VARNADO, MICHAEL BANARD Remains Returned - ID Announced August 1, 1989
Name: Michael Banard "Vito" Varnado Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: Company B, 229th Aviation Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, pilot Date of Birth: 10 September 1948 (Natchez MS) Home City of Record: Ferriday LA Date of Loss: 02 May 1970 Country of Loss: Cambodia Loss Coordinates: 114512N 1060827E (XU243013) Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War Category: 1 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1H
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert M. Young; Bunyon D. Price; Rodney L. Griffin; Dale W. Richardson (all missing); Frederick H. Crowson; Daniel F. Maslowski (returned POWs); - Tommy Karreci (evaded and escaped)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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 2010.
REMARKS: 70092 - DIED IN CB - ON PRG LIST
SYNOPSIS: On May 2, 1970 a UH1H helicopter from Company B, 229th Aviation Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division flown by WO1 Michael B. Varnado was hit by ground fire and forced to land just over the border of South Vietnam near the city of Memot, Cambodia. The aircraft was transporting members of HHC, 34th Armor, 25th Infantry Division, SP4 Rodney L. Griffin; SP4 Bunyan D. Price, Jr.; WO1 Daniel F. Maslowski; Capt. Dale W. Richardson; and Capt. Robert M. Young. Also aboard were Tommy Karreci, SP4 Frederick H. Crowson, and CW2 Daniel F. Maslowski, crew members of the aircraft.
The men were part of an attempt to stop North Vietnamese forces from gaining strongholds in Cambodia. President Nixon announced the request by Cambodia for American assistance on April 30. Had we not assisted, the North Vietnamese, in addition to having an effective sanctuary to which they could retreat without retaliation, would also have South Vietnam completely outflanked.
The crew all survived the crash, and had only 30-40 seconds on the ground to decide what to do. They all attempted to evade, each in different directions. Only 18-year-old Karreci managed to make it back to U.S. lines in 2 or 3 days. Crowson, Maslowski, Varnado and Young went in one direction and were all captured by North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces. Price, according to Defense Department records, was also captured. Griffin and Richardson took off in another direction and were never seen again.
Crowson and Maslowski were released in 1973 and in their debriefings stated that WO1 Varnado and Capt. Young had died in captivity, while detained in Cambodia. The Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG) officially acknowledged their deaths, listing Varnado's death as 21 September 1970, and Young's death as 17 November 1972.
According to Dan Maslowski, Bob Young died of illness in Dan's arms in the fall of 1972. Maslowski saw Varnado about two months after capture. "Vito" had been shot in the leg and in the side when he was captured, and according to Dan, "looked like hell". His side wound had healed, but the wound in his leg, in the kneecap, was badly infected. He could not walk, and told Maslowski that the Viet Cong had been transporting him in a hammock. The Viet Cong had told Varnado that he was to be taken to a hospital to have his leg taken care of. The Vietnamese state that he died two months after Dan saw him in camp (about 4 months after capture).
A report was received by the U.S. Government which indicated that Harris may have been alive as late as 1974. In November 1974, a report was received from a covert source concerning two U.S. prisoners being held in Cambodia. The source allegedly saw a telegram from Khieu Samphan, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Royal Government of National Union (GRUNK), to the "Bureau Politique" in Peking stating that "Sergeant Michael B. Varnado" had been captured and was being held by communist forces in Kratie Province as of July 1974. The report was debunked because of other information indicating Harris was dead.
On August 1, 1989, it was announced that the Vietnamese had "discovered" the remains of Michael Varnado, returned them to the U.S. His remains were positively identified, much to the relief of family and surviving comrades, and Michael Varnado could finally be buried with the honor he deserved. The remains identification did not contradict that Vietnamese' statement that Varnado died four months after capture.
The fate of Price is uncertain. Maslowski always believed Price had been captured, but never saw him in camps he was held in. One report from escaped ARVN POWs stated that he was captured by the Khmer and because the ethnic groups normally did not cooperate, the Khmer would not likely have given Price over to the Vietnamese, who had captured the other four.
Since 1973, nearly 10,000 reports have been given to the U.S. Government regarding Americans still missing in Southeast Asia. Some, according to U.S. State Department sources, have withstood the "closest scrutiny" possible, and cannot be disputed. There is very strong reason to believe that Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia today, yet President after President has failed to would bring them home.
March 9, 2000
I have obtained copies of the battalion daily journal for my unit 1/5 (Mech) Infantry, 25th InfDiv. My copies cover the period 27 Feb through 31 May, 1970. Our unit was the group that found the wreckage of this helicopter in Cambodia on May 17th.
Doug Huffman http://www.users.uswest.net/~huffpapa/vietnam.html <email@example.com>
Network note --- The journals relate:
Daily Staff Journal or Duty Officer's Log
1st Bn 5th Inf (Mech) 25th Inf Div Location: WT261033 From Hour: 0001 Date: 17 May 70 To: 2400 Date: May 17 70
Item 68 cont: Chopper & will send 2 fc to ck out
69 1450: BB: UT 237001 Believed saw sniper in a tree, fired & saw something fell/Will ck out. // Also have 2 pc's stick and 1 piece threw track
70 1452 Ref 69 - Neg findings
71 1453 Dustoff 160 complete Dest Med T.N.
72 1520 A1/5 at chopper
73 1521 B1/5 Moving to S again Fm 237007
74 1550 A1/5 spot report at downed chopper: 24009. Tail number 16542, found neg - bodies, neg bones Believed was shot down by 51 cal - 51 cal hole in blade - both front seat belts were unfastened and armour plates
74 cont pushed back - found numeruos FT prints (NVA type) around area - 2 rm attempts had been made to conceal the aircraft - Also found 2 sets of burned fatigues but was able to distinquish laundry mark (XA/12/c) // Tail section was abt 50' fm aircraft intact 10' fm tail section was an American Express banking statement w/name, rank & serial number awaiting rtn of A1/5 for ID.
NETWORK NOTE: Item 89 1940 American Express ID -- HARTKE, James L PFC HHC 2/34 Armor Account number (shown in record)
All records indicate Hartke returned alive from Vietnam.
Childhood hero left a lasting
Barbara Leader • firstname.lastname@example.org •
May 31, 2010
Forty years after his death in Vietnam, Army Chief
Warrant Officer Michael Varnado is still a hero to
Ouachita Parish School Superintendent Bob Webber......