Helicopter OH-6A 66-17771

Information on U.S. Army helicopter OH-6A tail number 66-17771
The Army purchased this helicopter 0368
Total flight hours at this point: 00001490
Date: 05/29/1972 MIA-POW file reference number: 1868
Incident number: 72052928.KIA
Unit: H/17 CAV
South Vietnam
UTM grid coordinates: ZA194964 (To see this location on a map, go to https://legallandconverter.com/p50.html and search on Grid Reference 48PZA194964)
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: 1868 ()
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:

REFNO Synopsis:
SYNOPSIS: The Hughes OH6A Cayuse was known by the troops by its nickname “Loach” - a derivative of “light observation helicopter.” The armed OH6A Cayuse was the primary scout helicopter used in Vietnam and usually carried a crew of two. The pilot controlled a mini-gun and a gunner/crew chief handled a “free 60” machine gun, among other weapons, which was attached to the aircraft by a strap. The Loach crews flew the most dangerous missions assigned to Army aviators because they flew low and usually slow enough to get a good look at the ground making them easy targets for the enemy.

On May 29 1972, then WO1 Gerald D. Spradlin, pilot; and then SP4 Larry K. Morrow, observer/gunner; comprised the crew of an OH6A helicopter that was conducting a visual reconnaissance mission North of Kontum City, South Vietnam. Their mission was to locate, identify, report on and attack enemy positions located in rolling jungle covered hills that were dotted with small to medium sized villages as well as rice fields, bamboo groves and grass covered clearings between highway QL14, the primary road running generally north to south through western South Vietnam, and the Cambodian border. As the Loach flew low over the countryside, Spradlin reported observing a fresh trail that was recently made and hovered in the location and Morrow dropped white phosphorus smoke at this time Spradlin’s LOH made a 360 turn and as it was struck by intense enemy ground fire causing it to roll right and go out of control, no radio contact was made as this was happening. The tail boom was observed separating from the aircraft as it crashed into the tree’s below and main body of the LOH burned. The crash site was located on a grassy hillside less than a mile west of QL14, approximately 5 miles northwest of Kontum Airbase, 30 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border and 33 miles southeast of the tri-border area where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. The aircraft was diverted or delayed after completing some mission objectives. Other aircrews made note the crash site location’s coordinates.

Summation of Search and rescue Operations; Witness statements & Library of Congress records from FA President Cpt.FA Michael A. Hewitt: “On May 29th 1972 WO1 Gerald Spradlin and SP4 Larry K Morrow were on a visual reconnaissance mission North of Kontum Province when their OH-6A helicopter came under enemy fire and subsequently crashed. Immediately after the crash a Command & Control UH-1H helicopter piloted by Cpt. Samuel Slaughter and 1LT Rodney Curton with crew members SGT Michael Voight and SGT Alberado Gutierrez descended to the crash site to attempt to locate any survivors. They made 2 tight slow left hand passing orbits over the crash site, on the 3 close hover however, they were struck by intense heavy enemy fire, resulting in the wounding of SGT Gutierrez prevented any detailed observation.

Approximately 1 hour later a force of 17 ARVN infantrymen and 4 U.S. infantrymen were inserted near the area to search for survivors. They also came under enemy attack on 3 fronts at about 500 meters before reaching the crash site and were forced to fall back to the LZ and be evacuated by elements of “B” Troop, 7/17th Calvary. It was noted on some reports on Oct 17th 1973 from The Adjutant General’s office and another witness statement indicates that a B-52 Arc Light strike was made in and around the crash site area on the same date of the incident.

Due to enemy activity in the area no further attempts were made at search until 30th of June 1972 when an ARVN rifle platoon accompanied by 3 U.S. infantrymen were inserted into the area on a search mission. In and around the crash site, an area encompassing approximately 100 meters were numerous skeletal remains. They found a mount of loose dirt near the wreckage thought to be paced there by the enemy after uncovering the soil from the mount of dirt were bones & other remains along with the SPH/4 flight helmet, Nomex and .38 pistol. Observations on the wreckage looked like .51 cal hits were received prior to the crash. All items were recovered and sent to the Saigon mortuary at Tan Son Nhut for analysis. Results of this analysis are pending at this time “Signed June 30 1972.” Remains were confirmed as WO1 Gerald D Spradlin’s remains. No trace of SP4 Larry Morrow were found on or near the crash site.

Specialist Morrow was initially declared missing in action. Returning U.S. POWs had no information on his precise fate. In November 1973, he was declared killed in action/body not recovered based on a presumptive finding of death. On December 21, 1973, a Vietnam People's Army defector reported having seen an American POW in June 1972 at a location approximately 55 kilometers from the crash site. This report was placed in Specialist Morrow's file. In August 1974, the crash site was searched again, but no further human remains were recovered. In August 1983, U.S. intelligence received information concerning the downing of a U.S. aircraft in the general area of Specialist Morrow's loss incident. One airman was reportedly killed and one captured. This report was also placed in Specialist Morrow's file. In December 1990, U.S. investigators in Vietnam visited the area of this loss incident. They interviewed a former Vietnam People's Army officer with knowledge of the area and some responsibility for U.S. POWs held in the area. Although they had information on some U.S. POWs, they had no information about Specialist Morrow, including an indication as to whether or not he had been captured alive.

Special Note: I am a Southeast Asia POW/MIA Case Officer and work at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. I am looking for anyone that witnessed the downing of an OH-6A flown by WO1 Spradlin with SP4 Morrow as the Oscar. The loss occurred on 29 May 1972. They were from 7/17th Cav. I am also looking to speak with anyone that participated in the recovery of WO1 Spradlin in June and August of 1972. Any help with this matter is much appreciated.

Dr. J Dr James Cloninger at james.m.cloninger.civ@mail.mil - Thursday, July 21, 2016 at 07:32:44 (EDT)

This record was last updated on 03/10/2018

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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