BRANDT, KEITH ALLAN Remains Recovered January 1990, ID Announced 19 July 1990 Name: Keith Allan Brandt Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Unit: D Company, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Date of Birth: 27 December 1940 Home City of Record: Bellingham WA Date of Loss: 18 March 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163811N 1062239E (XD469397) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G Refno: 1729 Other Personnel In Incident: Alan B. Boffman (remains recovered) 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 2010. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: Lam San 719 was the last major operation of the Vietnam War. It involved American multi-service support of ARVN troops in an invasion of Laos. The targeted area began around the city of Tchepone and extended south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was a concentrated attempt to halt North Vietnamese troop and supply movements. After the ARVN successfully took Tchepone, they elected to withdraw. American Marines and Army aircraft helped them withdraw back into Vietnam. All the while, NVA troops followed, and withdrawal, at times, was very difficult. As the last of the ARVN 4/1 were being extracted and returned to Vietnam, and had been trapped in a crater, Capt. Keith Brandt came on station leading a flight of Cobra gunships in response to Command & Control request for assistance to all helicopters. The ARVN on the ground radioed Brandt, "We're completely surrounded," and asked Brandt to expend ordnance on his smoke (a detonated smoke grenade, used to mark location). For the rest of the afternoon, Brandt and his crewmember, Alan Boffman stayed over the ARVN, returning to Khe Sahn for refueling and rearming three times. He expended ordnance as directed by the ARVN sergeant on radio and dodged NVA fire on low-level flights to pinpoint the exact ARVN location and calculate the best approach route for rescue helicopters. At nearly five in the afternoon, the 173rd Robinhoods began coming in from the east to extract the beseiged ARVN. Brandt was still circling, and volunteered to lead the helicopters in, as the ARVN had expended their last smoke grenade some hours earlier. He radioed, "This is Music One-six. Follow me, Robinhood 3, and I'll lead you to the friendlies." As they moved in, NVA fire exploded around them. Brandt's Cobra shuddered and he radioed, "I've lost my engine and my transmission is breaking up. Good-bye. Send my love to my family. I'm dead." Then, the Cobra became a ball of fire and crashed in the trees, rolling onto its right side. With knots in their throats, the extraction helicopters continued their mission. Of the original 420 ARVN who entered Laos, only 88 were left. They had fought hard for 6 weeks. The helicopters were clearly overloaded, and some had great difficulty staying airborne on the trip back to Khe Sanh. ARVN were hanging from the skids of the aircraft in a desperate attempt to reach the safety of Vietnam. Many fell, some were injured on landing. Of the 88 at the crater, only 36 made it back to the safety of Khe Sanh. For Brandt and Boffman, little hope remained. They died as they lived, helping others, and with honor. In mid-January 1990, a joint U.S./Lao team excavated the crash site of Brandt's helicopter and recovered human remains which were later identified as being those of both Brandt and Boffman. For their families, at least, comes the certainty of death. For many of their comrades, however, clear answers are not forthcoming. Laos is often called the "Black Hole" of the POW issue because, of nearly 600 Americans lost there, not a single man was ever released that had been held in Laos. The Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held prisoners, yet we never negotiated for their freedom. These men were abandoned by the government for which they bravely fought.