Remains Identified 10/30/01
Name: John Lynn Powers
Rank/Branch: E4/US Army
Unit: 159th Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division
Date of Birth: 13 November 1949 (Idaho Falls ID)
Home City of Record: Mackay ID
Date of Loss: 15 February 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163836N 1062558E (XD528405)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH47C
Refno: 1703
Other Personnel In Incident: Donald E. Crone; Barry F. Fivelson; Willis C.
Crear; 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.
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
How long must they wait before we bring our men home?
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.