Brothers (& Sisters) Killed in Action in USMC Helicopters or while assigned to USMC Helicopter or Tiltrotor Squadrons


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Incident Date 19680606 HMM-165 CH-46A - BuNo 152533+ (YW-7) - - Hostile Fire, Crash

Wilson, Eugene PFC Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:018)
Stoops, Jonathan Lynn PFC Passenger H&SCo/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:016)
Satter, Donald Stephen PFC Passenger H&SCo/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:013)
Sanchez, Jose Ramon PFC Passenger H&SCo/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:013)
Porter, Lawrence Eugene LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:012)
Palacios, Luis Fernando LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:011)
Morelos Jr., Catarino PFC Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:008)
LaPlant, Kurt Elton LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:006)
Harper, Ralph Lewis LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:004)
Hannings, William Elwood LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:003)
Flores, Felix Frank LCpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:001)
Ebright, William Raymond O Cpl Passenger C/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 59W:001)
Burgard, Paul Edward PFC Passenger D/1/4 3rdMarDiv 1968-06-06 (vvm 60W:026)

WILSON, EUGENE : 2391656 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0300 : 19 : WATER VALLEY : MS : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 00 : 19490206 : Negro : Protestant/single : 59W : 018
STOOPS, JONATHAN LYNN : 2357868 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0341 : 20 : UNION CITY : IN : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 00 : 19480127 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 59W : 016
SATTER, DONALD STEPHEN : 2375778 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0 311: 19 : MINNEAPOLIS : MN : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 00 : 19490510 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 013
SANCHEZ, JOSE RAMON : 2292525 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0341 : 19 : NEW YORK : NY : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body NOT recovered : Quang Tri : 00 : 19490315 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 59W : 013 : remains identified 5 Nov 2008 at crash site and returned to families for burial : Arlington National Cemetery
PORTER, LAWRENCE EUGENE : 2317017 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 2511 : 19 : DALTON : OH : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19480713 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 012
PALACIOS, LUIS FERNANDO : 2348657 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 0341 : 19 : LOS ANGELES : CA : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body NOT recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19490228 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 59W : 011 : remains identified 5 Nov 2008 at crash site and returned to families for burial : buried in Bellflower, CA
MORELOS, CATARINO JR : 2387375 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0341 : 19 : SANGER : CA : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19481123 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 59W : 008
LaPLANT, KURT ELTON : 2361247 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 0341 : 19 : LENEXA : KS : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body NOT recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19481211 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 006 : remains identified 5 Nov 2008 at crash site and returned to families for burial : Arlington National Cemetery
HARPER, RALPH LEWIS : 2316342 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 0341 : 20 : INDIANAPOLIS : IN : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body NOT recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19480114 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 004 : remains identified 5 Nov 2008 at crash site and returned to families for burial : Arlington National Cemetery
HANNINGS, WILLIAM ELWOOD : 2310181: USMC : LCPL : E3 MOS: 0341 : 19 : LANSDALE : PA : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19480712 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 003
FLORES, FELIX FRANK : 2297864 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 0341: 21 : LOS ANGELES : CA : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 01 : 19470103 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 59W : 001
EBRIGHT, WILLIAM RAYMOND O : 2304475 : USMC : CPL : E4 : 0341 : 20 : MIAMISBURG : OH : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 01: 19480216 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 59W : 001
BURGARD, PAUL EDWARD : 2353040 : USMC : PFC : E2 : 0311 : 19 : PORTLAND : OR : 19680606 : hostile, crash, land : Passenger : body recovered : Quang Tri : 00 : 19490506 : Cauc : RomanCatholic/single : 60W : 026

HMM-165 Command Chronology

HMM-165 Command Chronology: [many errors in this write-up]
"6 June 1968. The White Knights launched two divisions today in support of the Third Marine Amphibious Forces. Major D. SAYES [Maj. Sayes was my HAC on this mission] led his division to the North and proceeded to work in the Khe Sanh area. His wingman, 1/Lt. M. J. FRIEL, was shot down while attempting to lift troops from a landing zone where they had come under fire. 1/Lt. FRIEL, using his competent abilities, flew the aircraft to the ground and was able to exit the aircraft along with his co-pilot 1/Lt. T. C. MADDEN. All personnel escaped serious injury and were immediately picked up by the wingman [we actually picked up the last grunt, dropped him off at Vandergrift, fueled-up, and returned to Khe Sanh for the wounded]. The other division led by Capt. E. N. Maley went south to the Da Nang area. While flying cargo into the hills southwest of Da Nang in direct support of the 26th Marines, YW-23, piloted by Capt. C L. Weaver and 1/Lt. G. L. KAHLER, was observed to receive enemy fire and almost instantaneously catch fire. Despite having been hit in the leg by an enemy round and his aircraft burning and quickly becoming uncontrollable, Capt. WEAVER was able to get his aircraft low enough to the trees that when he crashed all personnel aboard were able to exit the aircraft. His wingman, in constant danger from enemy fire as well as the rounds set off in the burning aircraft, successfully hoisted the stricken aircraft's crew to safety to be med-evaced. The day's losses were 2 aircraft due to enemy ground fire with no loss of personnel. HMM-165 stands ready to do their mission against all odds with the professionalism and dedication exhibited by Capt. C. L. WEAVER, 1/Lt. G. L. KAHLER, 1/Lt. M. J. FRIEL, and 1/Lt. T. C. MADDEN. Their wingmen's actions are a tribute to the proud efforts and traditions of the professional White Knights of HMM-165.”

Submitted by: N/A, 20030818


Loss Coordinates: 163436 North 1064534 East UTM: XD877334

Submitted by: N/A, 20030818

“US Marines in Vietnam” 1968

“Companies C and D, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines flew into LZ Loon, freeing the 2d Battalion to join the attack north toward the blocking positions. In keeping with the airmobile character of the operation, the 2d Battalion advanced by conducting still another helicopterborne assault into LZ Crow, two kilometers northeast of LZ Loon and near the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.

The attack northward met its first significant resistance on 5 June [1968], when Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines engaged an enemy unit four kilometers south of Route 9. The enemy troops fought from bunkers and from trees. Company C attacked the position, supported by artillery and the battalion\'s 106mm recoilless rifles. In a fight that lasted into the following afternoon, the Marines overran and destroyed a North Vietnamese bunker complex that documents identified as belonging to the 304th Division, a veteran of the earlier fighting during the siege of Khe Sanh.

Submitted by: by Shulimson et al, 20030818

Comment on Incident

During the evening of 5 June, the 4th Marines assumed control of its own 1st Battalion, disposed between LZ Loon and LZ Robin, in preparation for the beginning of Operation Robin South the next morning. Before the Marines could strike, however, the North Vietnamese hit first. At 0600, an enemy battalion assaulted LZ Loon, supported by artillery and mortar fire. Companies C and D fought back, calling for their own artillery and mortars, as well as attack aircraft and helicopter gunships. After a two hour battle, the enemy withdrew slightly, leaving 154 dead, but kept up a galling fire with their small arms, and frequent shelling from nearby 82mm mortars and the ever present 130mm guns. By midday, the continued shelling had rendered LZ Loon untenable 61 Helicopters lifted Company C back to LZ Robin at 1400, followed a few hours later by Company D. The last helicopter out, a CH 46, took heavy fire from a North Vietnamese .50 caliber machine gun and crashed in flames, bringing the total U.S. casualty count for the defense of the LZ to 24 dead and 37 wounded.”

Submitted by: N/A, 20030818

Personal Narrative

When Charlie Company landed at LZ Loon, I was the only officer left after the first 30 minutes. A complete story of this 3 day battle depends on your point of view.

I was the first man in "Charlie" Company on the ground, and the last man of "Charlie" Company to depart. The entire fight would have turned out differently had the artillery and air support requested during those three days been provided. This was not the fault of either aviation units or artillery units. It was requested and did not arrive because the parent organization (battalion) was under constant ground,mortar, and artillery attacks.

"Charlie" & "Delta" Companies mission was to occupy, clear and hold what was to be the first Marine fire support base in Major General Raymond Davis' new offensive which was initiated shortly after his arrival as Commanding General of the 3rd Marine Division. The tactic proved successful for other units and 1/4 after the lessons learned on LZ Loon were applied in other areas. 1st Lt. Mike Jackson commanded "Delta" Company and should have been commended for his leadership. Both Companies were under strength and relieved a battalion. 44 Marines from 1/4 died in those three days.

Submitted by: Bill Negron, Lt. Col, USMC (retired), CO, Charlie Company, 20081127

Personal Narrative

“Ken was from near Huntington, West Virginia and had been drafted into the Army. He was married and his wife was expecting their first child. Reeves was one of the Company Armorers, charged with keeping all the weapons repaired and in good working order.”

“I was letting Bob fly in the left seat, because he would be taking his AC ride with the Company IP the next day. I had briefed him that I was a dumb Peter Pilot and he was the AC for the day. I also wanted him to do as much of the flying as possible to get used to the left seat.”

“AC's flew in either seat depending on unit standards. In the 1st Cav, AC's we were in the left seat for several good reasons. The FNG in the right seat flew there in flight school, so there was no transition time. Also the instrument panel on the left side was missing a few instruments and did not go as far left thus you could look down on landing and see stumps and other hazards. Old guys were used to getting shot at and did not forget to look down.”
“As we were approaching Ca Lu, a call came over the UHF Guard frequency from Finger Print 22, a Marine O 1 [Major K. R. Buske, VMO-6], requesting any helicopter in the Khe Sanh area come up on Guard. No one responded for several seconds and Bob keyed the intercom. "Jim, see what he wants."

"Finger Print 22, Chicken Man 22 Mike on Guard. Over."

"Chicken Man 22 Mike, Finger Print 22, I am South of Khe Sanh near LZ Loon. There is a down CH 46 with wounded crewmembers outside the burning aircraft. Can you make an extraction?"

I looked over at Bob and he shook his head up and down.

"Chicken Man 22 Mike, that's affirmative. We are five minutes out with a UH 1H inbound. Do you have any air cover on station?"


"See what you can come up with, before we get there."


Bob was now on final to LZ Stud, but broke off his approach and turned back south. As we flew over the charred heap of ashes, that only an hour and a half earlier had been Jim's gun ship. A Graves Registration team was pulling the charred remains of the crew members from what was left of the helicopter and placing them in rubber body bags [from a previous mission]. I was getting tired of seeing rubber body bags. It was hard to believe that we had lost two good men, flying a mission that was "not happening.” The President of the United States, LBJ, had told the American public on television and radio that "No American troops are engaged in any secret war in Laos.” We all knew that was a lie, but one that was told to cover up the destruction of NVA men and equipment headed to the South Vietnam.

Bob told the guys in the back to check their guns and make sure they were ready to get shot at.

When we arrived, the situation was not good. The CH 46 had been shot down on takeoff from the primary east/west ridgeline south of Khe Sanh. It had crashed somewhere on the south side of the ridgeline, rolled to the bottom and burned. The area had been sprayed with defoliant; Agent Orange sometime ago and all the trees that were still standing were leafless. The rest of the area had grass and weeds growing, but not much cover for the enemy. Bomb craters were everywhere and most were fresh. [The Siege of Khe Sanh had recently ended]

As we approached the area, Bob said he was getting tired and asked if I would take it for a while. I assumed control of the Huey and continued directly for LZ Loon.

A minute out, I saw Finger Print 22 pop above the ridgeline in his Bird Dog. "Chicken Man 22 Mike is one minute out."

"22 Mike, roger. Two Spads [Sandy A-1E’s], three minutes out. Enemy approaching the down crewmembers from the east and south. Lots of ground fire. Over."

"We will do a three sixty, to the left, over the down helicopter and land as soon as we can. Put the Spads to work as soon as they arrive on station."

"Wilco. The down aircraft is now at your eleven o'clock."

"Tally ho."

"You’all in the back are clear to fire at any bad guys you see."



"You got it Bob. Make a tight three-sixty and see if you can spot a place to land."

"I got it."

A few seconds later Bob entered a forty five degree bank to the left. A steam of tracers came across the nose and the Gunner opened up, returning fire. Bob increased the turn to sixty degrees as the airspeed dropped through fifty. Everything was perfect. We were a couple hundred feet above the trees descending. Bob could roll out and be on short final to a hole large enough for us to hover down into.

"Jim, there ain't any place to land. All the holes are too tight."

Both M 60s were firing at bad guys, when I keyed the mike. "22 Mike there's no place to land near the down helicopter. Give us a minute to come up with a plan."

"Bob, get back up over the ridge line and get out of this fire."

As I was speaking, Bob already was heading up to the top of the ridge.

Ken came on the intercom. "Sir, there are a couple hundred Gooks in uniform, two or three hundred meters east of the down Crew."

"22, 22 Mike you see those NVA east of the down crew?"

"That's affirmative. I have been making gun runs with my M 16 on them."

Bob came on the intercom “Jim, what about you land on one of the fingers just a little east of the down crew. I will get out, go down and get them. You guys can cover me and it might work."

Three intercom switches keyed at the same time. The clear consensus of the rest of the crew was "FUCK NO!!!” Ken said that if I got shot, we would all be dead, he was right.

I heard the fist, hit the transmission well wall, which was a signal between Crew Chiefs and Gunners to make eye contact with each other. I looked back and the hand signals were flying.

"Sir, We will get out and go get them."

“Are you both sure, you want to do that?"

"Yes sir."

"Yes sir."

"22, 22 Mike. My crew chief and gunner have volunteered to go get the down crew if we can land just northeast on the first clear finger. You seen any bad guys there?"

"22 Mike. There are bad guys all over the area."

"Jim, the wind is out of the west and the slope will be on your side. You have the aircraft."
"I have got it."

"22 Mike is short final."

Reeves came on the intercom "God, that's a steep slope."

"You guys, both get out the right side and don't go up the slope or you will be in the rotor blades.” As I finished, Ken opened up with his M 60.

"Sir, seventy bad guys four thirty to five o'clock in the bottom of the draw."

I came back "five seconds Ken. You guys don't get killed out there."

I had the right skid into the slope, as Ken and Gaylon stepped out. The rotor blades were in the short grass up slope and there was a dead NVA Officer laying on the ground, between the skids and the rotor blades. I was airborne after three seconds. Bob opened up with his M 16. "Brake left and I can get a few more."

Then it happened - A sound that scared me to death. It was a low-pitched growling sound that I thought was the tail rotor eating into the tail boom. Then the sound stopped and started again as the Spad went by. It was the first time I had ever heard a 20 MM Gatling gun. After I got my heart going again, it was the sweetest sound I had ever heard.

Finger Print 22 was directing the Spads in on enemy troops and pulling pressure off Ken and Gaylon, who were under heavy enemy fire moving down the slope.

Bob grabbed the controls "I've got it.” Bob pulled back on the cyclic to slow from 40 knots, while lowering the collective and kicking in left pedal. "Jim, six Gooks two o'clock, low. Got'em?"

"Yea.” I had my M 2 out the window and pulled the trigger. All thirty rounds were gone, before I pulled her back inside. It only took a second to change magazines from the empty to a full one. I had five of them welded and taped together. Bob was now hovering at 60 feet just above the defoliated trees and just east of the bad guys, who were shooting at not only Ken and Reeves but at us too. I fired another thirty rounds and hit my mark. I don't know how many I killed, but I sure as hell hit every one of them.

Ken keyed his hand held Guard radio. "Good shooting. You Got’em. We're moving on down the hill."

I looked down the slope towards the down crew to see mortar rounds impacting just south and to the west. Some bad guy opened up on us with a light machine gun a hundred meters south of the down crew. Spad 2 rolled in, before we could call the fire. His 20 MM found its mark and the exploding shells ate up the area. No more fire came from there.

Ken came up on Guard. "Jim these guys are really bad off. We are going to have to carry them out. We are taking small arms fire from the east and south and mortars are falling near us."

"Everyone copy that?"

"Finger Print, roger."

"Spad lead, roger. We are going to make some passes closer in and see if that helps."

"You all be careful, that’s my Crew Chief and Gunner down there."

Bob moved the helicopter out to the west, still hovering above the trees and still taking fire from the south and east. The Spads worked out for a couple more passes and the enemy fire died down.

It took Ken and Gaylon about ten minutes to carry a Mud Marine [from 1stBn 4thMarines] and the Crew Chief, Mike Boice [HMM-165] up to the finger, where we had dropped them off. The Mud Marine was burnt pretty badly. Most of the flesh was missing from both his hands and lower arms. Mike Boice was drifting in and out of consciousness with a deep cut in his head. While Ken was carrying him up the side of the ridge an enemy bullet cut through Mike's foot. I landed and the two Marines were put on board. Ken and Gaylon headed back down the hill, giving me a thumbs up as I lifted off.

Finger Print 22 asked what was happening and I told him that "we have two on board and my crew is going back for the last two."

The enemy fire had dropped off, to almost nothing, until Ken and Gaylon reached the last two Marines, then all hell broke loose. Ken got on Guard and said "We are taking heavy fire down here. Drop some bombs to the east and south. Right now, as close as you can."

I could see the clouds of dust being kicked up by the 82 MM mortar shell landing, and then the heavy stuff started landing 152 MM artillery shells were now falling from some place far away. The Spads rolled in from the west; Lead dropped just to the east while, 2 dropped to the south.

Ken came back up on Guard "All right, I think that helped.” But we could still hear the bullets cracking and artillery shells exploding in the background.

It took almost ten minutes to carry the Door Gunner, Johnny C. Youngblood [on his first combat mission with HMM-165], back up to the pick up point. His back was broken and he was paralyzed from the chest down. He was a brave and hurting Marine that was in very severe pain. Twice, they had to stop and call in the Spads, because the enemy fire was getting too heavy. When I finally landed, the two Marines [the other was Michael J. Friel, HAC, HMM-165] were put on the floor and Ken crawled over to his M 60. I pulled pitch and after 50 knots turned north up over the ridgeline. Ken was working out with his M 60.

Bob asked him what he was shooting at and Ken came on the intercom in a winded and exhausted voice. "Sir, the mother fuckers that were trying to kill me."

Finger Print 22 thanked us for our effort as we headed for Khe Sanh medevac. I called the Spads and thanked them for their help.

We had saved four Marines and killed a couple hundred NVA. I was shaking like a leaf. I let Bob fly awhile and looked over the armor-plated seat at our passengers. They looked like hell, a couple of them didn't look like they were going to make it, but we tried and never gave up.

At the Khe Sanh medevac pad Marine medics unloaded the injured Marines. It took several minutes, because of the back and neck injuries. Ken asked one of the Medics about some Cokes or something to drink and the Medic sent someone after some cokes.

Ken and I both looked over the helicopter for bullet holes, while Bob and Gaylon found some more ammo for the M 60s. Miraculously no damage was found. Ken and Gaylon were skinned up from crawling around and had a few scratches, but luckily neither of them had been wounded.

A Marine showed up with a half dozen hot Cokes and we repositioned to the refueling pad.”

Submitted by: WO James L. Caufman, 1stCAV, US Army, rescue pilot, 20030818

POW Network

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH46A 151940 [wrong aircraft BuNo – it crashed same day in Da Nang Area]

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Information update with details from the Vietnam
Veterans Helicopter Pilots Association Historian, Gary Rousch.

Unit: CO D 1 BN 4 MAR 3 MARDIV
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY for Troop extraction, Hot Area. While on Landing Zone this helicopter was Climbing at unknown feet and unknown knots in South Vietnam. A count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.

Casualties: 02 INJ, 05 DOI
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.

Summary: Helicopter was forced down by enemy small arms fire. The helicopter
made an emergency landing, crashed and rolled down a mountain. The aircraft
Comment on Incident:was destroyed by fire.


Submitted by: N/A, 20030818

Personal Narrative

Bill Ebright should also be listed as a passenger in the final account of this incident. He is mentioned as being on-board this craft in several narratives and is mentioned earlier in this account as being a KIA with body recovered.
May God Bless all our young heroes who were KIA, POW, or MIA.
God Bless all the young men and women who serve unselfisly.
God Bless America.

Submitted by: Brian E. Homan, Friend of KIA William R. O. Ebright, 20060529

Remains of Four Marines Returned - 2009

"Remains of Brooklyn Marine killed in action during Vietnam return home"
BY Larry Mcshane
March 22nd 2009

As the days became years that faded into history, as Jose Sanchez became a sad, distant memory, a 5-by-7-inch index card bore witness to his short life.The Brooklyn teen's name was typed neatly across the Marine Corps Casualty Card, with the date and place of his last day alive: June 6, 1968. Quang Tri Province. Vietnam. The details were sparse the words terse: "The helicopter he was aboard received small arms fire. After crashing, the helicopter rolled down the side of a mountain and burned.
"The body was not recovered."

The card, stored for 41 years in a Virginia office, ended with an acronym: KIA - killed in action. Sanchez, gone before his 20th birthday, was also MIA. His remains were lost in the jungle 7 miles southwest of Khe Sanh, site to some of the war's most intense fighting.

The bodies of three fellow Marines were with him, left behind after their chopper crashed:
Lance Cpl. Kurt LaPlant.
Lance Cpl. Luis Palacios.
Lance Cpl. Ralph Harper.

For decades, what remained of the four - a boot fragment, a single tooth, scattered bone shards - stayed buried in the red Vietnamese soil.
Sanchez and his missing mates were united by fate and enemy fire. Once found, in the next millennium, they would not be separated again.

* * *

Sanchez was born in Kings County Hospital on March 15, 1949, when the Dodgers played in Ebbets Field and the subway cost a dime. The son of Puerto Rican immigrants grew up with his kid brother in the Gowanus Houses. Their dad died when Peter Sanchez was just 2, and Jose became the man of the house. "My father figure," his brother recalls. Jose lifted his voice in prayer as an altar boy, and kicked his heels in fun at the YMCA pool. He was a Boy Scout and athlete: baseball, football, basketball.
The teen left John Jay High School and his 8-year-old brother to enlist in the Marines in December 1967.
He reached Vietnam in May 1968. Within days, he was lugging 81-mm. mortar ammo along the Laotian border.

On June 6, as the nation awoke to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Pfc. Sanchez was caught in the waning hours of a three-day jungle firefight with the North Vietnamese Army. He was in a small group of Marines left on Hill 672 after most of his company shifted to safer, higher ground 100 yards away. A dozen Marines were already dead. Their commander, Lt. Col. Bill Negron, remembers everything about that sunsplashed day - the booming artillery, the gurgling jungle waterfall. And the fear that every Marine in his command would die. "We shouldn't have been there in the first place," Negron says of their precarious location. The Marines were outmanned, and Negron wanted them off Hill 672.
He convinced a general to order an emergency extraction, with a CH46A Sea Knight helicopter sent for Sanchez and the rest.

The Brooklyn kid barely knew the others. LaPlant, from Kansas, was an Elvis fan. Palacios followed his brother out of Los Angeles to the Marines. Harper, 20, of Indianapolis, was the oldest.
Negron watched through binoculars as his men scrambled aboard the chopper. As the aircraft lifted, a burst of fire erupted from the jungle floor. The chopper lurched. "We were saying, 'Get up! Get up!'" Negron recalls. It did not. The chopper tumbled from the sky; 12 of the 23 Marines aboard were killed.

To encourage the survivors, Negron ordered his men to stand and sing "The Marine Hymn" at the top of their lungs. Sanchez and the rest, already gone, never heard a note. A Marine recovery team pulled the living and dead from the crash, unaware they had missed the bodies of four colleagues.
Halfway around the world, a knock on the Sanchez's door delivered the bad news: Jose was dead. And the worse news: He still wasn't coming home.

A half-dozen posthumous honors, including a Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, hardly filled the family's void. His devastated mother, Virginia, began a decades-long vigil for her lost boy. Seventeen days after the crash, the U.S. brass abandoned the Marine base at Khe Sanh. The search for the missing Marines was soon abandoned, too. It was 1993 when a joint U.S.-Vietnamese search team revisited the site. It took another 13 years to find the first bits of remains.
* * *
Last November, DNA positively identified Palacios and LaPlant. Sanchez and Harper were included in what the military calls "group remains." The news - once dreaded, now unexpected - reached the families just hours after President Obama's election. Sanchez's mother wept. After 40 painful years, her son's recovered remains would be returned. Her mind at ease, Virginia Sanchez died five weeks later. "Finally," says son Peter, "she could rest."

The small band of brothers - together for so long on a Vietnam mountain - will spend eternity united at Arlington National Cemetery. The burial, with full military honors, is set for early May. They will share a single casket, side by side again, much as they were on Hill 672. It will hold a pressed Marines Corps dress uniform, along with a box engraved with their names and filled with their commingled remains.
"They were always together," Negron says. "And now, they won't be alone."

Submitted by: Alan H Barbour, Historian, USMC Combat Helicopter Association, 20090323

Personal Narrative

The same day, HMM-165 lost another CH-46A [Capt. C L. Weaver and 1/Lt. G. L. KAHLER] down south and the crew also got banged up: crew/chief Connie Myers ( and S/Sgt. Miller were evaced to the states with critical burns. Connie mentioned that he believed that at least some of the grunts that went in on his bird were KIA. [We have found no evidence of loss of life on the other incident thus far] Submitted by Gary Zimmerman, HMM-165

Submitted by: Gary Zimmerman, HMM-165, 20030818

Personal Statement



Personal Recollection

Not a day goes by that I don't recall vividly the events of June 4-6, 1968. I awake often to the faces of friends KIA there. My entire former rifle squad perished on LZ Loon, and I was tasked with identifying them. They died horrifically unconscionable deaths, and while I'd prefer to remember them as they lived, I'm not allowed that luxury. I see them everywhere I they died.

A survivors group, including the two respondents above (Negron and Tillery), meet every March on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to renew our bonds. One member of our group, Jack McLean, has authored a tale of the three days woven into his coming of age story appropriately named, Loon, A Marine Story. The following links supply the interested reader to more of the story and to if you would like to purchase the book.

Semper Fi and RIP, Brothers!

Submitted by: Dan Burton, 60 mm Mortars C Company 1/4, 20110102



Submitted by: Wally Beddoe, webmaster, 20090802

Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (Public Affairs)

Nov. 5, 2008
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of four U.S. servicemen, missing from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
They are Lance Cpl. Kurt E. La Plant, of Lenexa, Kan., and Lance Cpl. Luis F. Palacios, of Los Angeles, Calif. Remains that could not be individually identified are included in a group. Among the group remains are Lance Cpl. Ralph L. Harper, of Indianapolis, Ind., and Pfc. Jose R. Sanchez, of Brooklyn, N.Y. All men were U.S. Marine Corps. Palacios will be buried Friday in Bellflower, Calif., and the other Marines will be buried as a group in the Spring in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On June 6, 1968, these men were aboard a CH-46A Sea Knight helicopter that was attempting an emergency extraction of elements of the 1st Battalion, 4th Regiment, 3rd Marine Division then engaged against hostile forces in the mountains southwest of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. The helicopter was struck by enemy ground fire and crashed, killing 12 of the 23 crewmen and passengers on board. All but four of the men who died were subsequently recovered and identified.
Between 1993 and 2005, joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident in Quang Tri Province, interviewed witnesses and surveyed the crash site three times. The team found a U.S. military boot fragment and wreckage consistent with that of a CH-46 helicopter.
In 2006, a team began excavating the site and recovered human remains and non-biological material evidence including La Plant’s identification tag. While at the site, a Vietnamese citizen turned over to the team human remains the he claimed to have found amid the wreckage. In 2007, another team completed the excavation and recovered additional human remains, life support material and aircraft wreckage.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.

Submitted by: Alan H Barbour, Historian, Historian, USMC Combat Helicopter Association, 20081128

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