ARD, RANDOLPH JEFFERSON
Remains recovered Oct 4, 2004
Name: Randolph Jefferson Ard
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: Headquarters & Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division
Date of Birth: 16 June 1951 (Pensacola FL)
Home City of Record: West Pensacola FL
Date of Loss: 07 March 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163700N 1063250E (XD653388)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Phil Bodenhorn; Jerry Castillo (rescued);
Sheldon J. Burnett (missing); Mike Castro (fate unknown)
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 2020.
REMARKS: Survived to call MAYDAY
SYNOPSIS: LAM SON 719 was a large offensive operation against NVA
communications lines in Laos in the region adjacent to the two northern
provinces of South Vietnam. The operation was a raid in which ARVN troops
would drive west from Khe Sanh on Route 9, cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, seize
Tchpone, some 25 miles away, and then return to Vietnam. The ARVN would
provide and command the ground forces, while U.S. Army and Air Force would
furnish aviation airlift and supporting firepower. The 101st Airborne
Division (Airmobile) commanded all U.S. Army aviation units in direct
support of the operation.
Most of the first part of the operation, begun January 30, 1971 was called
Operation DEWEY CANYON II, and was conducted by U.S. ground forces in
Vietnam. The ARVN met their halfway point on February 11 and moved into
position for the attack across the Laotian border.
On 8 February, ARVN began pushing along Route 9 into Laos. The NVA reacted
fiercely, committing some 36,000 troops to the area. The ARVN held its
positions supported by U.S. airstrikes and resupply runs by Army
President Nguyen Van Thieu ordered a helicopter assault on Tchepone, and the
abandoned village was seized March 6. Two weeks of hard combat were
necessary for the ARVN task force to fight its way back to Vietnam.
Randy Ard had been in Vietnam only a few weeks when an emergency call came
in for him to fly the squadron commander to a platoon command post to work
his way down to his Third Platoon, which was in ambush in the northwest
segment of South Vietnam. He flew his Kiowa Scout chopper from the 5th Mech
and picked up LtCol. Sheldon Burnett, the squadron commander; Capt. Phil
Bodenhorn, Alpha Company commander; and SP4 Mike Castro, Third Platoon RTO.
Ard mistakenly flew past the command post and west into Laos. Seeing yellow
marking smoke, he took the chopper down lower. It was too late to pull up
when they heard the sound of an RPD machine gun and AK-47's. They had been
tricked into a North Vietnamese ambush.
The helicopter went down fast, and smashed into the brush, coming down on
its side (or upside down, depending on the version of the account). Ard and
Burnett were trapped in the wreckage, but alive. Ard got on the radio and
began mayday calls. Bodenhorn and Castillo, who had been in the rear seat,
got out of the aircraft. Bodenhorn managed to free Art, but he had two
broken legs and possibly a broken hip. Burnett was completely pinned within
the wreckage and injured, but alive. Bodenhorn and Castillo positioned
themselves on opposite sides of the aircraft for security and expended all
the colored smoke grenades they had, marking their position for rescue.
[Note: Mike Castro's name appears in one account of this incident, but his
fate is not given. He does not appear in a second account from the U.S. Army
Bodenhorn and Castillo soon heard North Vietnamese approaching, and killed
these Vietnamese. The two listened for nearly an hour as others advanced
towards their position from two directions, and 155 artillery rounds
impacted very near them. They couldn't understand why they were not being
rescued, unless it was because the enemy was so close to them. A helicopter
flew over, but took heavy fire and left. They decided to leave Ard and
Burnett and escape themselves. They told Ard, who nodded wordlessly. Burnett
was drifting in and out of consciousness. Both men were alive.
Bodenhorn and Castillo worked their way to 80 yards away when a UH1C came in
on a single run, firing flechette rockets which seemed to explode right on
the downed chopper. Later, they watched an F4 roll in for a one-bomb strike
over the crash site. Ard and Burnett were surely dead.
Bodenhorn and Castillo were rescued by ARVN troops an hour later. Ard and
Burnett were classified Missing In Action. The story was released to
reporters at Khe Sanh three days later. The army spokesman accurately
described the ambush, but told the press that Burnett had been in radio
contact with the ambushed platoon, and that he and Ard had appeared dead to
the two escaping officers. The names of the survivors were not released.
General Sutherland stated, ".. the decision was not made to employ the Air
Cavalry and the Hoc Bao to attempt to retrieve either LtCol. Burnett alive
or his body. ..Burnett had no mission nor units in Laos. He had no reason or
authority to take his helicopter over the Laotian border."
After 11 days of heavy resistance, the 11th ARVN Airborne Battalion fought
their way into the area where the helicopter had crashed. The searched the
wreckage and the surrounding area for several days, but found no sign of the
two missing men or any of their belongings or anything to indicate that
either man was buried in the area.
In 1989, a large part of this loss incident was still classified.
There can be no question that Randy Ard and Sheldon Burnett were abandoned
by the country they served.
Losses in LAM SON 719 were heavy. The ARVN suffered some 9,000 casualties,
almost 50% of their force. U.S. forces incurred some 1,462 casualties.
Aviation units lost 168 helicopters; another 618 were damaged. Fifty-five
aircrewmen were killed in action , 178 were wounded and 34 were missing in
action. There were 19,360 known enemy casualties for the operation lasting
until April 6, 1971.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the war in Vietnam. Although
the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions they held "tens of tens" of
American prisoners, Laos was not included in the agreements ending American
involvement in the war, and the U.S. has not negotiated for the freedom of
these men since that day. Consequently, not one American held in Laos has
ever been released.
These Americans, too, were abandoned.
March 1, 2005
National League of Families
POW/MIAs - VIETNAM WAR: There are now 1,836 Americans listed by the Defense
Department as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War - 1,399 in
Vietnam, 375 in Laos, 55 in Cambodia and 7 in PRC territorial waters. The
League was informed today that the remains of four US personnel, previously
listed as KIA/BNR in South Vietnam have been recovered and identified. The
four Americans were all lost on May 10, 1967, and their remains were
recovered May 27, 2003, though identified late last year and accepted by
their families recently. Those now accounted for include 2LT Heinz
Ahlmeyer, USMC, of NY; HM3 Malcolm T. Miller, USN, of FL; LCpl Samuel A.
Sharp, USMC, of CA; and SGT James N. Tycz, USMC, of WI. In addition, the
League recently confirmed that COL Sheldon J. Burnett, USA, from NH, and CWO
(3) Randolph J. Ard, USA, both listed as MIA in Laos March 7, 1971 are now
accounted for. Their remains were jointly recovered October 4, 2004, and
recently identified. Still others have been ID'd, not yet announced by
DPMO, perhaps due to delays in scheduling ID consultations with the
primary-next-of-kin (PNOK). The reality is that PNOK no longer retain
decision-making capability before official ID, but the pretense has been