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Rank/Branch: E5/US Marine Corps
Unit: HMM 165, Marine Air Group 36
Date of Birth: 06 November 1942
Home City of Record: Downer's Grove, Il.
Loss Date: 03 June 1967
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161914N 1064049E (XD795050)
Status (in 1973) : Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Frank E. Cius (returned POW 1973); Ronald J. Dexter; John G. Gardner; Stephen Hanson; Billy Laney; (all missing); Mr.Ky Nung Cdr.- wounded and rescued); Charles F. Wilklow (rescued)
Remarks: Last Seen In Crashed Aircraft
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 operations Augmentation (SOA) wich provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOC. These teams performed deep penetration missions of stategic 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 American found to be in a position to be safely evacuated was SFC Wilklow. He gave the following acount of what happened to the crew and passengers aboard the CH46A:
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 distibuted Vietnamese propaganda photograph of a pilot being captured. When last seen, all 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.
Since 1975, the U.S. Government has received thousands of reports relating to Americans still alive in Southeast Asia. Many of them cannot be dismissed as untrue. Officially, the U.S. says it is operating under the assumption that men are being held, and that the matter is of "highest national priority". Yet, we seem unable to resolve the mystery. Nor have they ever negotiated for the "tens of tens" of American prisoners the Loa stated they held. There can be no question that the communists know the fate of those who were last seen on the ill-fated CH46A that day. The men aboard this craft were inserted into Laos for exceedingly dangerous and important missions. They deserve no less than America's very best efforts to determine their fates. If any of them are alive, they must be brought home!
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep pushing this issue inside the Beltway...
The need to get specific answers is more important now than ever before. If still alive, some MIAs are now in their 70s... they don't have much time left. We have to demand the answers from the bureaucrats and keep standing on their necks (figuratively speaking) until they get the message that THEY work for US, and that we are serious about getting these long overdue responses. Diplomatic considerations aside... We can no longer allow questionable protocols established by psuedo-aristocratic armchair stategists, to determine or influence the fate of men who were in the trenches while diplomats were sharing sherry and canapes and talking about "Their Plans" for the future of SE Asia....