TSGT Allen Avery was assigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS) based at Da Nang, South Vietnam. On 06 April 1972, he was one of six crewmen aboard an HH-53C "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter engaged in at attempt to rescue Army and Air Force airmen downed in Quang Tri Province, SVN. The other five men were
* CPT James H. Alley;
* CPT Peter H. Chapman;
* CPT John H. Call;
* SGT William R. Pearson; and
* TSGT Roy D. Prater
On 02 April 2, 1972, two Thailand-based EB-66 aircraft (30th Air Division, call signs BAT 21 and 22) were providing 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. No contact was made with the other crewmen and it was assumed they (MAJ Wayne L. Bolte, pilot; 1LT Robin F. Gatwood; LTC Anthony R. Giannangeli; LTC Charles A. Levis; and MAJ Henry M. Serex) died in the crash.
An Army SAR team consisting of two UH-1H "slicks" and two UH-1B Cobra gunships were dispatched at once. As they approached Hambleton's position just before dark two of the helicopters were shot down. One, a Cobra (Blue Ghost 28) reached safety and the crew was picked up. The other, a UH-1H from F Troop, 8th Cavalry, 196th 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. The crew chief, SP5 Ronald P. Paschall, was alive but pinned by his leg in the helicopter. WO Franks urged Astorga to leave them, and Astorga was captured. He saw the UH-1H hit by automatic weapons fire, exploding with the rest of the crew inside. Astorga was released by the North Vietnamese in 1973.
The following day (03 Apr 72), an OV-10A (NAIL 38) entered Hambleton's area and was shot down. The crew, William J. Henderson and Mark Clark, both exited the aircraft safely. Henderson was captured and released in 1973. Clark evaded capture for 12 days and was subsequently rescued.
Later on 03 April, another Army UH-1H, not associated with the ongoing SAR effort, was shot down in the same area. This aircraft (from HHQ, 37th Signal Bn, 1st Signal Bde) was crewed by WO Douglas L. O'Neil, pilot; CW2 Larry A. Zich, co-pilot; SP5 Allen D. Christensen, crew chief; and SP4 Edward W. Williams, gunner. No contact was made with these men and they remain missing in action.
On 06 Apr, a decision was made to attempt to pick up Hambleton and Clark using an HH-53 Jolly Green from the 37th ARRS - this was Avery's aircraft. According to the FAC who witnessed the crash, the Jolly came in low and fast, but over a heavy concentration of large weapons. The FAC tried to warn the Jolly off, but was too late - the Jolly was hit, caught fire, rolled on one side and crashed, killing the whole crew.
On April 7 another Air Force OV-10A went down in the area with pilot USAF Captain Bruce C. Walker and observer Marine Captain Larry F. Potts aboard. Walker evaded capture for 11 days; his last radio transmission to SAR forces to not to make a rescue attempt as the enemy was closing in. It is reported that Potts was captured and died in Quang Binh prison. Both men remain unaccounted for.
Hambleton and Clark were picked up, but the others were not - 5 men from BAT 21, 4 from the F Troop UH-1H, 1 from NAIL 38, 4 from the 37th Sigs UH-1H, 6 from the Jolly Green, and 2 from the second OV-10 ... 22 men in all. Of these 22, Astorga and Henderson were released in 1973; the remaining 20 continued as Missing in Action.
The status of the missing servicemen (as of 09 Aug 2001) is
* EB-66, BAT 21:
o LTC Anthony R. Giannangeli - Unaccounted
o LTC Charles A. Levis - Unaccounted
o MAJ Henry M. Serex - Unaccounted
o MAJ Wayne L. Bolte - Unaccounted
o 1LT Robin F. Gatwood - Unaccounted
* UH-1H, F Troop, 8th Cavalry
o 1LT Byron K. Kulland - remains identified 07 Feb 1994
o WO John W. Frink - remains identified 07 Feb 1994
o SP5 Ronald P. Paschall - remains identified 07 Feb 1994
* UH-1H, 37th Signal Bn
o CW2 Larry A. Zich - unaccounted
o WO Douglas L. O'Neill - unaccounted
o SP5 Allen D. Christensen - unaccounted
o SP4 Edward W. Williams - unaccounted
* HH-53 crew:
o CPT James H. Alley - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o CPT Peter H. Chapman - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o CPT John H. Call - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o TSGT Roy D. Prater - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o TSG Allen Jones Avery - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o SGT William R. Pearson - remains identified 25 Sep 1997
o CPT Larry F. Potts - unaccounted
o CPT Bruce C. Walker - unaccounted
Nine of the twenty men lost have come home.
From Jim Franklin: