GRANTHAM, ROBERT EUGENE

Name: Robert Eugene Grantham
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army
Unit: Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 
17th Cavalry, 
101st Airborne Division 

Date of Birth: 09 December 1951 (Los Angeles, CA) 
Home of Record: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Loss: 08 March 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 162319N 1070333E (YD199129)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A "Cayuse"
Other Personnel in Incident: John D. Hale (missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   The Hughes OH6A Cayuse was known by the troops by its nickname "Loach" - a derivative of "light observation helicopter." The armed OH6A was the primary scout helicopter used in Vietnam and usually carried a crew of two. The pilot controlled a mini-gun and a gunner/crew chief handled a "free 60" machine gun, among other weapons, which was attached to the aircraft by a strap. The Loach crews flew the most dangerous missions assigned to Army aviators because they flew low and usually slow enough to get a good look at the ground making them easy targets for the enemy.

On 8 March 1971, 1st Lt. John D. Hale, pilot, and then Cpl. Robert E. Grantham, observer, comprised the crew of an OH6A helicopter (serial #67-16645) conducting an armed reconnaissance mission around Tiger Mountain in the infamous A Shau Valley, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Other aircraft involved in this mission included an AH1G Cobra gunship and a UH1H Huey helicopter as the control aircraft.

During the mission, the crew of the OH6A attempted to start a fire by dropping incinerary grenades on a hilltop to flush out enemy troops hiding in the dense jungle below. Later when they made a pass over the area to see if the fire had started, they began receiving ground fire. The crew of the AH1G gunship saw the gunfire muzzle flashes and engaged a target while instructing John Hale to break away. The pilot radioed after he changed direction, "I'm taking fire from 3 o'clock." The AH1G gunship then broke off from the first source of gunfire to engage the second. At that time both the Loach and Cobra gunship pilots reported taking enemy ground fire.

During the next radio transmission, John Hale reported that his aircraft was hit, was going down, and asked if the other aircrews had them in sight. The AH1G gunship did see the Loach and called the Huey control ship to confirm the sighting. Unfortunately, in the chaos of the battle, the Huey's crew was unable to visually locate the damaged aircraft. In an attempt to assist the gunship pilot to see the OH6A, the crew of the Cobra began dropping white phosphorous grenades to help illuminate the area.

At the time John Hale called they were going down, his aircraft seemed to come apart and begin spinning, as if it had a tail rotor failure. Numerous objects were seen flying out of the aircraft while it was spinning, and according to members of the other aircrews, they believed those things were being jettisoned by Cpl. Grantham in order to lighten the aircraft in the hope of regaining control and altitude. The spinning slowed at about 500 feet above the ground, but increased again prior to impact. The aircraft exploded upon impact with the ground.

The Huey flew over the crash site and hovered there, looking for survivors, but due to intense enemy small arms fire, it was forced to depart the area. It returned again, but saw no trace of either crewman. The largest part of the aircraft that could be seen was what appeared to be the left engine door. An electronic search for the downed crew was conducted, but was unsuccessful. No ground search was possible because of the intense enemy activity in the area of loss. John Hale was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered while Robert Grantham was listed Missing in Action.

While the fate of Robert Grantham and John Hale seems in little doubt, they have the right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country if they in fact died in the crash of their aircraft. On the other hand, if they survived the crash, they most certainly would have been captured by the Communists and their fate, like that of many other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.