Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 67-17341
The Army purchased this helicopter 0368
Total flight hours at this point: 00001520
Date: 03/05/1971 MIA-POW file reference number: 1717
Incident number: 71030505.KIA
Unit: C/158 AVN
UTM grid coordinates: XD425405
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. Also: 1717 ()
Loss to Inventory
G SP4 KING MICHAEL ELI RR
CE SP4 HATLEY JOEL CLINTON RR
P WO1 MOREIRA RALPH ANGELO JR KIA
P CPT NELSON DAVID LINDFORD KIA
HATLEY, JOEL CLINTON Crash Site Excavated (see text) Name: Joel Clinton Hatley Rank/Branch: E4/US Army Unit: Company C, 158th Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Brigade Date of Birth: 24 October 1948 (Conrad KY) Home City of Record: Albemarle NC Date of Loss: 05 March 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163850N 1061544E (XD425405) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H Other Personnel In Incident: Michael E. King; Ralph A. Moreira; David L. Nelson (all missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. REMARKS: EXPLOD - N RAD C - N SEARCH - J SYNOPSIS: Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy communications lines which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift and supporting fire. Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones. On March 5, 1971, during one of these maneuvers, a UH1H helicopter (tail #67-17341) was in a flight of ten aircraft on a combat assault mission in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crew of the aircraft consisted of WO Ralph A. Moreira Jr., pilot; Capt. David L. Nelson, aircraft commander; SP4 Michael E. King, door gunner; and SP4 Joel C. Hatley, crew chief. While on its final approach to Landing Zone Sophia, and at the time the pilot should have been making his final turn, Nelson radioed that the aircraft had been hit in the fuel cell and that the door gunner had been wounded in the head. He then said they would attempt to return to the fire support base on the same flight path as previously briefed. After the other aircraft had disembarked their troops and were on their way back to the fire support base, some of the other crewmen said they saw a chopper believed to be that commanded by Nelson burst into flames, crash and explode. As soon as the ball of flame was observed, attempts to make radio contact were made with no success. No formal air to ground search was attempted because of enemy anti-aircraft fire and ground activity in the area. All aboard the aircraft were declared Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. In 1988 a former officer in the Royal Lao Army, Somdee Phommachanh, stated on national television that he was held captive along with two Americans at a prison camp in northern Laos. The Americans had been brought to the camp at Houay Ling in 1978. One day Somdee found one of the prisoners dead in his cell. Somdee identified the American very positively from a photo. His name, he said, was David Nelson. Nelson was Somdee's friend and he would not forget him. Somdee buried his friend with all the care he would a cherished loved one, given his limited ability as a prisoner of war. Although Somdee has been threatened, he has stuck to his story. Nelson's family is grateful to know his fate, but outraged that David Nelson died over FIVE YEARS after American troops left Southeast Asia and the President of the United States had announced that "all American prisoners of war had been released." The U.S. Government did not inform the other families of this development. January 5-10, 1990, a joint US/Lao team excavated the site of the crash of the helicopter lost on March 5, 1971. Not one piece of aircraft material was recovered, although an unspecified number of teeth and a ring were found. No remains whatever were found that could be attributed to David Nelson, but on September 17, 1990, the Defense Department announced that all four men onboard the aircraft had been positively identified and that the remains would be buried in a "group" grave. When asked about the Somdee report, Ms. Shari Lawrence, a civilian working with U.S. Army Public Affairs Office said, "We are not concerned with that."
This record was last updated on 06/01/2000
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