ALGAARD, HAROLD LOWELL
Name: Harold Lowell Algaard Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: Cover designation: 138th Aviation Company, 224th "Aviation" Battalion, 509th RR Group (Actual unit designation: 138th ASA Company, 224th ASA Battalion (Aviation), U.S. Army Security Agency Group, Vietnam) Date of Birth: 27 July 1948 Home City of Record: Fosston MN Date of Loss: 04 March 1971 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 165809N 1065407E (YD025770) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: JU21A Refno: 1715
Other Personnel in Incident: Rodney D. Osborne; Richard J. Hentz; Michael W. Marker; John T. Strawn (all missing)
REMARKS: RAD CONT LOST-SAR NEG-J
Source: Compiled 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 in 2003.
SYNOPSIS: On March 4, 1971 Capt. Michael W. Marker, pilot of a JU21-A twin engine turbo prop (serial number 18065, call sign Vanguard 216) departed Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam on an early morning combat support mission in the vicinity of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). His crew that morning consisted of WO1 Harold L. Algaard, co-pilot; SP5 Rodney D. Osborne, technical observer; SP5 Richard J. Hentz, crewman; and SP6 John T. Strawn, crewman. The pilot and crew were assigned to the 138th Aviation Company, 224th Aviation Battalion, 509th RR (Radio Research) Group, a cover designation for their real unit in USASA.
"Radio Research" was actually a secret cover designation for certain units operating under the direction of the U.S. Army Security Agency Group, Vietnam. All missions of this agency were highly classified. The 224th Aviation Battalion was referred to as an aviation battalion in Vietnam for security reasons only. The JU21A aircrew's actual unit designation was 138th ASA Company, 224th ASA Battalion (Aviation), U.S. Army Security Agency Group, Vietnam.
Two hours into the mission, at 0840 hours, radio and radar communication was lost. When the aircraft failed to return from the mission at the appointed time, search efforts were initiated and continued for 2 days over a 300 mile area, but proved negative. A reliable source indicated that an aerial detonation in the vicinity of the DMZ occurred on March 4, 1971 at the same flight altitude and pattern flown by Vanguard 216. Hostile threat in the area precluded any visits to the suspected area of the crash. No trace was ever found of the aircraft or the crew.
While the missing crew members were initially listed as Missing In Action, a change in status to Killed In Action, Body Not Recovered (KIA/BNR) occurred within 90 days of the incident. Regarding the status change, the families were told that all information pertinent to the incident was classified and would remain classified for ten years.
Since that date, the families have been told that the aircraft was involved in electronic surveillance, and their mission was top secret. The aircraft was hit by enemy artillery and was downed over North Vietnam. A "classified source" stated that the crew was killed. The rest is classified.
Efforts through numerous inquiries, including a Congressional inquiry in 1982, to reveal what information was contained in the "classified source" have been fruitless. Through the Congressional inquiry, it was learned that information regarding the loss of Vanguard 216 would be classified until the year 2010 A.D.
Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended in 1975, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Vietnam have been received by the U.S. Government. Most non-government authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive in the communist prisons of Southeast Asia. The U.S. Government remains nebulous in their statements, saying only that the "possibility" exists, but cannot be confirmed.
The crew of Vanguard 216 has been missing for nearly 20 years. The families of the men aboard hold little hope that they are still alive. But they would like to know - and deserve to know - what happened on that day. If, as the U.S. Government seems to believe, all the men are now dead, why the cover of secrecy regarding their fates? It's time we got answers, and it's time those who remain alive are brought home.
The official NSA website has more than the below clip. See: http://www.nsa.gov/display/c130/ru8_asa.html
The last ASA aircraft lost to hostile fire was a U.S. Army JU-21A LEFT JAB assigned to the 138th Radio Research Company based at Phu Bai, near the DMZ. On 4 March 1971 it took off on an intelligence-gathering mission. The aircraft headed northwest towards the DMZ between North and South Vietnam. Reportedly, the aircraft's mission was to collect intelligence regarding surface-to-air missile sites, either in the DMZ or just north of it. Shortly after departure, the JU-21A, tail #67-18062, was shot down.
The crew was declared missing in action. A search effort to locate the aircraft along its known flight path produced no findings. Those lost were:
CPT Michael W. Marker from Wichita Falls, Texas KIA/BNR WO1
Harold L. Algaard from Fosston, Minnesota KIA/BNR
SP6 John T. Strawn from Salem, Oregon KIA/BNR
SP5 Richard J. Hentz from Oshkosh, Wisconsin KIA/BNR
SP5 Rodney D. Osborne from Kent, Washington KIA/BNR
Retired CW2 Joseph Hayes recalls that day: "I was scheduled to fly on that aircraft. I had previous morse and DF experience. That morning, I was just climbing in, when someone came running up to the plane and told me that I had been bumped. SP6 John T. Strawn jumped on in my place. My duty assignment as briefing team chief just took priority over this mission. The CG ASA Pacific, General Wolf, was coming in and a briefing was required. I was put on the next C-130 out of Phu Bai for Tan Son Nhut. SP6 Strawn and the rest of the crew took off shortly thereafter and they never landed."