Remains identified 09/08/00
Name: William Arthur Smith, Jr.
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: Company A, 9th Aviation Battalion, 9th Infantry Division
Date of Birth: 24 June 1945 (Americus GA)
Home City of Record: Battle Creek MI
Date of Loss: 27 September 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 101643N 1062847E (XS608377)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H
Refno: 1291
Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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 2000.
SYNOPSIS: On September 27, 1968, WO1 William A. Smith, Jr. was the aircraft
commander of an UH1H helicopter (tail #67-17164) on a command and control
mission in the vicinity of My Tho, Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam.
The pilot onboard the aircraft was LT Quentin F. Hurst, crewchief, PVT
Jeffrey C. Niles, and gunner Kevin L. Grain.
[NOTE: Several Defense Department listings show Smith's aircraft as an OH6A
helicopter, but the Army and Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) records
indicate it was a UH1H.]
During the mission, the aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire, burst into
flames and exploded on contact with the My Tho River. Several U.S. Navy
patrol boats were in the area, and the crash of the aircraft was observed.
Boats arrived at the site minutes after the crash. During the aerial search
of the crash site, three aviator helmets, aircraft debris, personal items
belonging to the aircraft crew and an oil slick were located on the water in
the vicinity. However, no evidence of survivors was seen, nor were any
bodies located.
On 29 September, the bodies of three crew members were found floating in the
vicinity of the crash site. The three remains were recovered and
subsequently identified as Niles, Hurst and Grain. It was
determined that the recovered crew members survived the crash and later died
by drowning. Thus it was possible that Smith survived as well and was
captured. He was classified Missing in Action.
A photo taken on the morning of September 28 of the shoreline in the same
general area as the crash was examined by a photo interpreter who stated
that it appeared that in the photo something or someone was dragged ashore
in the vicinity of the crash site. However, questioning of the local
riverside people indicated that a small sampan had been pulled ashore at
that location.
Leaflets were distributed along the shoreline seeking information from
villagers about the fate of WO1 Smith. Also, an indigenous investigator
traveled the north bank of the My Tho River searching for information or a
body washed ashore. The results of both efforts were negative.
In December 1974, remains were recovered that remotely associated with this
incident. However, the Identification Laboratory in Thailand identified the
remains as Mongoloid, and not those of WO1 Smith.
A source reported information on a U.S. helicopter shot down in 1973 or 1974
in the vicinity. Reportedly, the dead pilot was pulled out, stripped, and
buried in the vicinity. This was thought to possibly correlate to Smith
[even though this incident was some 4-5 years following Smith's loss].
Nearly 2500 Americans were lost in Southeast Asia during our miltary
involvement there. Since the war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands
of reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for have
been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no
conclusive proof has been obtained that is current enough to act upon.
Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the
willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.
Smith, if one of those hundreds said to be still alive and in captivity,
must be wondering if and when his country will return for him. In America,
we say that life is precious, but isn't the life of even one American worth
the effort of recovery? When the next war comes, and it is our sons lost,
will we then care enough to do everything we can to bring our prisoners
National League of Families
UPDATE LINE: September 8, 2000
Thank you for calling the National League of Families Update Line.  This
message is being recorded on Friday, September 8th.  The number of Americans
missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War is now 2,005.
Today, the Department of Defense released the names of eight of nine US
personnel now accounted for, six previously missing in Laos and three in
Vietnam. These Americans include CDR Leonard M. Lee of VA and LCDR Roger B.
Innes of IL, both US Navy, missing in North Vietnam since December 27, 1967.
The Defense Department did not publicly release CDR Lee's name at the
request of his next-of-kin; however, members of Commander Lee's family were
quoted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch September 4th edition regarding his
identification.  Others include Lt Col Donald E. Paxton of IA and Maj
Charles Macko of NY, both US Air Force, missing in Laos since February 2,
1969; Capt Stephen P. Hanson of CA, 1st Lt Jon G. Gardner of NC and Sgt
Timothy R. Bodden of IL, USMC, and Army GySgt Billy R. Laney of FL, all
missing in Laos since June 3, 1967; and Army CWO1 William A. Smith, Jr., of
MI, missing in South Vietnam since September 2, 1968.
The accounting for these nine Americans brings the number still missing and
unaccounted for from the Vietnam War to 2,005, 1511 in Vietnam, 421 in Laos,
65 in Cambodia and 8 in the territorial waters of the PRC.  Nearly 85% of
all Americans lost in Laos and Cambodia were in areas then under wartime
Vietnamese control; therefore, it is to Vietnam that we look for archival
records and witnesses to assist in accounting for them....
Subject: Re: William Arthur Smith, Jr.
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2000 09:57:22 EDT
No, there was no article--in fact there wasn't even the usual little folder
that we get at most funerals.  There were about 35 people there--mostly
family.  According to the family, his remains were located by a salvage
diver very close to where the plane crashed in the river.  They found the ID
plate for the plane and some bones.  Then, came the DNA testing.  I hope it
has brought some closure and healing for his family.