Name:  Fred Howell McMurray Jr.
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Army 
Unit:  1st Calvary Division
Quang Tri,  South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 16 November 1943 
Home of Record: Charleston, SC 
Date of Loss: 07 April 1968 
Country of Loss:  South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  164413N 1064814E (XD925512)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  OH13S "Sioux"
Other Personnel in Incident: James J. Powers (rescued)


SYNOPSIS:   The bubble-topped Bell OH13 Sioux, nick-named "Possum," was a standard Light Observation Helicopter (LOH) that saw extended service during the Korean War. By 1968, the US Army was in the process of phasing out this two-man aircraft because the Army had long since found it to be too old and too difficult to maintain under the conditions that existed in Southeast Asia.

On 7 April 1968, then 1st Lt. Fred H. McMurray, Jr., pilot, and Sgt. James J. Powers, observer/door gunner, comprised the crew of an OH13S, tail #63-9084. The helicopter departed Landing Zone Stud, the 1st Cavalry Division's base camp, in a flight of two aircraft. The second helicopter on this armed reconnaissance mission was an AH1G Cobra gunship, and they were flying in support of a ground operation in the dense jungle-covered mountains approximately 6 miles northwest of Thon Khe Xeng, 25 miles due west of Quang Tri, 17 miles west of Vietnamese/Lao border and 19 miles south of the DMZ, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.

At 1600 hours, 1st Lt. McMurray was flying low-level when he reported seeing several recently repaired enemy automatic weapons positions along with freshly used trails. Fred McMurray marked the enemy location with a smoke grenade to allow the AH1G to identify and fire rockets on the target, and at the same time he reported sighting NVA soldiers, whom he then engaged. The escort gunship continued to place suppressive fire in the area, and transmitted a request for a rifle platoon to be airlifted to the location of engagement to conduct a search and destroy sweep of the area. The rifle platoon arrived in about 15 minutes and landed a short distance away.

While attacking an entrenched NVA position, 1st Lt. McMurray's aircraft received enemy automatic weapons fire, began burning in flight, and crashed to the jungle floor. Sgt. Powers, who was badly burned in the fire, was rescued shortly afterward. When queried about the aircraft's pilot, he informed his rescuers that he believed 1st Lt. McMurray was still in the aircraft. Extensive searches in and around the crash site over the next few days were unsuccessful in locating any trace of Fred McMurray. Because there was a possibility he escaped the crash only to be taken prisoner by the NVA, Fred McMurray was listed Missing in Action.

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 American 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.

OH13S, tail number 63-9084, is the only "Possum" shot down during the Vietnam War whose pilot remains unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.