BECERRA, RUDY MORALES
Group Identification
Name: Rudy Morales Becerra
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Unit: 170th Aviation Company, 17th Aviation Group, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 1st
Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 29 October 1950
Home City of Record: Richmond TX
Date of Loss: 24 March 1970
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 142750N 1071816E (YB484003)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 3
Acft/Venicle/Ground: UH1H
Refno: 1578
Other Personnel in Incident: Berman Ganoe; John C. Hosken; Michael O'Donnell;
John Boronski; Gary A. Harned, Jerry L. Pool (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, including James E. Lake's account
found in "Life on the Line" by Philip D. Chinnery, interviews. Updated by
the P.O.W. NETWORK 2001.
REMARKS: SURVIVAL UNLIKELY - PER SAR
SYNOPSIS: Kontum, South Vietnam was in the heart of "Charlie country" --
hostile enemy territory. The little town is along the Ia Drang River, some
forty miles north of the city of Pleiku. U.S. forces never had much control
over the area. In fact, the area to the north and east of Kontum was
freefire zone where anything and anyone was free game. The Kontum area was
home base to what was known as FOB2 (Forward Observation Base 2), a
classified, long-term operations of the Special Operations Group (SOG) that
involved daily operations into Laos and Cambodia. SOG teams operated out of
Kontum, but staged out of Dak To.
The mission of the 170th Assault Helicopter Company ("Bikinis") was to
perform the insertion, support, and extraction of these SOG teams deep in
the forest on "the other side of the fence" (a term meaning Laos or
Cambodia, where U.S. forces were not allowed to be based). Normally, the
teams consisted of two "slicks" (UH1 general purpose helicopters), two
Cobras (AH1 assault helicopters) and other fighter aircraft which served as
standby support.
On March 24, 1970, helicopters from the 170th were sent to extract a
MACV-SOG long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) team which was in contact
with the enemy about fourteen miles inside Cambodia in Ratanokiri Province.
The flight leader, RED LEAD, serving as one of two extraction helicopters
was commanded by James E. Lake. Capt. Michael D. O'Donnell was the aircraft
commander of one of the two cover aircraft (serial #68-15262, RED THREE).
His crew consisted of WO John C. Hoskins, pilot; SP4 Rudy M. Beccera, crew
chief; and SP4 Berman Ganoe, gunner.
The MACV-SOG team included 1LT Jerry L. Pool, team leader and team members
SSGT John A. Boronsky and SGT Gary A. Harned as well as five indigenous team
members. The team had been in contact with the enemy all night and had been
running and ambusing, but the hunter team pursuing them was relentless and
they were exhausted and couldn't continue to run much longer. when Lake and
O'Donnell arrived at the team's location, there was no landing zone (LZ)
nearby and they were unable to extract them immeidately. The two helicopters
waited in a high orbit over the area until the team could move to a more
suitable extraction point.
While the helicopters were waiting, they were in radio contact with the
team. After about 45 minutes in orbit, Lake received word from LT Pool that
the NVA hunter team was right behind them. RED LEAD and RED THREE made a
quick trip to Dak To for refueling. RED THREE was left on station in case of
an emergency.
When Lake returned to the site, Pool came over the radio and said that if
the team wasn't extracted then, it would be too late. Capt. O'Donnell
evaluated the situation and decided to pick them up. He landed on the LZ and
was on the ground for about 4 minutes, and then transmitted that he had the
entire team of eight on board. The aircraft was beginning its ascent when it
was hit by enemy fire, and an explosion in the aircraft was seen. The
helicopter continued in flight for about 300 meters, then another explosion
occurred, causing the aircraft to crash in the jungle. According to Lake,
bodies were blown out the doors and fell into the jungle. [NOTE: According
to the U.S. Army account of the incident, no one was observed to have been
thrown from the aircraft during either explosion.]
The other helicopter crewmen were stunned. One of the Cobras, Panther 13,
radioed "I don't think a piece bigger than my head hit the ground." The
second explosion was followed by a yellow flash and a cloud of black smoke
billowing from the jungle. Panther 13 made a second high-speed pass over the
site and came under fire, but made it away unscathed.
Lake decided to go down and see if there was a way to get to the crash site.
As he neared the ground, he was met with intense ground fire from the entire
area. He could not see the crash site sice it was under heavy tree cover.
There was no place to land, and the ground fire was withering. He elected to
return the extract team to Dak To before more aircraft was lost. Lake has
carried the burden of guilt with him for all these years, and has never
forgiven himself for leaving his good friend O'Donnell and his crew behind.
The Army account concludes stating that O'Donnell's aircraft began to burn
immediately upon impact. Aerial search and rescue efforts began immediately;
however, no signs of life could be seen around the crash site. Because of
the enemy situation, attempts to insert search teams into the area were
futile. SAR efforts were discontinued on April 18. Search and rescue teams
who surveyed the site reported that they did not hold much hope for survival
for the men aboard, but lacking proof that they were dead, the Army declared
all 7 missing in action.
For every patrol like that of the MACV-SOG LRRP team that was detected and
stopped, dozens of other commando teams safely slipped past NVA lines to
strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of
MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into
Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American
campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign
soil in U.S. military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation
as one of the most combat effective deep penetration forces ever raised.
By 1990 over 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. Government
concerning men missing in Southeast Asia. The government of Cambodia has
stated that it would like to return a number of American remains to the U.S.
(in fact, the number of remains mentioned is more than are officially listed
missing in that country), but the U.S., having no diplomatic relations with
Cambodia, refuses to respond officially to that offer.
Most authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive in
Southeast Asia today, waiting for their country to come for them. Whether
the LRRP team and helicopter crew is among them doesn't seem likely, but if
there is even one American alive, he deserves our ultimate efforts to bring
him home.
Michael O'Donnell was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for
his actions on March 24, 1970. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying
Cross, the Air Medal, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart as well as
promoted to the rank of Major following his loss incident. O'Donnell was
highly regarded by his friends in the "Bikinis." They knew him as a talented
singer, guitar player and poet. One of his poems has been widely
distributed, but few understand that the author remains missing.
If you are able,
save them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.
Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
=======================
Gary Alan Harned-RT Pensylvaina
06/19/01
From:   amcoon@hotmail.com (Anne Coon)
My name is Robert Schwab and I am from Meadville, Pennsylvania. I am looking
for information on my Uncle, Gary Alan Harned, who was a member of RT
Pennsylvania. He was listed as missing in action in March of 1970. I was
also told to mention the CCC in this e-mail. I would be very interested in
any information that anyone may have about my Uncle from people who knew him
personally or through military operations.
It is believed that in March of 1970, a helicopter that Gary was on was shot
down near Cambodia. Other passengers believed to be aboard were Captain
Michael O'Donnell, Officer John Hosken, Rudy Becerra, Berman Grande, Jr.,
Lieutenant Jerry Poole, and Sergeant First Class John Boronski. Recently the
Army has investigated the crash site and has found human remains. Through
DNA Testing they have positively identified Captain Michael O'Donnell,
Officer John Hosken, Rudy Becerra, and Berman Grande, Jr. The three
remaining men, Lieutenant Jerry Poole, Sergeant First Class John Boronski,
and my Uncle were not positively identified through testing, due to the
condition of the remaining bones. These remaining bones are being offered
for a group burial for Poole, Boronski, and my Uncle at Arlington Cemetery
later this year.
Any information would be very helpful. Thank you for your time.
Robert A. Schwab
(814) 336-2270 or e-mail amcoon@hotmail.com
================================
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 12:04:38 EDT
Subject: Soldiers and Airmen Returning Home
Greetings,
I am  .... for the US Army at Fort Myer, Va.  I also had the pleasure to
serve as ..... for 5th SFG(A) from Dec 91 through Dec 94.  Today and
tomorow, I have the honor to be part of an escort for the families and
remains of 3 Special Forces soldiers and 4 members of the Air Force returned
home from Cambodia. These soldiers were lost on 24 March 1970 in Cambodia;
REFNO 1578.
They are:
1LT Jerry L. Pool
SSG John Boronski
SGT Gary Harned
CPT Michael D. O'Donnel
WO1 John C. Hosken
SP4 Rudy Becerra
SP4 Berman Ganoe Jr.
There will be a ceremony at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Meyer at 1300 hours
on 16 August.  While this was a war before my time, I still feel a deep
sense of pride, honor, and esprit de corps in their return.  These days are
very special for anyone who has every worn a uniform or served in the the
defense of their country. I have the deepest pride in my service and the
highest regard for my brothers who have fallen before me. I hope their
return brings some closure and ease to the minds and hearts of those who
care.
                         Respectfully,
====================
Updated: 07/2001
  MIA some 31 years, soldier's remains headed home
  By JO ANN ZUIGA Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle
After 31 years, U.S. Army Sgt. Rudy Becerra is coming home from the Vietnam
War. The remains of Becerra, who was 19 when reported missing in 1970 after
his helicopter was shot down, were identified recently and are being brought
to Houston on Friday......
=============================================
Associated Press Newswires
Friday, August 17, 2001                      
Vietnam MIA's remains to return home         
ROSENBERG, Texas (AP) - There's a plot and a headstone for Rudy Ray Becerra
in Greenlawn Memorial Park. But his body isn't there.....