LEWELLEN, WALTER EDWARD REMAINS IDENTIFIED 30 OCT 1991
Name: Walter Edward Lewellen Rank/Branch: E4/US Army Unit: 507th Transportation Detachment, 2nd Squadron Date of Birth: 03 June 1951 Home City of Record: New Albany IN Date of Loss: 18 February 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163910N 1062226E (XD465415) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A Refno: 1705
Other Personnel in Incident: Gregory S. Crandall; Robert J. Engen (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 1998.
REMARKS: CRASH BURN - NO SURVIV OBS - J
SYNOPSIS: LAM SON 719 was a large offensive operation against NVA communications lines in Laos. The operation called for ARVN troops to drive west from Khe Sanh, cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, seize Tchpone and return to Vietnam. The ARVN would provide and command the ground forces, while U.S. Army and Air Force would furnish aviation airlift and supporting firepower. The 101st Airborne Division commanded all U.S. Army aviation units in direct support of the operation. Most of the first part of the operation, which began January 30, 1971, was called Operation DEWEY CANYON II, and was conducted by U.S. ground forces in Vietnam.
On February 8, 1971, early into the operation, a U.S. Army OH6A helicopter was shot down about 8 miles east of Tchpone. This aircraft, flown by W1 Gregory Crandall, pilot, SP4 Robert J. Engen, scout/observer, and Sgt. Walter E. Lewellen, crew chief, was conducting an aerial reconnaissance mission when Crandall radioed that he was under heavy enemy fire. As he maneuvered to evade the fire, the aircraft was seen to crash and catch on fire. There was one major and six secondary explosions. About March 7, an ARVN unit spotted the wreckage, but was unable to reach it to thoroughly investigate. It was never learned for certain that the crew perished.
Losses were heavy in Lam Son 719. The ARVN lost almost 50% of their force. U.S. aviation units lost 168 helicopters; another 618 were damaged. Fifty-five aircrewmen were killed, 178 wounded, and 34 missing in action in the entire operation, lasting until April 6, 1971.
In all, nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos, but because we did not negotiate with the Pathet Lao, no Americans held in Laos were released. Since that time, over 10,000 reports have been received relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Although many authorities are convinced that hundreds remain alive, the U.S. has not secured the release of a single man.