GARDNER, JOHN GARRETT Remains Identified 09/08/00 USG spells JON
Name: John Garrett Gardner Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps Unit: HHM 165, Marine Air Group 36 Date of Birth: 20 July 1940 Home City of Record: Hot Springs NC Loss Date: 03 June 1967 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 161914N 1064049E (XD795050) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: CH46A Refno: 0720
Other Personnel In Incident: Frank E. Cius (returned POW 1973); Timothy R. Bodden; Ronald J. Dexter; Stephen P. Hanson; Billy Laney; (all missing); Mr. Ky (Nung Cdr. - wounded and rescued); Charles F. Wilklow (rescued)
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 2011.
REMARKS: LAST SEEN IN CRASHED ACFT
SYNOPSIS: On June 3, 1967, Capt. Steven P. Hanson, pilot; 1Lt. John G. Gardner, co-pilot; Sgt. Timothy R. Bodden, crew chief/door gunner; LCpl. Frank E. Cius, doorgunner; SFC Billy R. Laney, SFC Ronald J. Dexter, SFC Charles F. Wilklow and an unknown number of ARVN personnel, all passengers, were aboard a CH46A helicopter (serial #150955) on an extraction mission in Laos.
The USMC aircraft picked up a U.S. Army Special Forces team attached to MACV-SOG, Command and Control, and the ARVN troops they were working with. Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA) which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
The aircraft received extensive automatic small arms fire upon takeoff from the Landing Zone, took numerous hits and crashed 350 meters from the LZ, located about 15 miles inside Laos west of the A Shau Valley. The helicopter did not burn on impact, and continued to receive fire. Three ARVN troops were able to return to the LZ where the troops remaining at the LZ were extracted the following day.
The troops waiting at the LZ could not search because of the hostile threat in the area. Air searches located the survivors of the crash, but they could not be evacuated. The only America found to be in a position to be safely evacuated was SFC Wilklow. He gave the following account of what happened to the crew and passengers aboard the CH46:
SFC Dexter appeared uninjured and left the wreckage with a large number of ARVN troops. Capt. Hanson was wounded and outside the helicopter, but stated that he had to return to get his carbine. The Marine Corps believes he died of the wounds he received when the aircraft was overrun, although Hanson's wife later identified her husband in a widely distributed Vietnamese propaganda photograph of a pilot being captured. When last seen, all the other Americans were still in the wreckage, and enemy troops (the U.S. Army says they were Viet Cong; the U.S. Marines say they were North Vietnamese Army - possibly a joint force of both) were tossing grenades toward the aircraft with no attempt to capture the personnel inside. Wilklow left the crash site, and noted that gunfire suddenly stopped. He continued to evade the enemy and was picked up 3 days later.
When Mr. Ky, the Nung Commander was being evacuated by the last helicopter out, he noted several men (undoubtedly Dexter and the ARVN) in a large bomb crater firing red star clusters from a flare gun. Frank Cius was taken prisoner and released from Hanoi in 1973. He was one of the dozen or so captured by the Vietnamese and taken immediately to Hanoi claimed to be the "Laos" prisoners. In reality, none of the dozen had been held in Laos. Ronald Dexter, according to Frank Cius, was captured, and died in captivity on July 29, 1967. John Gardner, according to the USMC, died on the ground after the crash of the aircraft due to intense enemy fire. Billy Laney was last seen lying wounded on the floor of the aircraft between a crewmember with a broken back and the door gunner with a head wound.
NOTE: the USMC states that Bodden, crewchief/door gunner was shot in the back and never left the aircraft, but reports received by the National League of Families indicate that he was definitely alive after the aircraft crashed. The U.S. did not know Cius was captured until he was released, evidently believing he never exited the aircraft, and Wilklow had indicated that the Vietnamese were not trying to capture the occupants of the aircraft. Therefore, as door gunner, he must have been the "door gunner with the head wound", and Bodden the "crewmember with a broken back".)
Since 1975, the U.S. Government has received thousands of reports relating to Americans still alive in Southeast Asia. Many of them cannot be dismissed as untrue. Officially, the U.S. says it is operating under the assumption that men are being held, and that the matter is of "highest national priority". Yet, we seem unable to resolve the mystery. Nor have they ever negotiated for the "tens of tens" of American prisoners the Lao stated they held.
There can be no question that the communists know the fate of those who were last seen on the ill-fated CH 46A that day. The men aboard this craft were inserted into Laos for exceedingly dangerous and important missions. They deserve no less than America's very best efforts to determine their fates. If any of them are alive, they must be brought home.
========================== National League of Families UPDATE LINE: September 8, 2000
Thank you for calling the National League of Families Update Line. This message is being recorded on Friday, September 8th. The number of Americans missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War is now 2,005.
Today, the Department of Defense released the names of eight of nine US personnel now accounted for, six previously missing in Laos and three in Vietnam. These Americans include CDR Leonard M. Lee of VA and LCDR Roger B. Innes of IL, both US Navy, missing in North Vietnam since December 27, 1967. The Defense Department did not publicly release CDR Lee's name at the request of his next-of-kin; however, members of Commander Lee's family were quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch September 4th edition regarding his identification. Others include Lt Col Donald E. Paxton of IA and Maj Charles Macko of NY, both US Air Force, missing in Laos since February 2, 1969; Capt Stephen P. Hanson of CA, 1st Lt Jon G. Gardner of NC and Sgt Timothy R. Bodden of IL, USMC, and Army GySgt Billy R. Laney of FL, all missing in Laos since June 3, 1967; and Army CWO1 William A. Smith, Jr., of MI, missing in South Vietnam since September 2, 1968.
The accounting for these nine Americans brings the number still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War to 2,005, 1511 in Vietnam, 421 in Laos, 65 in Cambodia and 8 in the territorial waters of the PRC. Nearly 85% of all Americans lost in Laos and Cambodia were in areas then under wartime Vietnamese control; therefore, it is to Vietnam that we look for archival records and witnesses to assist in accounting for them....
From: family of Billey Laney 02/2001
03-04 Jun 67 Ronald James Dexter SFC E-7, Abilene, TX; Billy Ray Laney, SFC E-7, Green Acres City, FL - US Army Special Forces and an unknown number of SCU Hatchet Force, FOB 1, Phu Bai, Ops 35; and Stephen P. Hanson, Cpt 03, Pilot, Restful Lake, OH; John 0. Gardner, 1LT 0-3, CO-Pilot, Restful Lake, OH; and Timothy R. Bodden, SGT E-5, Crew Chief, Downer Grove, ILL- Members of The United States Marines Corps Aviation, HNMI65, CH46 Helicopter Crew "Shark Three" Khe Sahn Launch Site, FOB 1, Ops 32 were MIA-Presumptive finding of death. (A total of 23 Americans were lost; SOG raiders, Air Force and Marine Pilots and crewman--plus twice as many Nungs). A company size hatchet force raid, commanded by Maj Jerry Kilburn, operating in Oscar 8 target area, 18-22 KM SE of Khe Sanh, at an azimuth of 220 degrees, and near Route #922, which contained the largest depot outside of Hanoi, well defended with belts of antiaircraft guns. The Hatchet Force (HF) arrived at Khe Sanh, remained overnight at the Launch Site, and inserted early in the morning. The terrain favored the enemy and the area was within a horseshoe type land mass. Several hundred SPAR (Special Agent Reports) had been intercepted from the target area within a 24 hour period. These radio transmissions were originated by the NVA and were possibly associated with the Commanding General of their Army Nuyen Van Gaip. At 0545, SGM Billy William D. "Billy" Waugh boarded an 0-2 aircraft to fly FAC as the Covey Rider, flying toward the target, staying in the "Gray Forrest" area along Route #222. At about 0630, the FAC observed the Condensation Trails of nine (9) B-52's. The FAC performed 360's as the B-52 dropped their load, FAC flew over the target area, noticed several secondary fires, and actually watched as the NVA rolled what appeared to be-barrels of gasoline from one of the burning areas. The NVA were swarming, and immediately took the FAC aircraft under fire with what was probably a set of 12.7 AA guns. The FAC "hauled ass" away from the area, and sent a transmission to "scratch the infil, as the area was crawling with pissed-off NVA." Too late, the transmission did not make it in time. Due to the high hill range, just to the North of the LZ, transmissions to the launch site were not completed. The raid began with an Arc Light, and as soon as the Arc Light was over, the raider company arrived with the mission to conduct a BDA of the arc light bombing, capture any WIA NVA, and capture any NVA equipment in the area. The very first Marine HUEY Gun ship across the intended LZ and was shot down to the south of the LZ. The first CH-47 (Chinook) with troops, was noticed landing just to the North of the intended LZ, this bird was shot down as it lowered to the LZ and broke into two pieces on impact. A second Chinook attempted landing, and was also shot down, An H-34 (SOG rescue bird) came into the area, to infiltrate troops, and was shot down, landing to the South of Route "922. The crew were seen fleeing from this bird, to the West (Subsequently rescued). The approximate 100 SOG men that were inserted were surrounded and had taken cover in a few bomb craters. SFC Laney was last seen by SFC Wilklow, wounded in the back after boarding the a helicopter, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire, then the pilot was shot, and it veered out of control and crashed. After the aircraft crashed, it continued to receive heavy fire, however, many of the personnel were rescued. SFC Laney was last seen still in the helicopter chest shot and probably dead. Due to the enemy situation, he was not recovered and a later search produced negative results. Two A-1E's came into the area, firing their guns, dropping napalm as requested by the Team Leader. One of the A-1E's was shot through by a hail of green tracers, and rolled over-crashing without a parachute. The 2nd A-1E was shot almost to pieces, but the fine pilot managed to land that bird at the Khe Sanh airstrip (a hell of a feat). Two F-4's were performing close air support, with one being blasted right in his forward portion, causing that bird to crash. All this occurred within 30 minutes of the insert. During the initial day of insert, rescue attempts were made to recover the WIA. Early morning of the second day, the remainder of the Hatchet Force members were picked up. The NVA were silent that day, as it appeared the NVA were encouraging an exfiltration due to the 30-50 airstrikes they had endured. SFC Dexter was last seen exiting a downed CH-46 helicopter and taken as a Prisoner of War, but never reached North Vietnam alive. A report obtained from a captured Nung Commando who was later released tells of Cpt Hanson, Lt Gardner, and Sgt Bodden being executed by the North Vietnamese Soldiers. Of the six Americans MIAs, only USMC Lance Corporal Frank E. Cius, Jr. was confirmed by Hanoi. After Cius's release in 1973, he told Dexter's brother that Ronald Dexter had been captured but died in enemy hands. Note: SFC Charles Wilklow was wounded and in enemy hands. The enemy used him as bait to try and bring in aircraft to rescue him. The enemy tended to ignore him, thinking he was no risk due to his condition. He had observed NVA in formations, giving orders, etc., expecting to die any minute. After the 4th day with maggots in his open wound, barely clinging to life, he somehow managed to crawl away during the night. Around mid day, the following day a FAC flew overhead and SGM Waugh observed a body with a panel over it and when the FAC made a second pass, the body sat up and SGM Waugh recognized it was an American. When Wilklow came to, he was looking into the face of SSG Roy Pace, a Black American, who had performed a one man bright light by repelling in to rescue him. Wilklow was wearing a STABO rig and was extracted by string.
Date: Sun, 29 May 2011 21:54:57 -0400
Subject: Charles Wilklow - Roy Pace
From: Bakari Pace
The Staff Sergent that saved Charlie Wilklow was my father, Staff Sergent
Lester Pace Jr. - not Roy Pace.