SMITH, WILLIAM ARTHUR JR. Remains identified 09/08/00
Name: William Arthur Smith, Jr. Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: Company A, 9th Aviation Battalion, 9th Infantry Division Date of Birth: 24 June 1945 (Americus GA) Home City of Record: Battle Creek MI Date of Loss: 27 September 1968 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 101643N 1062847E (XS608377) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 4 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H Refno: 1291
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 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 2000.
SYNOPSIS: On September 27, 1968, WO1 William A. Smith, Jr. was the aircraft commander of an UH1H helicopter (tail #67-17164) on a command and control mission in the vicinity of My Tho, Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam. The pilot onboard the aircraft was LT Quentin F. Hurst, crewchief, PVT Jeffrey C. Niles, and gunner Kevin L. Grain.
[NOTE: Several Defense Department listings show Smith's aircraft as an OH6A helicopter, but the Army and Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) records indicate it was a UH1H.]
During the mission, the aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire, burst into flames and exploded on contact with the My Tho River. Several U.S. Navy patrol boats were in the area, and the crash of the aircraft was observed. Boats arrived at the site minutes after the crash. During the aerial search of the crash site, three aviator helmets, aircraft debris, personal items belonging to the aircraft crew and an oil slick were located on the water in the vicinity. However, no evidence of survivors was seen, nor were any bodies located.
On 29 September, the bodies of three crew members were found floating in the vicinity of the crash site. The three remains were recovered and subsequently identified as Niles, Hurst and Grain. It was determined that the recovered crew members survived the crash and later died by drowning. Thus it was possible that Smith survived as well and was captured. He was classified Missing in Action.
A photo taken on the morning of September 28 of the shoreline in the same general area as the crash was examined by a photo interpreter who stated that it appeared that in the photo something or someone was dragged ashore in the vicinity of the crash site. However, questioning of the local riverside people indicated that a small sampan had been pulled ashore at that location.
Leaflets were distributed along the shoreline seeking information from villagers about the fate of WO1 Smith. Also, an indigenous investigator traveled the north bank of the My Tho River searching for information or a body washed ashore. The results of both efforts were negative.
In December 1974, remains were recovered that remotely associated with this incident. However, the Identification Laboratory in Thailand identified the remains as Mongoloid, and not those of WO1 Smith.
A source reported information on a U.S. helicopter shot down in 1973 or 1974 in the vicinity. Reportedly, the dead pilot was pulled out, stripped, and buried in the vicinity. This was thought to possibly correlate to Smith [even though this incident was some 4-5 years following Smith's loss].
Nearly 2500 Americans were lost in Southeast Asia during our miltary involvement there. Since the war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands of reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for have been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no conclusive proof has been obtained that is current enough to act upon. Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.
Smith, if one of those hundreds said to be still alive and in captivity, must be wondering if and when his country will return for him. In America, we say that life is precious, but isn't the life of even one American worth the effort of recovery? When the next war comes, and it is our sons lost, will we then care enough to do everything we can to bring our prisoners home?
National League of Families UPDATE LINE: September 8, 2000
Thank you for calling the National League of Families Update Line. This message is being recorded on Friday, September 8th. The number of Americans missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War is now 2,005.
Today, the Department of Defense released the names of eight of nine US personnel now accounted for, six previously missing in Laos and three in Vietnam. These Americans include CDR Leonard M. Lee of VA and LCDR Roger B. Innes of IL, both US Navy, missing in North Vietnam since December 27, 1967. The Defense Department did not publicly release CDR Lee's name at the request of his next-of-kin; however, members of Commander Lee's family were quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch September 4th edition regarding his identification. Others include Lt Col Donald E. Paxton of IA and Maj Charles Macko of NY, both US Air Force, missing in Laos since February 2, 1969; Capt Stephen P. Hanson of CA, 1st Lt Jon G. Gardner of NC and Sgt Timothy R. Bodden of IL, USMC, and Army GySgt Billy R. Laney of FL, all missing in Laos since June 3, 1967; and Army CWO1 William A. Smith, Jr., of MI, missing in South Vietnam since September 2, 1968.
The accounting for these nine Americans brings the number still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War to 2,005, 1511 in Vietnam, 421 in Laos, 65 in Cambodia and 8 in the territorial waters of the PRC. Nearly 85% of all Americans lost in Laos and Cambodia were in areas then under wartime Vietnamese control; therefore, it is to Vietnam that we look for archival records and witnesses to assist in accounting for them....
========================== Subject: Re: William Arthur Smith, Jr. Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 09:57:22 EDT
No, there was no article--in fact there wasn't even the usual little folder that we get at most funerals. There were about 35 people there--mostly family. According to the family, his remains were located by a salvage diver very close to where the plane crashed in the river. They found the ID plate for the plane and some bones. Then, came the DNA testing. I hope it has brought some closure and healing for his family.