Incident Date 19670611 HMM-265 CH-46A 150270+ / EP-158 - Mechanical Failure
Oldham, John Sanders Maj Co-Pilot HMM-265 MAG-16 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:091)
Hanratty, Thomas Michael PFC Crew Chief HMM-265 MAG-16 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:089)
Gonzalez, Jose Jesus LCpl Gunner HMM-265 MAG-16 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:088)
Bohlscheid, Curtis Richard Capt Pilot HMM-265 MAG-16 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:091)
Widener, James Edward PFC Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:093)
Moshier, Jim Edwin Cpl Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:091)
Kooi, James Willard LCpl Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:090)
Havranek, Michael William LCpl Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:089)
Foley III, John Joseph LCpl Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:088)
Christie, Dennis Ray LCpl Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:087)
Chomel, Charles Dennis PFC Passenger 3rdForRec, 3rdRecBn 1967-06-11 (vvm 21E:087)
I don't know where to start, except to say that the day Dick [Bohlscheid] went down still echoes in my soul. I was lead of the section of the [VMO-2] gunships, which escorted Dick's recon insert. We briefed early in the morning. Dick was mission command; he briefed. He was nervous for no reason I could understand. I knew him from the time we were flight instructors together in VT-2, Unit 4, at Whiting. I remember so clearly those recon Marines outside the briefing hootch, there faces covered with camouflage paint, but uneasy also
As I remember and have remembered forever, Dick tried to insert the team somewhere west of the China Wall, got shot out; we returned to Dong Ha; rebriefed, refueled, went somewhere almost at the base of the China Wall, shot out again. Dong Ha, refueled, rebriefed again. Then ordered to insert that team, period. I guess there was suspicion of pressure, heavy pressure, from the north.
This time we tried just northwest of Dong Ha. I think this was right. I looked at my logbook and find that I have three flights that day, the first for a 3.9, the second for a 1.0, and the third, a 0.3. I remember clearing the zone and seeing nothing, nor experiencing any fire. It was a terrible day at that point, and I was relieved. I called Dick in clear and turned to escort him on his port side.
As he transitioned to landing speed, in almost slow motion his nose rose, then rose more sharply, then climbed toward the vertical. Then the a/c rolled inverted, split S, and dived down and exploded. To this day, I will never forget, can never forget, that Dick keyed the mic at about the time he was inverted and started to say something, but what came out was a strangled cry, "Mama." Then it was over.
Sorry to get emotional, but this event, this tragedy, was and is the apotheosis of Vietnam to me. Dick was such a gentle man. God bless him, and all who went with him. For a long time, Dick's name was not on the Wall, because, I guess, he was still MIA, but it is now, and I have touched it.
Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990
LOSS COORDINATES: 165454N 1065530E (YD048689) [N16 54 54 E106 55 30]
SOURCE: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. NETWORK NOTE: In May of 1997, we received a note from a woman correcting an error in the birth date of this biography. That note generated a "Did you know him?" question that brought the following memories and then the additional news copy - which we asked permission to add here. Unfortunately, none of the articles had a source noted. Updated Memorial Day 1997
REMARKS: A/C CRASH-EXPLODED-NO SURVS OBS-J
SYNOPSIS: On 11 June 1967, Capt Curtis Bohlscheid was the pilot of a CH46A helicopter inserting a seven-man Marine Force Recon [3rd Force Recon] team into a predesignated area 11 1/2 nautical miles northwest of Dong Ha, South Vietnam -- right on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). A total of four aircraft were involved in the mission; two CH46's and two UH1E helicopter gunships [VMO-2]. Bohlscheid flew the lead aircraft. His crew included MAJ John S. Oldham, LCPL Jose J. Gonzales (crew chief) and PFC Thomas M. Hanratty (crew chief).
Members of the 3rd Recon Company, 3rd Recon Battalion, 3rd Marine Division [3rd Force Recon] who were being inserted were CPL Jim E. Moshier, LCPL Dennis R. Christie, LCPL John J. Foley III, LCPL Michael W. Havranek, LCPL James W. Kooi, PFC Charles D. Chomel, and PFC James E. Widener.
The flight departed Dong Ha at about 11:15 a.m. and proceeded to the insertion location [YD041681]. The gunships made low strafing runs over the landing zone to clear booby traps and to locate any enemy troops in the area. No enemy fire was received and no activity was observed. The lead aircraft then began its approach to the landing zone. At an estimated altitude of 400-600 feet, the helicopter was observed to climb erratically, similar to an aircraft commencing a loop. Machinegun men had been waiting for the opportune time to fire on the aircraft. Portions of the rear blades were seen to separate from the aircraft and a radio transmission was received from the aircraft indicating that it had been hit. The helicopter became inverted and continued out of control until it was seen to crash by a stream in a steep ravine.
Subsequent efforts by ground units to reach the crash area failed due to a heavy bunker complex surrounding the site. The ground units inspected the site from within 500 meters through binoculars and observed no survivors. All eleven personnel aboard the helicopter were therefore classified Killed In Action, Body Not Recovered. Other USMCR records indicate that the helicopter also burst into flames just prior to impacting the ground.
Task Force Delta File
Comment on Incident from Task Force Delta File:
On 11 June 1967, Capt. Curtis R. Bohlscheid, pilot; Major John S. Oldham, co-pilot; LCpl. Jose J. Gonzales, crewchief; and LCpl. Thomas M. Hanratty, door gunner; comprised the crew of the lead CH46A helicopter on a troop insertion mission. Cpl. Jim E. Moshier, LCpl. Dennis Christie, LCpl. James W. Kooi, LCpl. John J. Foley, LCpl. Michael W. Havranek, PFC Charles Chomel and PFC James E. Widener comprised half of the Marine reconnaissance team being inserted into a designated landing zone (LZ) on an intelligence gathering mission. A total of four aircraft were involved in the mission, two CH46's and two UH1E helicopter gunships that were providing air cover for the transports. The LZ was located in the rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 5 miles northwest of Firebase Vandergrift, 9 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 11½ miles northwest of Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.
At 1115 hours, the flight of four helicopters departed Dong Ha and proceeded without incident to the LZ. Before the Sea Knights landed, the gunships made low strafing passes over the landing zone to set off any booby traps that might have been placed there as well as to locate any enemy positions in the area. When no booby traps were sprung and no enemy fire was received, the lead aircraft then began its approach to the LZ. At an estimated altitude of 400-600 feet, the helicopter was observed to climb erratically in a manner similar to an aircraft commencing a loop. As those aboard the other helicopters watched in horror, portions of the rear rotor blades were seen to separate from the Sea Knight. At the same time Capt. Bohlscheid radioed that they had been hit by machinegun fire. The helicopter then rolled to an inverted position, burst into flames and continued out of control until it crashed into a steep ravine on the north side of a stream that ran through it.
Ground units subsequently entered the area to search for survivors or recover the remains of the dead if possible. Due to a well-entrenched and camouflaged enemy bunker complex surrounding the entire LZ and crash site location, the ground units could only inspect the site through binoculars from a distance of approximately 500 meters. During the brief time available to them, they observed no survivors in or around the aircraft wreckage. At the time the ground mission was terminated, all eleven Marines were listed Killed In Action, Body Not Recovered.
If the crew and passengers aboard the Sea Knight died in their loss incident, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. However, if they survived, they most certainly would have been captured due to the fact that a large number of enemy troops were actively operating in this region. Their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Eighteen days after the 11 June shootdown, Echo and Golf 2/9 and battalion HQ, led by LtCol. John Peeler, were sent to try and reach the crash site and recover the remains. We had an all-night march on 29 June 67, out of Con Thien area. Don't recall where we started from after all these years, but recall we had a man fall off a cliff and had to medevac him out for broken leg. Then we were only a click or so away from a B-52 arc-light strike; we were resting on a nearby hilltop under jungle canopy and could here the bombs whistling down, then the explosions and ground shaking, followed by some shrapnel whistling overhead. We marched on several hours and at one point first part of our column got separated from the back half; it was a very dark night and one guy who was night blind lost contact, and it took 20-30 minutes to reconnect.
We stopped about 4 a.m. on another hilltop to rest; we weren't too far from the reported crash site and I believe the thinking was to get there just after dawn. At 6 a.m. we saddled up and took off to finish the march. Second platoon (the one I was in) was on point, led by 3rd Squad. We traversed down and around the hill we were on and back up the next one (through brush and tree trunks devoid of foilage (probably from previous actions or Agent Orange, who knows, or both). Near the top, 3rd squad leader Tom Goddeau angled away from his point man and up the hill. He walked right up to a ground-level bunker and was shot by burst of AK-47 fire by unseen NVA. Grenades came out, some grunts were wounded. Corpsman Noel Nelson ran up trying to get to Goddeau and he died, perhaps shot or from grenade shrapnel (no one knew for sure). 3rd squad and 2nd squad tried to get up to the bunker and there was one off to left that had a crossfire set up to hit anyone getting close. Bunkers were connected by trenches.
In less than 20-30 minutes, I would guess, 1st squad (the one I was in) went up to help with the hill assault. We were sent around the left and up a small gully between the bunkers. A call to assault on line didn't work as most of the M-16s (they were the first ones issued) jammed, including mine, and our M-60 gunner was shot and wounded. All I know is I was kneeling and trying to unjam my damned piece and the next thing I'm picking myself out of the dirt. I am told an NVA in the bunker (right in front of me) had thrown a grenade that landed 4 feet to my right rear. Me and the 60's a-gunner and the man to my left were wounded by the shrapnel. I believe I'd have died if the a-gunner, Pernell Aikens, hadn't been running toward the bunker to avoid the blast and got in between me and much of the shrapnel. The man to my left, Bob Macko, was hit in his right ear. (Pernell eventually was given 100% permanent disability for his wounds and medically discharged.) Bob and I lived to fight other days.
The battle lasted a couple of hours. Two other Marines, Richard Freudenthal and Chris Johnson, fairly new in country, were shot and killed later in the fight. All told, 7 of us were wounded. Golf Co., according to USMC after-action reports, got to or near the crash site while Echo finished the firefight. Sadly, no wreckage or remains of the 11 Marines were found, only blackened earth.
The names of my friends are on The Wall, panel 22E and I can touch them and reach over to 21E and touch the names of those killed 11 June 1967. The price of war, as this incident shows, is not singular in its occurances but interlocked to other actions over time.
I am glad for the closure for at least one family on that CH-46. Others are hopefully to follow soon.
Comment on Incident
3rd Force Recon Company - TEAM SOMERSAIL ONE:
Sgt. Jim E. Moshier, LCpl. James E. Kooi, LCpl. Michael W. Havranek, LCpl. John J. Foley, LCpl. Dennis R. Christie, Pfc. Charles D. Chomel, Pfc. James E. Widener
On 11 June 1967 a seven man Recon Team "Somersail-One" from 3rd Force left Dong Ha for an insertion LZ at YD 041681. This LZ was directly on the southern boundary of the DMZ. This area was four kilometers north of Hill 208, which was identified, during Operation Hastings in July 66, as the Division Command Post for the 324B NVA and 900 meters west of Hill 174, another well known NVA position.
The Flight left Dong Ha at 11:15hrs. A total of four Helicopters were involved. Two CH 46A's and two UH1E gunships. As the insertion helicopter was approaching the LZ it snapped up vertically and then rolled inverted tumbling end over end and crashed. It was seen spiraling out of control and the rear blades were seen separating. The helicopter crashed then burst into flames. The bodies of the men lost were never recovered and they are listed today as KIA/BNR. Summary taken from 3rd Recon narrative. [The UH-1E gunship crews were eyewitnesses to the crash and indicated no enemy action evident – suspect mechanical failure. Aircraft burned upon impact with full load of fuel - no survivors possible]
During a search for CH-46A BuNo 150270 on 30Jun67, several weeks after the aircraft went down in hostile territory on Hill 174 (YD 054685), there were four men with 2ndBn/9thMar/3rdMarDiv who were KIA by NVA hostile fire during the search. Several more were wounded.
PFC Christopher Paul JOHNSON, Wyandotte, MI of E/2/9. VNMemorial 22E 088
CPL Thomas Arthur GODDEAU, Morrisonville, NY of 2/E/2/9. VNMemorial 22E 087
L/CPL Richard Holt FREUDENTHAL, Alexandria, VA of 2/E/2/9. VNMemorial 22E 087
Corpsman HN Noel Steven NELSON, St Paul, MN of H&S/2/9. VNMemorial 22E 089
Submitted by: Alan H Barbour, Research Historian, 20130319
Cpl Moshier, remains recovered, in transit this date [7/8/2007] to Los Angeles Airport, arrival 16 July 2007, escort to Hillcrest Memorial Park, 9101 Kern Canyon Road, Bakersfield California, 93306.
Tentative Services 18 July 2007.
I learned from Peter Widener, brother of Jim Widener, that more remains have been returned and identified for his brother and Jim Moshier. Both men were MIA along with the other 9 Marines aboard this CH-46. Pete told me the casualty folks in Hawaii are trying to match other remains returned with this second group of remains. Details are still being sorted out.
Semper Fi ...
John (Jack) and I were stationed at Phu Bai. Shortly before he died we had conversations about home as we where both from Plainfield, NJ. Since reading about the events pertaining to his death I get angry over the bad judgement shown by higher ups to insert them a 3rd time in obviously a well entrenched enemy stronghold. The two failed insertions should have been recon enough. RIP Jack; we'll meet up again some day. SEMPER FI!!Submitted by: Paul A Greaves, Friend of John J. Foley III, 20120528
Major John S. Oldham
My dad was Major John S. Oldham, KIA 6/11/67 at Dong Ha; copilot on board Sommersail incident. Anything you have would be of help.
Today [6/11/2007] is the 40th anniversary of my father's death near Dong Ha with little resolved although you should be aware that recovery with positive ID of one of the Marines has finally occurred. James Widener was returned home within the last few months followed by burial with honors at Arlington.
The labs have told the families that another set of remains are being ID'd at present and have requested DNA samples from all the family that is able to provide. The two sets of remains were obtained from communist connected sources that may or may not have had them since the end of the war in storage near the site of the incident. The site has been cleared for recovery this summer and more remains are expected but not guaranteed.
I'm not qualified to say it as a veteran but know that my father would feel compelled to give you a big "Semper Fi",
I am confused as to the cause of the crash. I have heard that it was due to mechanical failure, but also hostile machine gun fire. I do know that two similar instances of catastrophic aft pylon failure occurred in the 1960's, one with a civilian version and another one in Vietnam. Any comments?
Another comment made was that (assuming the crash was caused by hostile fire) if the landing approach had been made as a "combat landing approach" (please forgive my lack of knowledge of the lexicon) rather than a less aggressive landing, there would have been a better chance of landing. Any comments?
If this is the case, I'm sorry to all involved that perhaps this loss of life could have been prevented. I did not know my father well. I was 7 when he was killed and he was gone quite a bit training, flying and saving the world, as so many of the Marines were doing in the 1960's. I attended a squadron reunion around 1996 in San Diego and met some of my father's squardron mates. Some interesting tales. I would be interested in any contact from any who knew him.
Vietnam War MIA's remains found
Vietnam War MIA's remains found
CHILI, N.Y. - After 39 years of waiting, a Rochester, N.Y.-area family has learned that their son's remains have been recovered in Vietnam.
Marine Pvt. James Widener, of Chili, was reported missing in action June 11, 1967, when his helicopter was shot down over South Vietnam. He had enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school in 1966 and volunteered for reconnaissance duty after arriving in Vietnam.
A helicopter he was riding in went down after being hit by ground fire. All seven aboard were reported missing in action.
Widener's remains were recovered by Vietnamese officials and his parents learned the news Wednesday.
"His body was stored in a warehouse and they never let us know he was dead," said his father, Jay Widener. "We tried to find him after the war, hoping for years that maybe he was alive. Even in war, there should be some fairness."
Widener will receive a full military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery.
Maj John Sanders Oldham
PFC Charles D Chomel, USMC
A sister of Jim Moshier called yesterday to say the Dept of Defense told the family they have confirmed remains are Jim's. They were recovered last year (2006) with those of Jim Widener, buried Nov. 3, 2006, at Arlington National Cemetery.
The funeral will be in about a month (Jun/Jul 2007), she told me. He'll be buried in his hometown of Bakersfield, CA., near his son whom he never saw. His boy died after being hit by a drunken driver during senior year of high school.
I just wanted to know if you guys found the remains of my uncle [PFC Charles Chomel] yet? My mom is his younger sister. Ya'll can reach my mom or me by email. Her email is email@example.com, mine is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!! :)
Many years ago (maybe 20?) I bought a Vietnam MIA bracelet (silver/alumimun type) from a friend who's dad was missing. I had recently (a few years prior) finished an enlistment in the corps. the bracelet I bought was for LCPL John Joseph Foley III who was classified as missing on June 11, 1967 according to the bracelet. I recently found the bracelet again and thought of John. I see now that he's at least not missing any more.
I wanted to send this bracelet to any of his family if they are still alive. If anyone knows of them, I would be grateful to send this back to them to let them know that someone they didn't even know cared enough.
Chuck H. Maness
Oct 1981 - April 1984
I have just received a new POW/MIA bracelet bearing the name of James Kooi. I've just started my research and am interested in returning this to his family. Should any one have information please contact me.Submitted by: Jessica L. Carney, Owner of a POW/MIA Bracelet, 20110924