ELLEN, WADE LYNN
Name: Wade Lynn Ellen
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: 57th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 25 November 1951 (Rocky Mount NC)
Home City of Record: Norfolk VA
Date of Loss: 24 April 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 143918N 1074711E (ZB001219)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Robert W. Brownlee; George W. Carter; James E.
Hunsicker; Johnny M. Jones; Kenneth J. Yonan; Franklin Zollicoffer (all
missing); Charles M. Lea; Rickey V. Vogel (helicopter crew, rescued); Julius G.
Warmath; John P. Keller; Walter H. Ward (helicopter passengers, rescued);
Charles W. Gordon, Cao Ky Chi (evaded capture near Dak To)
REMARKS: KIA ON ISLE - 5 RCV - NT SUBJ - 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 2020.
SYNOPSIS: On the evening of April 23, 1972, Capt. Kenneth J. Yonan accompanied
his ARVN counterpart to a water tower located on the northwestern edge of the
Tanh Canh base camp compound near Dak To, Kontum Province, South Vietnam. Yonan
was an advisor assigned to Advisory Team 22, MACV, and was assisting the ARVN
42nd Regiment based there.
At about 0530 hours on April 24, Capt. Yonan was still in the water tower when
Viet Cong attacked the camp perimeter. Although tanks fired at and hit the
water tower, two other advisors spoke to Capt. Yonan after the firing and Yonan
reported that he was not hit and planned to join the other advisors when it was
safe to do so. Radio contact was maintained with Yonan until 0730 hours. The
other U.S. advisors began escape and evasion operations from the beleaguered
Team 22 Advisors Maj. George W. Carter, Maj. Julius G. Warmath, and Capt. John
P. Keller, were extracted by helicopter. The aircraft was a UH1H from the 52nd
Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, (serial #69-15715) and was flown by
Lt. James E. Hunsicker. WO Wade L. Ellen was the co-pilot of the chopper, and
SP4 Charles M. Lea, and SP5 Ricky V. Vogel were crewmen. Other persons
extracted included 1Lt. Johnny M. Jones, from the 52nd Aviation Battalion; SP4
Franklin Zollicoffer, from the U.S. Army Installation at Pleiku, and Sgt.
Walter H. Ward, unit not specified.
The helicopter departed to the northwest from Dak To, but was apparently hit by
enemy fire, as it crashed and burned on a small island in the Dak Poko River
about 500 meters from the end of the dock to the runway. Because of the rolling
terrain, personnel at the airfield did not see the aircraft impact. A pilot
flying over the wreckage reported that the helicopter was burning, but they
could see no survivors. It was later discovered that five people did survive
the crash - Warmath, Keller, Vogel, Ward and Lea. According to their
statements, Hunsicker, Ellen, Zollicoffer, Jones and Carter were all dead.
Two other Team 22, MACV Advisors, LtCol. Robert W. Brownlee and Capt. Charles
W. Gordon, and their ARVN interpreter, Sgt. Cao Ky Chi, were in a bunker near
the airstrip approximately 4 kilometers to the west of the base camp when they
were forced to withdraw under heavy enemy attack. They proceeded south of the
compound across the Dak Poko River, but LtCol. Brownlee became separated from
the others as they were advancing up a hill. Sgt. Chi and Capt. Gordon called
out to him, but received no response. From the top of the hill, Sgt. Chi heard
the enemy call out to someone in Vietnamese to halt and raise their hands. Sgt.
Chi believed the Viet Cong were speaking to LtCol. Brownlee. Gordon and Chi
evaded capture and eventually made their way to safety.
A Vietnamese who was captured and subsequently released reported that he had
talked to another prisoner who had witnessed LtCol.Brownlee's death. He was
told that LtCol. Brownlee had killed himself with his own pistol when communist
soldiers told him to raise his hands in an attempt to capture him. Additional
hearsay reports of his suicide were reported by another ARVN source.
Yonan never caught up with the others. For three days, helicopter searches were
made of the area with no success. Ground search, because of the hostile threat
in the area, was not practical.
In April 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Capt. Kenneth J.
Yonan and returned them to the U.S. in a spirit of stepped-up cooperation on
the POW/MIA issue. For nearly 20 years, this 1969 West Point graduate was a
prisoner of war - alive or dead. His family now knows with certainty that he is
dead, but may never learn how - or when - he died.
In addition to the reports regarding Brownlee's death, a South Vietnamese
soldier reported that he observed the capture of one "big" American from the
camp. Another report described the capture of a U.S. Captain stationed at the
Since the war ended, reports and refugee testimony have convinced many
authorities that not only do the Vietnamese possess several hundred sets of
Americans' remains, more startlingly, they also control hundreds of living
As long as they are allowed to do so, the Vietnamese will return remains at
politically expedient intervals. As long as they are allowed to do so, they
will hold our men prisoner.
Official data bases do not tell the whole story of this mission.
While Rickey Von Vogel is only noted as "rescued", in reality, Sp5 Vogel was
missing from April 24, 1972 until his return to military control May 6,
1972. During that time, despite severe wounds that included bullet wounds
and broken bones, he managed to escape and evade capture for almost 2 weeks
until his rescue.
Rickey Vogel was awarded the Purple Heart and 3 Air Medals in addition to
various Vietnam awards and decorations for his service. After his medical
evacuation and recovery, he continued to serve his country until his
discharge in 1974.
24 April 1972 "TAN CANH LOG
National Archives Docs
Rickey Von Vogel
Death of SP/4 Franklin Zollicoffer
Franklin was wounded beyond our capability to help him, on the second day the N.V.A. sent a 7 man patrol to check our
Crash Site for survivor's he begged us to let them kill him! We gagged him with his sock's smeared river mud on our
hand's & face's. Remember me & my D.G. Lea are the only to people who could hold a rifle and defend ourselves. To
make a long story short they took a smoke break me & my D,G, had a deadly cross-fire ambush set up if we were
discovered. Thank God they pushed on across the river, after we ungagged Frank he broke all our heart's trying
to shove his colt45 into our hand's begging for the (Coup-De-Grace) bullet of mercy, he was a southern Baptist
Minister before becoming a Combat Medic, we refused his request all saying they will get us out, Don't worry!
Well by day 3 he got pissed at all of us and said he was going to drag his self to drown in the River, he expired
1/2 way there. He shared a shallow grave with my P.P, Wade Ellen from north Folk VA. This mis-information pisses
me off that has been posted. The army told his folk's his chopper crashed into a mountain & died instantly! I
asked his mother if she wanted the truth or the army's story. He was her baby of the family. She chose the truth!
In Loving Memory of the finest man I have known. Me & My D.G. Lea buried him side by side with WO/1 Wade Ellen.