Incident Date 19680306-1 HMM-165 CH-46A 151909+ / YW-17 - Hostile Fire, Crash
Seward, William Henry Maj Pilot HMM-165 MAG-36 1968-03-06 (vvm 43E:034)
Lopez, Robert LtCol Passenger CO, FOB1, 5thSpecForGrp, MACV 1968-03-06 (vvm 43E:025)
HMM-165 Command Chronology
Casualties - March 1968:
• Major William H. Seward 077885/7562 was killed in action on 6 March 1968 when his aircraft was downed as a direct result of enemy action.
• Captain Jerald B. Gartman 091496/7562 was wounded in action on 6 March 1968 when his aircraft was downed as a direct result of enemy action.
• Corporal William R. Peteritis was wounded in action on 6 March 1968 when his aircraft was downed as a direct result of enemy action.
HMM-165 After Action Report 6 Mar 68
Mission: #51, in support of SOG, Flt Leader MAJ Seward, Received hits in the hover at 75 ft AGL at 1410H at coords YC452949.
• ETD: Departed on 2 a/c mission at 1340 - returned at 1500. Joined up with two additional ARVN H-34s.
• Route: From Phu Bai to Special Forces Camp (FOB 1) to YC452949. YW-17 went down in zone. YW-10 to Phu Bai with two medevacs.
Comment on Incident
YW-17 Crew (flight leader):
Maj Seward, pilot; Gartman, copilot; Peteritis, crew chief; GB Meyer, gunner; GW Kuske, gunner
YW-10 Crew (wingman):
Maley, pilot; Doberstein, copilot; LD Plank, crew chief; Sanchez, gunner; Boice, gunner
We were flying a CH-46A (BuNo 151909) on a SOG mission out of FOB1 inserting a recon team into "classified coordinates" far West in Ashau Valley (I believe the date was 5 March 1968 according to my log book-- mid/early morning). Maj Seward was flying HAC and I was his copilot. Our gunner was Greg Kuske. We had previously inserted and retracted a team in this same location, which required a hoist into a small spot on the side of the mountains overlooking the Valley through triple canopy trees of over 100 feet.
The previous teams had reported seeing NVA (Russian AN) aircraft flying down this part of the valley at night delivering supplies and picking up wounded and prisoners. SOG HQ questioned the report and wanted another team to verify by shooting down one of these aircraft and acquiring physical proof from the wreckage. We were hesitant to go back to this same sight, but it was the only one available in the area the team needed to be.
We proceeded to the site with a wingman in another 46A and 2 Viet 34's. Upon reaching the location we made one pass and received no fire so set up and began the hoist operation. With the first load going down the hoist, well into the trees (probably about 50 feet under the aircraft and 75 feet above the ground) we started receiving well aimed fire from both sides into our engines. We lost power, crashed through the triple canopy and rolled over into the side of the mountain.
When I awoke, Kuske was on the side of the aircraft at my escape window. He cut my lap belt and assisted me in leaving the cockpit as I was pinned in the armor seat, which had come loose, and in the cabin that had collapsed. Maj. Seward's legs were either gone or trapped under his seat (the a/c was laying so that his side was down and even more heavily damaged) and the cyclic appeared to have stabbed him. I do not believe he was alive.
The a/c was on fire and the ordinance was beginning to cook off, so Kuske and I exited the area dragging an Army Special Forces soldier with two broken legs and a severe head injury. I later discovered that one of the ARVN 34's had picked up our crew chief from high in the canopy immediately after the crash -- they thought the rest of us were dead. We proceeded a short distance from the a/c and hid in the thick jungle. I was later able to make contact with my survival radio and after several attempts and some suppression bombing, an Air Force Jolly Green [37th ARRS, DaNang] was able to pick up Kuske and me from the crash site.
The Special Forces soldier was in too bad shape for us to get him to the pickup site (I was wounded in the leg and foot) and the Jolly crew refused to wait so that we could try or to send anyone down into the zone because of the fire they were taking. I later found out that Special Forces inserted a recovery team the following week after an observation a/c was hit by a mirror flash and that the Special Forces soldier was recovered, medevaced and lived. (Just found that out in 2002.)
The CO of FOB 1 [Forward Operations Base 1 - Phu Bai] was aboard our a/c and was killed in the action (LtCol Robert Lopez). That's about all I remember. There was a rumor that Hanoi Jane reported Maj. Seward as captured but I never heard any more about that so was probably just rumor. We never recovered the bodies from the a/c but the fire and explosions left very little--I remember seeing a MLG [Main Landing Gear] in the canopy as I was hoisted out.
"I think I flew in the second bird that day. The first one went down and we picked up one or two survivors from the down bird. I believe the FOB 1 skipper was Col. Lopaz [LtCol Robert Lopez]. I went back to the crash site a few days later after a Covey [20th Tactical Air Support Squadron out of DaNang] saw mirror flashes in the area. Found one of our guys still alive; got him out. Didn't find any one else."Submitted by: Ron Romancik, 5th Special Forces Medic CCN FOB 1 67/68,, 20030816
5th Special Forces Group records
Submitted by: N/A, 20030816
LtCol Robert Lopez, died SVN; CCN, FOB1, Phu Bai, YC456958, in CH-46 shootdown 4 km NE of Ta Bat, FOB C.O. His body was recovered on 7 Oct 1994.
SEWARD, WILLIAM HENRY
Remains Identified 06/16/00
Name: William Henry Seward
Rank/Branch: O4/US Marine Corps
Unit: HMM 165, Marine Air Group 36
Date of Birth: 11 April 1937
Home City of Record: Atlanta GA
Date of Loss: 06 March 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 145208N 1075713E (YC456958)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert Lopez; indigenous personnel; (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
SYNOPSIS: On March 6, 1968, Maj. William H. Seward, pilot, and LtCol. Robert Lopez, passenger, were aboard a US Marine Corps CH46A helicopter (tail #151909, call sign Yankee Whiskey 17) as lead aircraft in a flight of two in company with several other support aircraft on an insertion mission in South Vietnam. Also onboard Seward's helicopter were an unknown number of indigenous personnel working with the Special Forces team to be inserted. While hovering above an 80-foot canopy to insert a the reconnaissance team, the aircraft received moderate small arms fire and began settling. The aircraft continued its descent until the rotor blades struck the trees and the aircraft twisted and fell, coming to rest on the right side in a nose-low attitude.
Following the crash of the helicopter, both Seward and the co-pilot were helplessly trapped in the twisted wreckage of the cockpit. The personnel who were able to get out of the burning aircraft succeeded in freeing the co-pilot. Maj. Seward was unconscious and trapped in the opposite side of the cockpit. Every effort to free him failed. LtCol. Lopez appeared to be trapped between the aircraft and the ground, and efforts to free him were useless.
Once flames reached the cockpit and ammunition began exploding, the men were forced to abandon rescue efforts. Within 30 seconds, the aircraft exploded and was completely consumed by fire. A short while later, the survivors were extracted by rescue helicopters and evacuated. A recovery team entered the crash area about 2 hours later. The remains of one passenger, believed to be those of Lopez were found, but were charred beyond recognition, and it was decided not to attempt recovery. Other remains were apparently destroyed by fire and explosion. The other men reported missing were indigenous, names unknown.
Lopez and Seward are listed with honor among the missing because no remains were found. Their cases seem quite clear. For others who are listed missing, resolution is not as simple. Many were known to have survived their loss incident. Quite a few were in radio contact with search teams and describing an advancing enemy. Some were photographed or recorded in captivity. Others simply vanished without a trace.
National League of Families
National League of Families
UPDATE LINE: June 16, 2000
Thank you for calling the National League of Families Update Line. This message is being recorded on Friday, June 16th. The number of Americans still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War is now 2,017.
Today, the Defense Department provided the names of three Americans now accounted for, and the name of a fourth was not publicly released at the request of his family. Those announced include Captain Roger M. Netherland, USN, of PA, LTC Robert Lopez, USA, of WA, and Major William H. Seward, USMC, of GA. The remains of Captain Netherland, missing since May 10, 1967, wereunilaterally repatriated by the Government of Vietnam on September 11, 1989. The remains of LTC Lopez and Major Seward were jointly recovered in August of 1993 and October of 1994.