get him. Eventually 58 American SOG soldiers would be MIAs in Laos and only SFC Wilklow was rescued. The other American to survive was the doorgunner, LCpl. Frank E. Cius, who was captured by the NVA and successfully survived as a POW until 1973.

This record was last updated on 09/20/1998

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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