Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 42nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron,
Korat AB TH
Date of Birth: 09 May 1931
Home City of Record: New Orleans LA (family in
Date of Loss: 02 April 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165000N 1070100E (YD146612)
(in 1973): Missing In Action
Personnel in Incident: April 2:
Robin F. Gatwood;
Wayne L. Bolte; Anthony
Giannangeli; Charles A. Levis; Henry M. Serex;
(all missing from the EB66).
LtCol. Iceal Hambleton (rescued after 12 days
from EB66). Ronald P. Paschall;
Byron K. Kulland; John W. Frink (all missing from
UH1H rescue helicopter), Jose
M. Astorga (captured and released in 1973 from
UH1H). April 3: William J.
Henderson (captured and released in 1973 from
OV10A rescue craft); Mark Clark
(rescued after 12 days from OV10A rescue craft).
April 6: James H. Alley; Allen J. Avery; Peter H.
Chapman; John H. Call; William R. Pearson; Roy D.
Prater (all KIA/BNR from HH53C "Jolly 52" rescue
chopper). Also in very close
proximity to "Bat 21"on April 3: Allen D.
Christensen; Douglas L. O'Neil;
Edward W. Williams; Larry A. Zich (all missing
from UH1H). April 7: Bruce
Charles Walker (evaded 11 days); Larry F. Potts
(captured & died in POW camp)
(both missing from OV10A).
Thailand-based EB66 aircraft
(Bat 21 and Bat 22), from the 30th Air Division,
were flying pathfinder escort
for a cell of B52s bombing near the DMZ. Bat 21
took a direct SAM hit and the
plane went down. A single beeper signal was
heard, that of navigator Col. Iceal
Hambleton. At this time it was assumed the rest
of the crew died in the crash.
The crew included Maj. Wayne L.
1Lt. Robin F. Gatwood, LtCol.
Anthony R. Giannangeli, LtCol. Charles A. Levis,
and Maj. Henry M. Serex, all
crew members. It should be noted that the lowest
ranking man aboard this plane
was Gatwood, a First Lieutenant. This was not an
ordinary crew, and its
members, particularly Hambleton, would be a prize
capture for the enemy because
of military knowledge they possessed.
It became critical, therefore, that the U.S.
locate Hambleton, and any other
surviving crew members before the Vietnamese did
- and the Vietnamese were
trying hard to find them first.
An Army search and rescue team was nearby and
dispatched two UH1H "slicks" and
two UH1B "Cobras".
When they approached
Hambleton's position just before dark,
at about 50 feet off the ground, with one of the
AH1G Cobra gunships flying at
300 feet for cover, two of the helicopters were
shot down. One, the Cobra (Blue
Ghost 28) reached safety and the crew was picked
up, without having seen the
other downed helicopter. The other, a UH1H from F
Brigade, had just flown over some huts into a
clearing when they encountered
ground fire, and the helicopter exploded. Jose
Astorga, the gunner, was injured
in the chest and knee by the gunfire. Astorga
became unconscious, and when he
recovered, the helicopter was on the ground. He
found the pilot, 1Lt. Byron K.
Kulland, lying outside the helicopter. WO John W.
Frink, the co-pilot, was
strapped in his seat and conscious.
chief, SP5 Ronald P. Paschall, was
pinned by his leg in the helicopter, but alive.
WO Franks urged Astorga to
leave them, and Astorga was captured. He soon
observed the aircraft to be hit
by automatic weapons fire, and to explode with
the rest of the crew inside. He
never saw the rest of the crew again. Astorga was
relesed by the North
Vietnamese in 1973.
The following day, Nail 38, an OV10A
with electronic rescue gear
enabling its crew to get a rapid "fix" on its
rescue target entered Hambleton's
area and was shot down. The crew, William J.
Henderson and Mark Clark, both
parachuted out safely. Henderson was captured and
released in 1973. Clark
evaded for 12 days and was subsequently rescued.
On April 3, the day Nail 38 was shot down, a UH1H
"slick" went down in the same
area carrying a crew of four enlisted Army
personnel. They had no direct
connection to the rescue of Bat 21, but were very
probably shot down by the
same SAM installations that downed Bat 21. The
helicopter, from H/HQ, 37th
Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, had left
Marble Mountain Airfield, Da
Nang, on a standard resupply mission to signal
units in and around Quang Tri
The crew, consisting of WO Douglas
O'Neil, pilot; CW2 Larry A. Zich,
co-pilot; SP5 Allen D. Christensen, crew chief;
and SP4 Edward W. Williams,
gunner; remain missing in action.
On April 6, an attempt was made to pick up Clark
and Hambleton which resulted
in an HH53C helicopter being shot down. The
chopper was badly hit. The
helicopter landed on its side and continued to
burn, consuming the entire craft,
and presumably, all 6 men aboard.
The crew of
this aircraft consisted of James
H. Alley; Allen J. Avery, John H. Call III, Peter
H. Chapman, William R.
Pearson, and Roy D. Prater. Search and rescue
noted no signs of survivors, but
it is felt that the Vientamese probably know the
fate of this crew because of
the close proximity of the downed aircraft to
On April 7 another Air Force OV10A
the area with Larry Potts and
Bruce Walker aboard. Walker, the Air Force pilot
of the aircraft, evaded
capture 11 days, while it is reported that Potts
was captured and died in Quang
Binh prison. Potts, the observer, was a Marine
Corps officer. Walker's last
radio transmission to search and rescue was for
SAR not to make an attempt to
rescue, the enemy was closing in. Both men remain
Hambleton and Clark were rescued after 12
incredible days. Hambleton
continually changed positions and reported on
enemy activity as he went, even
to the extent of calling in close air strikes
near his position. He was tracked
by a code he devised relating to the length and
lie direction of various golf
holes he knew well. Another 20 or so Americans
were not so fortunate.
In July 1986, the daughter of Henry
that, one week after all
search and rescue had been "called off" for Bat
21, another mission was mounted
to recover "another downed crewmember" from Bat
She doesn't know whether or
not it is her father or another man on the EB66
aircraft. No additional
information has been released. When the movie
"Bat 21" was released, she was
horrified to learn that virtually no mention of
the rest of the crew, including
her father, was made.
In Vietnam, to most fighting men, the man that
fought beside them, whether in
the air or on the ground, was worth dying for.
Each understood that the other
would die for him if necessary. Thus, also
considering the critical knowledge
possessed by Col. Hambleton and some of the
others, the seemingly uncanny means
taken to recover Clark and Hambleton are not so
unusual at all.
What defies logic and explaination,
that the government that sent
these men to battle can distort or withold
information to their families,
knowingly abandon hundreds of men known or
strongly suspected to be in enemy
Thousands of reports have been received by the
U.S. Government indicating that
Americans are still alive, in captivity in
Southeast Asia. It has been 17 years
for those who may have survived the 1972
crashes and rescue attempts.
How much longer must they wait for their country
to bring "peace with honor" to
them and bring them home?
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