critical, therefore, that the U.S. locate Hambleton, and any other surviving crew members
before the Vietnamese did - and the Vietnamese were trying hard to find them first.
An Army search and rescue team was nearby and dispatched two UH1H "slicks" and
two UH1B "Cobras". When they approached Hambleton's position just before dark,
at about 50 feet off the ground, with one of the AH1G Cobra gunships flying at 300 feet
for cover, two of the helicopters were shot down. One, the Cobra (Blue Ghost 28) reached
safety and the crew was picked up, without having seen the other downed helicopter. The
other, a UH1H from F Troop, 8th Cavalry, 196th Brigade, had just flown over some huts into
a clearing when they encountered ground fire, and the helicopter exploded. Jose Astorga,
the gunner, was injured in the chest and knee by the gunfire. Astorga became unconscious,
and when he recovered, the helicopter was on the ground. He found the pilot, 1Lt. Byron K.
Kulland, lying outside the helicopter. WO John W. Frink, the co-pilot, was strapped in his
seat and conscious. The crew chief, SP5 Ronald P. Paschall, was pinned by his leg in the
helicopter, but alive. WO Franks urged Astorga to leave them, and Astorga was captured. He
soon observed the aircraft to be hit by automatic weapons fire, and to explode with the
rest of the crew inside. He never saw the rest of the crew again. Astorga was relesed by
the North Vietnamese in 1973.
The following day, Nail 38, an OV10A equipped with electronic rescue gear enabling its
crew to get a rapid "fix" on its rescue target entered Hambleton's area and was
shot down. The crew, William J. Henderson and Mark Clark, both parachuted out safely.
Henderson was captured and released in 1973. Clark evaded for 12 days and was subsequently
On April 3, the day Nail 38 was shot down, a UH1H "slick" went down in the same
area carrying a crew of four enlisted Army personnel. They had no direct connection to the
but were very probably shot down by the same SAM installations that downed
Bat 21. The
helicopter, from H/HQ, 37th Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, had left Marble Mountain
Airfield, Da Nang, on a standard resupply mission to signal units in and around Quang Tri
City. The crew, consisting of WO Douglas L. O'Neil, pilot; CW2 Larry A. Zich, co-pilot;
SP5 Allen D. Christensen, crew chief; and SP4 Edward W. Williams, gunner; remain missing
On April 6, an attempt was made to pick up Clark and Hambleton which resulted in an HH53C
helicopter being shot down. The chopper was badly hit. The helicopter landed on its side
and continued to burn, consuming the entire craft, and presumably, all 6 men aboard. The
crew of this aircraft consisted of James H. Alley; Allen J. Avery, John H. Call III, Peter
H. Chapman, William R. Pearson, and Roy D. Prater. Search and rescue noted no signs of
survivors, but it is felt that the Vientamese probably know the fate of this crew because
of the close proximity of
the downed aircraft to enemy locations.
On April 7 another Air Force
OV10A went down in the area with Larry Potts and Bruce Walker
aboard. Walker, the Air Force pilot of the aircraft, evaded capture 11 days, while it is
reported that Potts was captured and died in Quang Binh prison. Potts, the observer, was a
Marine Corps officer. Walker's last radio transmission to search and rescue was for SAR
not to make an attempt to rescue, the enemy was closing in. Both men remain unaccounted
Hambleton and Clark were rescued after 12 incredible days. Hambleton continually changed
positions and reported on enemy activity as he went, even to the extent of calling in
close air strikes near his position. He was tracked by a code he devised relating to the
length and lie direction of various golf holes he knew well. Another 20 or so Americans
were not so fortunate.
In July 1986, the daughter of Henry Serex learned that, one week after all search and
rescue had been "called off" for
Bat 21, another
mission was mounted to recover "another downed crewmember" from
Bat 21. She doesn't
know whether or not it is her father or another man on the
EB66 aircraft. No additional
information has been released. When the movie "Bat 21"
released, she was horrified to learn that virtually no mention of the rest of the crew,
including her father, was made.
In Vietnam, to most fighting men, the man that fought beside them, whether in the air or
on the ground, was worth dying for. Each understood that the other would die for him if
necessary. Thus, also considering the critical knowledge possessed by Col. Hambleton and
some of the others, the seemingly uncanny means taken to recover Clark and Hambleton are
not so unusual at all.
What defies logic and explaination, however, is that the government that sent these men to
battle can distort or withold information to their families, and knowingly abandon
hundreds of men known or strongly suspected to be in enemy hands.
Thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government indicating that Americans
are still alive, in captivity in Southeast Asia. It has been 17 years for those who may
have survived the 1972 Easter crashes and rescue attempts. How much longer must they wait
for their country to bring "peace with honor" to them and bring them home?
DOD - October 1, 1997
The remains of seven American servicemen previously
unaccounted-for from Southeast Asia have been identified and were returned to their
families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as Capt. Peter H. Chapman,
Centerburg, Ohio; 1st Lt. John H. Call III, Potomac, Md.; Tech. Sgt. Allen J. Avery,
Auburn, Mass.; Tech. Sgt. Roy D. Prater, Tiffin, Ohio; and Sgt. William R. Pearson,
Webster, N.H., all U.S. Air Force personnel. The names of one U.S. Air Force airman and
one U.S. Army aviator will not be released at the request of their families.
On April 6, 1972, Chapman, Call, Avery, Prater, and
Pearson were flying an H-53C Super Jolly helicopter on a search and rescue mission over
Quang Tri, South Vietnam. While trying to evade enemy ground fire, Chapman, the pilot,
flew the helicopter to an altitude of 200 feet. Subsequently, the helicopter crashed into
the ground and burst into flames. Other aircraft in the area did not see anyone exit the
aircraft prior to impact.
In 1989, 1992, and 1994, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams
investigated and excavated a crash site in Quang Tri Province. During the 1992
investigation of this loss incident, a local villager reported finding remains and burying
them in his garden. The U.S. investigators excavated the garden and recovered possible
humans remains. Later, in 1994, a joint team found numerous bone fragments, personal
effects, and aircraft wreckage. The remains were repatriated to the United States.
The remains of Chapman, Call, and Pearson were identified
individually, and along with Avery and Prater, are part of a group remains identification.
Mitochondrial DNA testing was used to confirm the identifications.
With the identification of these seven servicemen, 2,109
Americans remain unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the
cooperation of the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam which resulted in the
accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results
in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the
highest national priority.