CRISTMAN, FREDERICK LEWIS
Name: Frederick Lewis Cristman
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: 48th Aviation Company, 11th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 26 November 1949 (Waukigan IL)
Home City of Record: Salisbury NC
Date of Loss: 19 March 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163940N 1062920E (XD585428)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Paul Langenour (rescued); Jon M. Sparks,
Ricardo M. Garcia (both 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 2020.
SYNOPSIS: Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy
communications lines which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to
the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would
provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift
and supporting fire.
Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by
the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved
into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with
an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into
Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while
U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones.
During one of these maneuvers, CW2 Frederick L. Cristman was flying a UH1C
helicopter (serial #65-9489) with a crew of three - SP4 Paul A. Langenour,
door gunner, WO1 Jon M. Sparks, co-pilot, and SP5 Ricardo M. Garcia, crew
chief - covering a downed U.S. helicopter during a rescue effort. Cristman's
aircraft flew as the trail ship in a flight of two UH1s on the armed escort
The landing zone (LZ) was under fire, and the pilot of the downed craft was
a buddy of Fred's. He worked the area with his minigun while another
helicopter successfully extracted the pilot.
Cristman and his crew continued to work the hot LZ while other helicopters
came in. His gunship was hit by enemy gunfire. Cristman radioed in to the
flight leader that his transmission oil pressure caution light was on, and
that he was making an emergency landing on the LZ. This was verified by the
lead aircraft, who made several passes over the downed helicopter.
Cristman's aircraft crashed into the ARVN perimeter, and was hit on the roof
by a mortar round just as the crew jumped out. Cristman, his copilot and the
crew chief were thrown to the ground, while the door gunner, SP4 Langenour,
was able to exit the aircraft and join a nearby ARVN unit which returned to
a U.S. military controlled area. The others remained with the chopper,
although this was not immediately apparent from the air. The flight leader's
aircraft was also battle-damaged, and he had to leave the area.
Another helicopter arrived, and although enemy ground fire was received,
made it into the landing zone. Intense enemy fire necessitated a hasty
departure, and only two Vietnamese troops were picked up. During the initial
rescue attempt by the rescue helicopter, no American crewmen were seen on
the downed aircraft, and no radio contact was established.
SP Langenour later stated that after landing, the aircraft received numerous
rounds of mortar fire and he departed the area. He last saw all the other
crew members alive. Due to enemy activity in the area, no ground search of
the site was conducted.
Proof of the deaths of Cristman, Sparks and Garcia was never found. No
remains came home; none was released from prison camp. They were not blown
up, nor did they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Someone knows what
happened to them.
Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held
captive in Southeast Asia today, the families of the UH1C helicopter crew
might be able to believe their men died with their aircraft. But until proof
exists that they died, or they are brought home alive, they will wonder and
How long must they wait before we bring our men home?