Incident Date 19680228 HMM-262 CH-46D 153360+ - Hostile Fire, Crash
Sevell, Robert Lee Capt Co-Pilot HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:072)
Toth, John Paul Sgt Crew HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 42E:002)
Meixner, Edwin George Maj Pilot HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:069)
Thotland, John Alfred LCpl Crew HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 42E:001)
McCabe, Marc Wayne Sgt Crew HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:070)
Gard, Danny D Cpl Crew HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:065)
Benigni, Alfredo Cpl Crew Chief HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:059)
Labonte, Donald Arthur HN Passenger H&SCo/2/26 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:068)
Spillman, Charles Otto BU1 Passenger NMCB-301, 31st NCR 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:074)
Turner, William Oliver Cpl Passenger H&SCo/3rdShorePtyBn 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 42E:001)
Stull, Jay Webster Capt Passenger HQCo/HQBn 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:069)
Stanton, Emmett Charles PFC Passenger A/3rdEngBn 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:074)
Parsons, Charles Edward Sgt Passenger HQCo/5thCOMMBn ForceLogCom 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:070)
Mikels Jr., James Herbert Sgt Passenger H&SCo/1/26 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:069)
Ellis, John Patrick Capt (PP) Passenger MABS-36 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:064)
Dwyer Jr., Matthew Murice LCpl Passenger A/3rdEngBn 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:063)
Dempsey, Ronald Lee Cpl Passenger BttyB/1/13 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:063)
Cooper, Donald Nathaniel Cpl Passenger HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:062)
Coles, Kyle J LCpl Passenger H&MS-36 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:061)
Christman, Ronald S H LCpl Passenger HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:060)
Caldwell, Robert Edward Cpl Passenger H&SCo/3/26 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:060)
Balades, David Zavala PFC Passenger H&SCo/3rdShorePtyBn 3rdMarDiv 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:058)
Bradley, Kenneth Robert Cpl Passenger HMM-262 MAG-36 1968-02-28 (vvm 41E:059)
HMM-262 Command Chronology
Flight Schedule Wednesday, 28 February 1968:
OPS DUTY OFFICER: 1stLt Cole
SQUADRON DUTY OFFICER: Lt Klahn
EVENT#, A/C CMDR, CO-PILOT, MISSION
20-1, Maj Meixner, Sevell, 53 KS
20-2, Barba, Otto, 53 KS
20-3, Maj Therriault, Bratton, 53 KS
20-4, Richards, Morrison, 53 KS
Personal Narrative - from HMM-262 website
"...The pilots of that ill fated aircraft were Major Ed Meixner and Capt Robert Sevell. There were other personnel on board who were not members of HMM-262. They were getting a ride to Khe Sanh. The mission that day was to bring a repair crew to Khe Sanh to recover a battle damaged CH-46 from HMM-262. It was our practice to take a direct route to Khe Sanh but the VC and NVA spotted this route and set up automatic weapons in strategic locations to direct large volumes of fire on our aircraft. To counteract the VC, we altered our flight path to approach Khe Sanh from another direction. The VC spotted this and again set up automatic weapons to shoot at our aircraft. Our aircraft took numerous hits and crashed in flames with one survivor who died later that evening at the Dong Ha medical facility. There was a magnificent effort to recover the crew with 3rd Division Marines helicoptered in to set up a perimeter defense around the crash site and VMO-6 providing air cover. If necessary, fixed wing aircraft were standing by. We were not going to leave any one behind. Dave Althoff flew the medevac aircraft picking up the entire crew. Our Flight Surgeon, Drew Morris was with the rescue force to provide immediate medical care...."
Personal Narrative - from HMM-262 website
The narrative which follows was provided by Corporal Kellan "K-Bar" Kyllo, 1966-1968, crewchief of the lead aircraft of a mission involved two HMM-262 aircraft that launched from Quang Tri with the destination of Khe Sanh for the purpose of taking a recovery crew to repair an A/C at the Khe Sanh Combat Base.
"... Fred Benigni was the crewchief (of the chase aircraft) but I don't remember which men were the two gunners, the extra crewmembers were members of the recovery team. I was in the lead plane. The HAC (helicopter commander of the lead aircraft) was Capt. Conroy. Major Meixner commanded the chase plane. My aircraft had just crossed over a ridge at tree top level that was thick blanket of fog. When the chase plane crossed the ridge at almost that same spot, the aircraft radioed that they had taken automatic weapons fire. There were no further communications. The aircraft then banked to the right and started to descend towards the valley at a high rate of speed. There was a yellow-white fire in the aft of the cabin that could be seen through the cabin portholes. The fire moved towards the front of cabin and consumed the entire cabin. The aircraft hit the valley floor at full speed. The crash extinguished the fire. We circled around the crash site and considered landing with the Marines we had aboard and looking for survivors. The pilot requested fixed wing support and was told that it wouldn't be available until that afternoon, so we returned to Quang Tri. When a team from another squadron returned to the crash site they said Danny Gard was still alive, we were told he died that next day."
Vietnam Database Research
HMM-262's Command Chronology (TT 1201092039.pdf p3) says the aircraft had 23 people on board. The 3d MarDiv ops log (1201030033.pdf p292 #154, 155 & 175) address the incident. #55 reports insertion of a platoon from Lima 3/9 Marines; #75 is a wrap-up reporting the recovery of 22 dead and one (1) survivor who was badly burned and not expected to live.
Until now we could neither identify that survivor nor determine if he in fact died - there are no unaccounted-for helo-related DOW personnel in Quang Tri from 28 Feb through 04 Mar, the date of the HMM-262 CmdChron.
Robert Sage has provided the attached DD1300 for Donald Arthur LaBonte, 6857405 HN (E3) USN. LaBonte is in the CACCF as A2-D-7, died of wounds, small arms fire, ground. However, the DD1300 is specific in saying LaBonte was:
"Killed in action 28 February 1968 in the vicinity of Khe Sanh Quang Tri
Province, South Vietnam as a result of wounds sustained when
aircraft was hit by automatic weapons fire."
The CACCF is correct in saying LaBonte died of wounds, but it is wrong in classifying his death as due to small arms fire in a ground engagement. Looking at it from a different direction, we have documented all personnel KIA on 28 Feb (except LaBonte), as well as one WIA who died 28 May 68.
It seems clear that he was the badly burned survivor from 153360, and unless someone interposes an objection I propose we:
* Correct his CasCodes to A2-B-6 citing the DD1300 and
* Associate him with CH-46D 153360 as the 23rd fatality
At the time I was a L/CPL stationed at the Rockpile with 3rd Platoon Lima Co 3rd Battalion 9th Marines 3rd Marine Division. I remember there was some confusion when we boarded a CH-46 at the Rockpile LZ which resulted in only half the platoon being airlifted to the crash site, the
other half boarded another helicopter and were flown somewhere else. Led by our Platoon Commander, LT. Hickman, a Navy Doctor, and our squad (The Green Ghosts) we went about our recovery effort without setting up a defensive perimeter because half the platoon went missing. All I can say was the site was surreal. It was some time before we came across the lone survior , a crewmember who could only say he was from Texas. (CPL Danny Gard). Out of respect for the families I will give details of what I still take to bed with me 46 years later. On a need to know basis, please call me : 212-989-3461 or 917-363-7039. Somebody had to hold the Line for THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA in 1968, and it was US!
A Family Tribute to David Ballades
A Family Tribute to David Ballades:
To all who knew David, to this day we love and miss him so very much. His two sons now grown and wonderful adults, are the proud product of their father.
A street was named for David at Camp Pendleton. We went there and had an honor guard, guest speaker, photos of David displayed. It was a great dedication the street corner of "Ballades Court" it was very emotional. We will remember David always, his granddaughter knows grandpa David as her personal "guardian angel grandpa" she will always know him. My brothers and cousins who are also Viet vets, Ed R. Cabrera, Richard H Cabrera, John R Cabrera, and Andrew S Cabrera honor David in all the veteran ceremonies here in Ventura Co.
My wish is one day to actually go to Washinton DC and see the memorial. I feel it will heal the ache I have carried with me all these years. Though I remarried, my current husband holds the deepest respect for David and raised his sons to be good adults. It’s very sad that our generation went through this Vietnam era; God Bless all who died for our country, and all who served in the armed forces,
David had a brother LCpl Raymond Z Balades who served two terms in RVN. The second term he volunteered when he found out David was going to have to go. He figured since David had a family he should stay here with us. Raymond served his second tour and no sooner was he back safely, David received orders almost immediately to go anyway. Well unfortunately David was only there 2mos when he died. He so much wanted to become 21 years old but lived to be 20.
The day I heard the news of Khe Sanh I knew in my heart David was one of the Marines, a few nights later, after just writing a letter to David, I heard a knock on the door. When I looked out the window and saw two officers, I knew. They introduced themselves and I interrupted them and told them I already knew about David because of what I felt in my heart that tragic day. The very same day I received a letter from David as he wrote me everyday and sent pictures of him. That last picture of him in front of a bunker on the back it read, "Here I am almost 21 yrs old. How do I look w/ a mustache. This is my bunker behind me. I love you and my sons.”
Unfortunately his brother Raymond died of Agent Orange about 7 years ago he suffered so much. Before he left he went to the> cemetery and cleaned David’s stone and said to him i'll be seeing you soon> brother we'll be together once again. all these memories stay so vivid in our> mind no matter how the years have passed what ache and sorrow we secretly> endure. yes you have my permission to post my mail, thanks for you time.
I was the Crew Chief on the CH-46 that David Althoff piloted on the medevac to pick up Maj. Meixner and the rest of our guys that went down that day. By the time we got there,there was somewhat of a perimeter set up and our guys were ready to be brought out.
To this day this incident as well as many others are still extremely difficult for me to think about as they are for so many of us. If someone would like to talk about this in more detail I can be reached at 360-754-2160 or 360-701-6743.
BU1 Charles O. Spillman, USN
BU1 Charles O. Spillman, USN, was KIA on 2/28/1968. He was classified as KIA (Hostile Action) - Body Recovered by the USN. He was a Navy CB based at Dong Ha, enroute to Khe Sanh.
EXCERPT FROM NMCB-301 - HISTORY (http://ansel.his.duq.edu/cbmu301/history.html) by Art Moore
"By March 31, 1967, the men were established as the United States Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 301.
On 7 April 1967 the unit was commissioned at Port Hueneme with LCDR Henry Holmes receiving the colors as the unit's first commanding officer. On 17 May 1967 the advanced party deployed by air to the combat zone in Vietnam. The battalion's rolling stock went by sea and arrived soon at the NSA DaNang's deep-water piers. The main body flew out from California shortly thereafter and arrived to establish it's base camp at Dong Ha, Republic of South Vietnam. By 24 June 1967, CBMU-301 was up and running.
Dong Ha Forward Combat Base, RVN, was located approximately eight miles south of the Demilitarized Zone which was in Quang Tri Province in the I Corps Tactical Zone. The Dong Ha base was a major source of ammunition, fuel, and food for U.S. Marine outposts such as Con Thien, Khe Sanh, Camp Carroll and Gio Linh.
On February 28, 1968, CBMU 301's base camp at Dong Ha was named Camp Spillman in honor of BU1 Charles O. Spillman who died in the crash of a Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter while inbound to Khe Sanh. The mission of the main body in Dong Ha was the maintenance and operation of the 3,700 foot AM-2 aluminum runway. CBMU 301 also tasked with maintenance and support U. S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy cantonments, maintenance of over 17 miles of Combat Base roads, maintenance of the new and old LCU ramps, maintenance of base electrical distribution and support and maintenance of the Dong Ha Combat Base Hospital."