JOHNSON, RANDOLPH LEROY
Name: Randolph Leroy Johnson
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: 48th Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 22 May 1949
Home City of Record: Milwaukee WI
Date of Loss: 20 February 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 162721N 1062748E
Status (In 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Jon E. Reid; Robert J. Acalotto; David M. May
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, W1 Jon E. Reid was was flying a UH1C
helicopter (serial #66-700) with a crew of three - 1Lt. David M. May,
co-pilot, SP5 Randall L. Johnson, crew chief, and SP4 Robert J. Acalotto,
door gunner - on a mission providing gun cover for an emergency resupply
mission about 20 miles southeast of Sepone, Laos. The aircraft was hit by
hostile fire and crashed.
When the helicopter landed, it was upright on its skids, with the tail boom
broken off and the right aft burning. Witnesses stated that it was certainly
a "survivable crash." Two people were seen exiting the aircraft on the right
side, running towards nearby trees. Witnesses noted that the left pilot door
was jettisoned and that both forward seats were empty. Several attempts were
made to rescue the downed crew, but were unsuccessful because of heavy enemy
fire. The 1st ARVN Division was to assist in a ground rescue attempt, but
the tactical situation changed before the infantry could reach the area, and
the unit had to be pulled out. No contact with the crew was ever established
after the crash.
According to information received by his family, John Reid was known to have
been captured and was seen alive by other U.S. POWs in March of that same
year, again in May and once in June. Whether the rest of the crew was
captured is unknown. When the POWs were released in 1973, Reid was not among
them, nor was the rest of the crew. The communist governments of Southeast
Asia claim no knowledge of the fate of the crew of the UH1C that went down
February 20, 1971.
Proof of the deaths of May, Reid, Acalotto and Johnson 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?
David M. May was promoted to the rank of Captain, Jon E. Reid to the rank of
Chief Warrant Officer, Randolph L. Johnson to the rank of Sergeant First
Class, and Robert J. Acalotto to the rank of Staff Sergeant during the
period they were maintained missing.