FIVELSON, BARRY FRANK Remains Identified
Name: Barry Frank Fivelson Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: 159th Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division Date of Birth: 19 March 1950 Home City of Record: Evanston IL Date of Loss: 15 February 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163836N 1062558E (XD528405) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH47C Refno: 1703
Other Personnel In Incident: Donald E. Crone; Willis C. Crear; John L. Powers; Marvin M. Leonard; James H. Taylor (all 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 2001.
REMARKS: EXPLODE - NO SURV OBS AIR - J
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.
On February 15, 1971, during one of these maneuvers, a CH47 helicopter was assigned the task of ferrying a load of gasoline into Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crew of the aircraft consisted of SP4 Donald E. Crone, crew chief; CWO Marvin M. Leonard, pilot; SP4 Willis C. Crear, door gunner; SP4 John L. Powers, flight engineer; 2Lt. James H. Taylor, aircraft commander. WO Barry F. Fivelson was a passenger onboard the aircraft.
During the mission, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and began to lose altitude. During the descent, the sling load apparently exploded, causing the helicopter to explode, break into pieces, and crash. Observers later said that the helicopter seemed disoriented and that it had overflown the nearest friendly location by several miles and had descended in enemy-held territory about 10 miles southeast of Sepone.
According to the U.S. Army, air searches conducted within minutes of the crash revealed no sign of survivors. However, according to information given to family members, the aerial search failed to find evidence of a crash. A ground search was not possible because of hostile threat in the area. (Note also that Defense Department data remarks indicates that a crash site was found and that no survivors were observed from the air.)
The men aboard the CH47 were all classified Killed/Body Not Recovered. The families maintain there is still a mystery surrounding the crash of the aircraft, and they would like to know the whole truth.
Proof of the deaths of Powers, Fivelson, Taylor, Crear, Crone and Leonard 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.
The personnel aboard the CH47 are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. The communist Lao stated on several occasions that they held American prisoners, but as the U.S. did not recognize the Pathet Lao as a legitimate government, we never negotiated with them for their release. Consequently, not one man held in Laos was ever released.
Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held captive in Southeast Asia today, the families of the CH47 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 wait.
How long must they wait before we bring our men home?
UPDATE LINE: OCTOBER 30, 2001
AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR: The League learned today that the remains of seven US personnel previously unaccounted for from the Vietnam War had been identified. The remains of Navy CDR John A. Feldhaus of TN were jointly recovered in North Vietnam on April 26, 2000. The remains of Air Force Reservists Capt Fred C. Cutrer, Jr, of MS and 1LT Leonard L. Kaster of MA were jointly recovered in South Vietnam and repatriated on May 22, 1997. The February 11, 2000, joint recovery in Laos of the remains of four Americans brought identification of WO1 Barry F. Fivelson of IL, Specialists 4th Class Willis C. Crear of AL, Donald E. Crone of CA and John L. Powers of Idaho.
Comment: The League offers support to each family, recognizing the end to many years of uncertainty for all. This brings the number accounted for since the end of the war to 636: 455 from Vietnam, 156 from Laos, 23 from Cambodia and 2 from the PRC. Of the 1949 still missing and unaccounted for, 1470 are in Vietnam, 411 in Laos, 60 in Cambodia and 8 in the territorial waters of the PRC. Of the total number, roughly 90% were lost in areas under Vietnam's wartime control.