OKERLUND, THOMAS RICHARD Name: Thomas Richard Okerland Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: 61st Assault Helicopter Company "Lucky Stars", 268th Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade Date of Birth: 05 August 1948 (Everett WA) Home City of Record: Seattle WA Date of Loss: 03 January 1971 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 134700N 1090630E (BR960250) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: U6 "Beaver" Refno: 1687 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 1998. Other Personnel In Incident: Luis G. Holguin; Dennis W. Omelia; Patrick Magee; Carl Palen; Ferris Rhodes; Michael Parsons (all missing) REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: On January 3, 1971, Capt. Ferris A. Rhodes, Jr. was the pilot of a U6 "Beaver" (serial #52-25884), carrying six passengers: 1Lt. Michaeld D. Parsons, WO1 Thomas R. Okerland, WO1 Dennis W. Omelia; WO1 Luis G. Holguin; SP6 Patrick J. Magee; and SP5 Carl A. Palen. This was an administrative support flight from Qui Nhon to Ban Me Thuot, South Vietnam, to collect replacement helicopters for the company. Some of the men aboard were helicopter pilots, and would fly the choppers back to the base at Qui Nhon. The U6 "Beaver" is an older, fixed wing aircraft of reasonable size (bigger than a "Bird Dog", for instance), rather short and squatty with a somewhat wide body. The aircraft departed Qui Nhon at about 0900 hours on January 3 without filing a proper flight plan, nor was the weather briefing obtained prior to takeoff. About 14 miles southeast of Phu Cat, at 1120 hours, radio and radar contact was lost with the plane. Because Capt. Rhodes had announced plans to remain overnight at Ban Me Thuot, no immediate searches were made. By January 9, when Rhodes and his passengers still had not returned, search efforts were begun at 0900 hours, and continued throughout the day with no sign of the aircraft or its personnel. The area of takeoff was tricky and the weather conditions were not good. Other pilots said that if planes taking off did not reach a safe altitude fast enough, they would crash into a mountain. Cruising speed for the "Beaver" was a mere 106 mph making it a prime target for flak. Conditions in the area indicated that the aircraft was shot down, and several years passed before the crew was finally declared dead. Evidence mounts that Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. It is not known for sure if any of the crew of the U6 survived and are among them, but there is no evidence that they are dead. If they survived, they could still be alive. If not, then someone else's brother, son, husband, father is alive. We owe them our very best effort to bring them home.