RUSSELL, PETER JOHN

Name: Peter John Russell
Rank/Branch: O2/US Army
Unit: 240th Assault Helicopter Co.
      214th Aviation Btn., 12th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 02 October 1946
Home City of Record: New York NY
Date of Loss: 01 August 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 114856N 1071107E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1C
Other Personnel In Incident: Steven M. Hastings; Donald R. Fowler (both
missing), William Fernan, see notes

Source: Updated by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews. 2020

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  SP4 Donald Fowler, gunner; Sgt. Steven Hastings, crewchief; WO
Fernam, aircraft commander and 1Lt. Peter J. Russell, pilot, comprised the crew
of one UH1C helicopter in a flight of two on a combat mission. 

Due to inclement weather and poor visibility, the mission was aborted.  During
the return flight, the two aircraft became separated while attempting to return
to the Song Be airstrip.  One aircraft crashed into the trees and crewmembers
were extracted the following morning.  Radio contact was lost with 1Lt.
Russell's aircraft after the last contact at 2025 hours on August 1.  At that
time, the aircraft commander indicated that he was diverting to Binh Hoa
airbase rather than returning to Song Be.

When the aircraft failed to arrive at either Binh Hoa or Song Be, search
efforts were begun at daylight, and continued for 3 days.  On August 6,
wreckage of the helicopter was discovered.  On August 21, a recovery effort was
conducted in the area of the aircraft and it was determined that the helicopter
had crashed but not burned.  During the recovery effort, portions of remains
were found that were associated with WO Fernam, along with some personal
effects that belonged to him.  Only flight helmets were found for the other 3
individuals.  No trace was found of the other 3 in subsequent searches.

In 1985, a private citizen obtained a previously classified document through
the Freedom of Information Act which described in great detail a prisoner of
war camp in South Vietnam.  Together with the drawings and maps of the compound
were lists of guards and their backgrounds, and a list of Americans the source
had positively identified from photographs.  On the list of positive id's was
the name of Steven Hastings.  Returned POWs have verified the accuracy of the
drawings and much of the information.  (Some on the positive list were POWs who
returned in 1973)

Although the Defense Department has stated that the source was a liar, there
appears to be some question as to whether Hastings, at least, perished in the
crash of his helicopter or survived to be captured.  And if there is question
on Hastings, what of the other 2?

Nearly 2500 Americans are missing in Southeast Asia.  Over 6000 reports have
been received indicating that there are hundreds of Americans still alive as
captives there.  It's long past time we got to the bottom of the issue and
brought our men home - alive.

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Senate Select Committee Report

South Vietnam           Donald R. Fowler
                       Steven M. Hastings
                        Peter J. Russell
                         William Fernan
                             (1244)

On August 1, 1968, Warrant Officer Fernan, First Lieutenant Russell,
Specialist Fourth Class Fowler and Specialist Fifth Class Hastings
disappeared while on board a UH-1C helicopter during a flight through bad
weather in Song Be Province.  A search for them was unsuccessful.

On August 6, 1971 local woodcutters discovered the helicopter wreckage.
Partial remains belonging to Warrant Officer Fernan were recovered, but none
were recovered of the other three crewmen.  The possibility that the other
three crewmen might have survived arose due to the condition of the
wreckage.

The four crewmen were initially declared missing and, after the end of
hostilities, were declared dead/body not recovered.  They were not reported
alive in the Vietnamese prison system.

In June 1989, U.S. field investigators in Vietnam located six individuals
who witnessed an American being captured after he was injured in an aircraft
crash in 1968.  The American was taken first to Bu Dang District
Headquarters and then to the Phuoc Long Province POW camp.  As a result of
malaria, the prisoner was taken to Hospital 370 where he died one week later
and was buried nearby. This report is viewed as possibly correlating to the
fate of one of the aircraft's survivors.  Additionally, a doctor recently
interviewed in Vietnam identified the photograph of Lieutenant Russell as
the patient brought to his hospital from a nearby POW camp.  He stated that
the American died at the hospital and was buried nearby.  No reports
correlated to other survivors.
              
1997 -- William Fernan is NOT listed among those whose remains have been
returned, nor is he listed on the Defense Intelligence Agency's list of
POW/MIAs. His casualty file states body recovered.

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02/2020

https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000KZtGEAW

CPT PETER JOHN RUSSELL

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On August 1, 1968, a UH-1C Iroquois (tail number 66-15154, call sign "Mad Dog 36") with four crew members was one of two helicopters on a combat mission to extract an Army Special Forces team under enemy attack. Due to inclement weather and poor visibility, the mission was aborted and the helicopters headed back to base. During the return flight, the Iroquois became separated from the other helicopter, and the aircraft commander radioed that he was redirecting the Iroquois to Bien Hoa Air Base. After that, radio contact was lost, and the helicopter was not heard from again.  In 1971, the Iroquois was discovered to have crashed in the jungle northwest of Saigon in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam; however, the remains of only one crew member could be identified among the wreckage. The other three crew members remain missing.

First Lieutenant Peter John Russell entered the U.S. Army from New York and served in the 240th Assault Helicopter Company, 214th Aviation Battalion, 12th Aviation Group. He was the pilot of the Iroquois when it crashed, and his remains were not recovered. Following the incident, the Army posthumously promoted First Lieutenant Russell to the rank of Captain.  Today, Captain Russell is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

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