USMC/Combat Helicopter & Tiltrotor Association | Add your comments for this incident

USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION - KIA DATABASE
USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER ASSOCIATION
Brothers (& Sisters) Killed in Action in USMC Helicopters or while assigned to USMC Helicopter or Tiltrotor Squadrons in Vietnam



680219   HMH-463     Vietnam

Incident Date 680219 HMH-463 CH-53A 153278+ (YH-17) Non-Hostile Crash In Mountains, Instrument Meterological Conditions

[CREW]
Deetz, Bill Wayne Capt Pilot HMH-463 MAG-16 680219 (vvm 40E:019)
Ehnis, Kenneth Paul Sgt Crew Chief HMH-463 MAG-16 680219 (vvm 40E:019)
Johnson III, Benjamin F LCpl Gunner HMH-463 MAG-16 680219 (vvm 40E:023)
Tessier, Lucien Charles Capt Co-Pilot HMH-463 MAG-16 680219 (vvm 40E:032)
Torre, Francis San Nicholas Sgt Gunner HMH-463 MAG-16 680219 (vvm 40E:033)

[PASSENGERS]
Bridges Jr., Robert Jan HM2 Corpsman-Pass HMH-463 3rdMedBn 3rdMarDiv 680219 (vvm 40E:018)
McCullough, Sylvester TSgt Corpsman-Pass HMH-463 903rd AeroEvacSqdrn, MACV 680219 (vvm 40E:026)
Tyner, Robert Emmett PFC Medevac HMH-463 A/1stBn/12thCAV/1stCAVDiv 680219 (vvm 40E:033)
Uplinger, Barton John Capt Passenger HMH-463 VMO-6/MAG-36/1stMAW 680219 (vvm 40E:033)
Vietnamese - POW, NVA Prisoner of War Medevac HMH-463 NVA Prisoner of War 680219 (vvm 40E:033)
Vietnamese - POW, NVA Prisoner of War Medevac HMH-463 NVA Prisoner of War 680219 (vvm 40E:033)
Vietnamese - Unknown, Civilian Medevac HMH-463 Vietnamese Civilian 680219 (vvm 40E:033)
Vietnamese - Unknown, Civilian Medevac HMH-463 Vietnamese Civilian 680219 (vvm 40E:033)


BRIDGES ROBERT JAN JR: 5485760 : USNR : HM2 : E5 : HM2 : 25 : MITCHELL : SD : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea/medevac crew [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : died while missing - body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 06 : 19430105 : Cauc : Roman Catholic/married : 40E : 018 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot: 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

DEETZ BILL WAYNE : 091814 : USMC : CAPT : O3 : 7564 H-53: 26 : NORTHFIELD : MN : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : Crew : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 06 : 19411208 : Cauc : Protestant/married : 40E : 019 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

EHNIS KENNETH PAUL : 1993132 : USMC : SGT : E5 : 6321 : 25 : ROMULUS : MI : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : Crew : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 06 : 19421106 : Cauc : Protestant/married : 40E : 019 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

JOHNSON BENJAMIN F III : 2185143 : USMC : LCPL : E3 : 6321 : 19 : SAN ANTONIO : TX : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : Crew : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 02 : 19480821 : Cauc : Protestant/married : 40E : 023 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

MC CULLOUGH SYLVESTER : 12330670 : USAF : TSGT : E6 : Medical Corps (AeromedEvacTechnician, 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Phu Cat) : 35 : NEW YORK : NY : 19680219 : Non-hostile, other causes/Air loss - sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : died while missing - body later recovered : Offshore - Military Region 1 [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 19330128 : Negro : Baptist : Married : 40E : 026 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

TESSIER LUCIEN CHARLES : 092299 : USMCR : CAPT : O3 : 7564 H-53: 24 : MANCHESTER : NH : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : Crew : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 04 : 19431223 : Cauc : Roman Catholic/single : 40E : 032 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

TORRE FRANCIS SAN NICOLAS : 2127294 : USMC : SGT : E5 : 6341 : 21 : MANGILAO : GUAM : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : Crew : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 03 : 19461014 : Cauc : Roman Catholic/single : 40E : 033 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

TYNER ROBERT EMMETT : 53702312 : USArmy(draftee) : PFC : E3 : 11B10 (Infantry) : 20 : JACKSONVILLE : FL : 19680219 : Non-hostile, other causes/Air loss - land/Helo - pass [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : died while missing - body recovered : South Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 19470804 : Cauc : Baptist : Single : 40E : 033 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

UPLINGER BARTON JOHN : 093496 : USMCR : CAPT : O3 : 7563 : 25 : CAMARILLO : CA : 19680219 : Air Loss Crash Sea : Passenger [crash site located on mountain enroute Phu Bai to Danang] : body recovered : North Vietnam [corrected to Quang Nam, SVN] : 03 : 19420902 : Cauc : Protestant/married : 40E : 033 : interred at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St Louis, MO : Plot : 81 0 308-310, bur. 09/10/1968

Being evacuated to Danang for medical treatment.

Being evacuated to Danang for medical treatment.

Being evacuated to Danang for medical/dental treatment

Being evacuated to Danang for medical/dental treatment


MAG-16 Command Chronology - Feb 1968:
"At 1915H [19 Feb 68] this aircraft was declared overdue and missing after being last reported at 092 degrees/20 nautical miles from TACAN Channel #69 enroute to MMAF on an IFR clearance. Search and rescue operations were instigated and continued on a daily basis through the end of the month"

HMH-463 Squadron After Action Report of 19 Feb 1968:
AAR of 19 FEB 1968:

HMH-463 Mission #22
4.2 hours in support of III MAF
2 CH-53 aircraft

Lead A/C YH-12
Pilot: Scott
Copilot: Curley
CrewChief: Lewis
Gunner: Gonzales
Gunner: Machinnon

Second A/C YH-17
Pilot: Deetz
Copilot: Tessier
CrewChief: Ehnis
Gunner: Johnson
Gunner: Torre

Flight Leader Capt H. R. Scott
#1 received one hit – carried 10 passengers and 11 medevac
#2 missing enroute MMAF – 9 passengers /medevacs unknown

Routing for #1 A/C: MMAF -> Phu Bai -> Hue Citadel -> Phu Bai -> Danang -> MMAF
Routing for #2 A/C: MMAF -> Phu Bai -> Hue Citadel -> Phu Bai -> [Crash Site]

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

MAG-36 Command Chronology - June 1968:
"On 16 June (four months later) the wreckage of an aircraft believed to be a UH-34 was found by the APD aircraft from HML-367. On 19 June a zone was blown using 2,000 lb. bombs to allow a recon team to reach the crash site. On 20 June a recon Team “Fudge Cake” was inserted into the crash site at ZC 201946 and the aircraft was identified as CH-53A, BuNo 153270 [153278]. Two M-60 machine guns, one .38 Cal. pistol, one engine starter, and the dog tags of TESSIER, L. C. 092299 were recovered by the team. The team was extracted at 1700. On 21 June the recon team “Fudge Cake” with two Graves Registration men and an aviator member of this command were inserted into the crash site. A thorough search for the remains was conducted. All remains that could be found were brought out and turned over to Graves Registration for further disposition. A report was submitted to MAG-16 concerning the investigation."
Submitted by John Lane, HMM-364, USMC researcher

Comment on Incident:
According to the HMH-463 Squadron Command Chronologies for Feb and Apr 1968, the crew was reported as MIA on 19 Feb 1968. The crew was reclassified as DAI/BNR on 13 Mar 1968.

Comment on Incident - The Virtual Wall Website:

In the Spring of 2003, The Virtual Wall obtained a current copy of the Defense Department's official casualty records, which lists 130,573 peacetime and wartime deaths from the first casualty of the Korean War on 28 June 1950 through an Air Force lieutenant who died in an automobile accident on 31 Dec 2002. The Department of Defense database lists nine men who died in a Marine Corps helicopter crash on 19 Feb 1968 ... the seven men listed above and two other passengers:

TSgt Sylvester McCullough, USAF, New York NY, USAF Medic
PFC Robert E Tyner, US Army, Jacksonville FL, A/1/12 Cav

The casualty database was obtained from Mr. Tom Campbell, WHS/DIOR, in late April 2003. While it does not indicate the vehicle type, it (sometimes) indicates the branch of service that was operating an aircraft involved in an accident. The database identifies the reason for and location of loss as follows:

Capt Tessier: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
Capt Deetz: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
Sgt Ehnis: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
LCpl Johnson: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
Sgt Torre: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
Capt Uplinger: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- PASSENGER (MC) NVN
HM2 Bridges: HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) NVN
TSgt McCullough HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- CREW (MC) OFFSHORE SVN
PFC Tyner HELICOPTER ACCIDENT -- PASSENGER (MC) SVN

CH-53A BuNo 153278 was the only USMC non-hostile helo loss on 19 Feb 68. It
thus appears that Tyner and McCullough were aboard BuNo 153278.

Submitted by Ken Davis, The Virtual Wall,

Comment on Incident:
Comment on Incident:
The crash site was located on Monkey Mountain on the north side of DaNang Harbor in a position very near a previous H-53 crash (8 Jan 68). The suggestion of an errant instrument vector (possibly errant land elevation information) is reasonable, as two aircraft impacted in the same general region at different times under instrument conditions. The possibility of inadvertent flight into terrain is also a reasonable explanation. "Meaconing" (A system of receiving radio beacon signals and rebroadcasting them on the same frequency to confuse navigation) by the enemy was always a possibility. The meaconing stations cause inaccurate bearings to be obtained by aircraft or ground stations, but there is no firm evidence either way with respect to the two crashes.

Submitted by Alan H. Barbour, Historian, USMC/Vietnam Helicopter Association

From "The Virtual Wall",:
Comment on Incident:
The initial report from MAG-16 indicated that 9 men perished. "The aircraft crashed and burned in the valley below. Nine medevacs within the aircraft were killed. The entire crew and six of the medevacs survived the crash with injuries."

Another report from Tyner Family sources indicates that they were told that there were 13 men aboard the helicopter and that several were Vietnamese soldiers. The following is what R.E. [Tyner]'s family told us that the military told them concerning R.E. the day that the helicopter crashed:

"R.E. was wounded in the neck/shoulder area while fighting in Hue. He
was placed on a helicopter and was to be sent to a medical facility in
Da Nang for treatment of his wounds."

"There were 13 men onboard the helicopter and several were Vietnamese
soldiers. The flight time was supposed to take about 20 minutes from
where they took off to where they were supposed to land. The helicopter
had been in the air about 10 minutes when all contact with it was lost.
All were declared MIA. Sometime later the Tyner family was contacted
and told that the helicopter had been found and the men declared dead.
They were told that of the 13 men on board that only enough remains of
bodies were found to put in 3 coffins." Mrs. Johnson, friend of R E Tyner.

From the above, it appears that BuNo 153278 was on a medevac mission to/from
Hue when it went down. Given the "last position" data of 092/20NM
Channel 16 the CH-53 was nowhere near NVN waters - and the wreckage certainly
wasn't. It appears that an error was made in the initial coding of the
casualty reports or at some point thereafter ... and that no corrections were
made after the wreckage was located in June 1968. The medevac mission itself
is indicated by the presence of a Corpsman (HM2 Bridges from the 3rd Med Bn,
Danang); Mrs. Johnson's information; and the presence of a USAF medic, TSgt
McCullough.

Submitted by Ken Davis,

Comment on Incident:
TSGT Sylvester Mc Cullough was assigned to the relatively small 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. He was based in Phu Cat, Vietnam, located just west of Highway 1 in II Corps Area. The United States Air Force operated the Phu Cat facility for F-100 SuperSabre and F-4 Phantom aircraft of the Tactical Air Command (TAC). They provided the close air support for units in the II Corps area. It is not know why he was on the flight in the CH-53A in I Corps, but there is some speculation that he may have had a mission at Khe Sanh and was returning. He had only been in-country for two weeks when he was KIA. His MOS was Aeromedical Evacuation Technician.
Submitted by Alan H. Barbour, Historian, USMC/VHA

Personal Narrative:
We were told maybe three months after the incident, that our roommate, Benjamin F. Johnson, was found along with the rest of the crew from HMH-463 on this bird which crashed on the same hillside as the CH-53 from HMH-463 which was found on 680108 with my roommate Phillip Stanley Strand. Both were found one half mile from each other. We were told that both had been following a bogus TACAN signal in the fog, and both crashed on the same hillside.
Submitted by Michael Burnett, Cpl, HMH-463, Aircrew, 1968

Personal Narrative:
When this incident occurred our family was told things that are not listed in this web site.

Regarding the passengers of this ill-fated flight, the total was thirteen human beings: the five members of the flight crew, two individuals being medevaced, Marine Captain Barton J. Uplinger and Army Private First Class Robert E. Tyner, one Navy Corpsman attending these two, HM2 Corpsman Robert J. Bridges, Jr., one Air Force Corpsman hitching a ride back to Saigon, TSgt Corpsman Sylvester McCullough, two Viet Cong POWs and one elderly South Vietnamese gentleman taking his grandaughter to Danang to see the dentist.

We were also told the name of the mountain that the chopper crashed into was Marble Mountain.

Submitted by Michael J. Ehnis, Brother of Sgt. Kenneth P. Ehnis and fellow Marine

Personal Narrative:

I was a friend of TSgt. Sylvester McCullough; both of us trained at Pope AFB, NC and were sent to Phu Cat AB, VN as a unit of the 903rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. This unit consisted of 70 personnel. TSgt. McCullough and I drove from Pope AFB, NC to Kansas City in December of 1967. He was to report to Phu Cat approximately 1 week before I was to arrive.

I conducted a personal inventory of his belongings on March 11, 1968. I was told that he was on a mission from Khe Sanh Combat Base and the aircraft was lost in the fog and crashed into Monkey Mountain. I understand there were several personnel aboard and that TSgt. McCullough was aboard due to a med evac situation. Also, I was advised by our commander, Major Dale D. Grismore, that TSgt. McCullough apparently volunteered for this flight.

He was a good person and I was saddened by this loss. On our trip from North Carolina, all he talked about was his children and could not wait to get back to Salina, Kansas to visit them before leaving for Vietnam.

Submitted by Jon Lecure, SSgt., 903rd Aeromedical Evac Sq., located at Phu Cat AB, VN

The Virtual Wall - Addendum:
While we did get the "who was on board" question resolved - 6xUSMC, 1xUSN,
1xArmy, and 1xUSAF, total 9 US - we had three different UTM locations:
* VHPA UTM grid: ZD050295
* MAG-16 UTM grid: ZC197247 (MAG-16 Jun68 CC TT 1201077235.pdf p46)
* MAG-36 UTM grid: ZC201946 (MAG-36 Jun68 CC TT 1201078294.pdf p5)
Robert Tyner, Army, is now positively identified as aboard the helo; his
DA2496 dated 30 Jun 68 is attached and notes the crash site was located
and "some remains" recovered.

The MAG-16 and MAG-36 June 1968 reports address locating and recovery from
the wreckage. Recon Team FUDGE CAKE (2nd Plt, 1st Force Recon Co) visited
the wreck site twice, an initial recon on 20 June and again on 21 June
with a MAG-36 officer and 2 Graves Registration people. I decided to see
where they thought they were and tracked down the post-patrol reports.

The two reports are attached, as are two 1:50K map graphics showing the
Thua Thien/Quang Nam border and the crash site as reported by FUDGE CAKE:
ZC205941. One is "shrunk" and shows the general area, and the second is a
full-size image for detail.

It turns out the helo hit the southern face of a secondary peak,
apparently just south of the border and probably only a hundred or so feet
below the crest.

Submitted by Ken Davis, Researcher, The Virtual Wall

Personal Recollection:
VMO-6 Dec 67-Dec 68.

I worked in Avionics and flew as a door gunner from Feb to July 68. I don't recall the date, but I flew on a mission to confirm the crash site of a CH-53 that hit the crest of a mountain, if you want to call it that. We were told at the onset of the mission that this mission never happened, by which we assumed we were going to fly into Laos.

It was a long flight from Quang Tri in the Huey, and we didn't stay too long at the site, perhaps because of the distance we had to fly. There was confirmation of some aircraft wreckage, but my pilot would not descend low enough to get a really good view. If this was indeed a classified mission, I am assuming there is no record of it avaliable. I noticed that there seems to be a lot of misinformation on this incident, perhaps covering up the fact that it actually crashed in Laos, where we weren't supposed to be. Does any one else recall this mission? We must have flown in a pair of Hueys.

Submitted by Ken Debelak, confirmation of crash site

Personal Narrative:
Comment on Incident:
Bart Uplinger had been one of my transition flight students [UH-1E] at Camp Pendleton (VMO-5). He was a fine gentleman and a fine pilot. He was assigned to VMO-6 upon arrival in-country. It is my understanding that he possibly had another role on this mission, either simply as a passenger using the flight for transportation or with INTELL.

Submitted by Alan H Barbour, former flight instructor, VMO-5

Comment on Incident:

HM2 Robert Bridges is listed on the casualty record as died while missing -crashed at sea. The other helo members are all listed as body recovered but I am not sure that is right. The family of this missing Doc knows very little. I was in hopes you have some further info on this loss incident such as what squadron and what they were doing off the coast of NVN etc. Bridges served in 3rd Recon but from what I gather was sent to another unit.

Submitted by George Neville, 3rdReconBn

Capt Bill Wayne Deetz, HMH-463:

http://www.popasmoke.com/visions/image.php?source=2386


Submitted by MGySgt George Curtis, Popasmoke Admin

Family Information:
To our knowledge my brothers remains were never found, although his dogtags were suppose to have been found. As far as we knew we buried an empty casket at Jefferson National Cemetary in Missouri.

We had heard these stories later, but the first wire we received was that the plane went down in the Gulf of Tonkin. My parents were never notified that his body had been recovered. It was a devasting event in my life. Freddy was my best friend, my big brother, and I still miss him very much to this day.

I never knew how many men were lost in that crash until my son, who did the research for a movie he is making on his uncle, uncovered your site, and a wonderful memorial site is dedicated to him. I am so thankful to all of you for sharing this information. He has always stayed alive in me, his spirit, his wisdom, and the greatest memories of the best brother and friend a person could have ever been blessed with. Thank you all.

Submitted by Janey Johnson Newton, Sister of L/Cpl Benjamin F Johnson III

Family Remembrance:
August 21st, 2014 was Freddy's 66 birthday.

Our relationship grew immensely after his enlistment into the Marine Corp. Always wondering why the first report given to myself and my mother by the DI was the HMH-463 CH-53A crashed into the Bay of Tonkin. My brother's very close friend delivered a photo of Freddy taken 10 days before the crash.

It hurts deeply opening the heart felt loss of Freddy and knowing he had one month to come home. I shall ever be grateful to those who have written and commented on the true facts. I have my brothers dog tags and wonder if they were recovered or new ones made and presented at the grave site.

God bless all who gave their lives for freedom and those serving now.

Submitted by Carl Johnson, BROTHER


USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION