PARSELS, JOHN WILLIAM
RIP May 11, 2017
|Name: John William Parsels
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: HHC, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division
Date of Birth: 28 June 1945
Home City of Record: Bradenton FL
Date of Loss: 05 February 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163045N 1072824E (YD494093)
Status (in 1973): Returned POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Tom Y. Kobashigawa, Daniel H. Hefel (returned
POWs); James M. Lyon (missing)
REMARKS: 730327 RELSD BY PRG
Source: Compiled by HOMECOMING II and the 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. 2017
SYNOPSIS: At 1530 hours on February 5, 1970, Capt. James M. Lyon, pilot,
Capt. John W. Parsels, copilot, SP5 Tom Y. Kobashigawa, crew chief, and SP4
Daniel Hefel, door gunner, were flying a UH1H helicopter (serial #68-16441)
on a maintenance mission from Hue to Phy Bai, South Vietnam.
When the aircraft was about 18 miles northwest of Hue City, the helicopter
caught fire and crashed (due to a malfunction). Capt. Lyon was thrown clear
of the aircraft and was burned extensively over his body and part of his
right leg. His leg was severed four inches below the knee. The other crew
members were also injured and could not take evasie action. They were
captured at 1630 hours by NVA troops and spent the night near the crash
Throughout the night, the crew members heard their pilot yelling and moaning
in pain. At 0600 hours, Capt. Lyon moaned and then a shot was heard from his
position about 30 feet from the aircraft wreckage. No other outcry from
Capt. Lyon was heard, and the others believed that he had been killed by the
Two weeks later, Capt. Parsels was told by 1Lt. Lee Van Mac (an NVA
commander at "Camp Farnsworth") that Capt. Lyon died from his wounds and was
buried at the crash site. 1Lt. Lee Van Mac gave Capt. Parsels the personal
effects of Capt. Lyon, including his ID card and several photos which
appeared to be of Lyon's wife.
In late March, 1973, Parsels, Hefel and Kobashigawa were released from
prisons in North Vietnam. In their debriefings, all three concurred on the
story that Lyon had apparently been shot. They considered it a mercy
killing, because their pilot had been so seriously injured that they doubted
that he could survive.
Curiously, the Vietamese have not returned the body of Capt. James M. Lyon,
nor have they been forthcoming with information concerning him. Tragically,
Capt. Lyon has been a prisoner of war for nearly 20 years - alive or dead.
Even more tragic are the thousands of reports that continue to flow in
indicating that some hundreds of Americans are still prisoner in Indochina.
It's long past time we brought our men home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
JOHN W. PARSELS
Captain - United States Army
Shot Down: February 5, 1970
Released: March 27, 1973
I was born 28 June 1945 in Tecumseh, Michigan. I have a sister six years
younger, a brother nine years younger and a brother three years older. I
spent my early childhood in a small town near Jackson, Michigan. At age
fourteen my family moved to Bradenton, Florida where I attended Southeast
high school until I got married during the summer of my junior-senior year.
My wife and I completed our high school education at Manatee Adult education
and graduated on June 4th 1964. We were divorced in 1966. I have two boys,
Donny, age 6, and Johnny, age 9.
I was drafted in December 1965 and took basic training at Ft. Benning,
Georgia where I applied for Officer Candidate School (OCS). Upon completion
of OCS I went to Korea as a 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry. I spent 9 months as an
Instructor and Asst. Commandant of the 7th Infantry Division, Counter
Guerrilla Warfare School. At that time I transferred to 2nd Battalion 31st
Infantry and spent 4 months on the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) before returning
to Ft. Wolters, Texas to attend Rotary Wing Flight training. I spent 4
months at Wolters going through the primary phase of Helicopter training and
then went to Ft. Rucker, Alabama for 4 months in the secondary phase of
training and graduated as a pilot in February 1969. On March 13, 1969 I was
promoted to Captain and went to Ft. Eustis, Virginia to attend aircraft
Maintenance Officers Course and graduated as a maintenance officer on July
On August 14th, 1969 1 arrived in South Vietnam and was assigned to 5th
Transportation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) at Hue (Way)
city. I spent 5 months with 5th Transportation as shop platoon leader
before transferring to Headquarters and Headquarters Company 2nd Infantry
Brigade, Aviation Platoon, Maintenance Officer. On 5 February 1970 while on
an area orientation flight near the Ashau Valley the UH-1-H Huey helicopter
which I was flying in as co-Pilot, crashed into the side of a mountain at a
speed of approximately 100 mph. The aircraft caught fire seconds after
impact. I was able to crawl away from the aircraft although I sustained a
broken leg in the crash. The other three crew members were also able to get
away from the aircraft although the Aircraft Commander (the other Pilot) was
injured badly and I believe died later.
Approximately one hour after the crash we were taken prisoner by what I
believe to have been North Vietnamese soldiers. They tied my hands behind my
back and left me Iying where they found me until the next morning. At that
time they put me in a hammock and carried me for six days over mountainous
terrain to a camp I believe to have been somewhere in Laos. My crew chief
and door gunner were also carried to this camp, although they were kept
separated from me. I was given penicillin shots for infection and vitamin
shots to keep my health for the entire two months that I was kept at this
camp. I was given plenty of food which consisted of rice with a bowl of
bouillon type soup three times a day. They also straightened my leg and
splinted it. In April I was able to walk on crutches and was moved by truck
to North Vietnam. For the first eight months I was kept at a camp outside
Hanoi where the treatment was the worst of my entire captivity. For the
first four months I was kept in solitary confinement where I passed the
time thinking about my past, future, and the predicament I was in at the
time I also would go mosquito hunting nightly, play with ants, watch a baby
rat playing in the room, and spend at least a half an hour brushing my teeth
each morning along with many hours exercising my leg and cleaning my room.
After four months I was moved in with three other pilots. Our food was
totally inadequate at this camp. It consisted of two bowls of watery soup
made of squash or greens, and two small loaves of french type bread and
occasionally; a few chicken bones. The medical treatment was fair. We
suffered with skin rashes, diarrhea, and occasional malaria attacks. We were
harassed constantly and spent all but about an hour in the room. We took a
bath every other day. In November 1970 we were moved to a Camp called
Plantation Gardens located in Hanoi. At this camp conditions were much
better. We got enough food, fairly good medical treatment and very little
harassment. We exercised approximately one hour a day and took a bath six
days a week. We were also given several Russian novels along with a few
American novels and magazines. We were shown movies once a month and given
cards, chess and checkers. On holidays, including our Independence Day, we
received special meals. Our Christmas meal consisted of turkey, french
fries, salad, pork, soup, bananas, and a half bottle of beer. We listened to
the voice of Vietnam radio daily which gave us their propaganda, any
anti-war protests from the states, some sports from the states and sometimes
American music. There were a few instances when prisoners were beaten in
this camp for violating Camp Regulations which could include anything they
wanted to call a regulation.
I was put on my knees for about three hours with my hands over my head and
then shackled to a bed in solitary for a week for talking to other
prisoners. Before 1969 there was a lot of beating and torture. Also in this
camp from about April til September or October, we would constantly sweat.
The rooms were very poorly ventilated and the temperature would stay in the
high 90's or 100's. We would sweat 24 hours a day. All we had to cool
ourselves with was a small hand fan. During this time we would break out
with heat rash and boils over our entire bodies. These months were truly
In December 1973, we were moved to a portion of the Hanoi Hilton which is an
old French prison. The facilities there were much better. More ventilation,
larger rooms, and we were allowed outside with everyone else for at least
half the day. This is where we were released from in three groups. I was in
the last group released on 27 March 1973.
I always felt that someday I would be released but the question was when? My
main concern from the beginning was to let my family and everyone know that
I was still alive. I was having a constant battle with my faith in God and
I questioned everything - from myself, our country, our way of life, our
political system, and our government's policies. Since I've returned to the
United States I find I have a very strong faith in God. I believe He has
guided me through my life and keeps me headed in the right direction.
I have been exposed to communist propaganda and this has made me appreciate
our country and our way of life. Believe me when I say this is the greatest
country in the world! I have learned the value education, not only for the
ability to have a good job, but to be aware of what's going on in the world.
Before I was captured I was like the majority of American people who don't
take the time to read and look into what's going on, or to vote. When the
Vietnamese started telling about the war and the reasons we were there. I
had nothing to come back with because I had never taken the time to look
into it and find out why. All I knew was that we were there to help the
Vietnamese people. I was also very disappointed when I learned of the low
percentage of people who exercised their privilege to vote. I feel that if
everyone would vote, then we could make this country a better country than
it already is.
I also learned that the Vietnamese people are human just like you and I.
They love, hate, and have the same feelings as we do. I have no hatred
towards the Vietnamese as people. All war is senseless and should never
happen. I hope the future will bring peace to Vietnam and the WORLD.
I have a great respect for President Nixon for getting us out of Vietnam,
especially after reading the Pentagon Papers, which allowed me to understand
the very difficult decisions which he had to make concerning the Vietnam
Also, I feel that if our return has helped to re-unite our country, then my
three years in "captivity" have been well spent.
There are still many Americans that are still Missing in Action. Let us not
forget these men. Let us remain united in our efforts to find out the
status of these Americans.
God bless all of you for your concern that you have shown towards us. God
John Parsels retired from the United States Army as a Major. He resided in Florida
until his death.
May 15, 2017
John Parsels passed on May 11th and his funeral Mass will be held on Tuesday, May 16th at 1400 hours at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church located at 509 N. Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602.
For those of you that didn't know John he is a Life Member of VHPAF and was captured in 1970 and repatriated in 1973. As you may imagine the time he spent as a POW was very hard and only a brave person could have lived through it. When he returned and joined the VHPAF, John donated his POW "uniform" to the VHPAF and it is currently on display as a part of our Memorabilia display in The Florida Air Museum in Lakeland.