Name: Harry Medford Beckwith III
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army
Unit: Troop D, 3rd Squadron,
5th Cavalry, 1st Brigade,
5th Infantry Division 

Date of Birth: 18 August 1948
Home of Record: Flint, MI
Date of Loss: 24 March 1971
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164602N 4063355E (XD668543)
Click coordinates to view  (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH58A "Kiowa"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The Bell OH58A Kiowa observation helicopter arrived in Vietnam to replace the aging OH13 Sioux and OH23 Raven helicopters, and to supplement the very popular OH6 Cayuse, better known by its nickname "Loach," which arrived in-country shortly before the Kiowa. It was an unpopular replacement for the OH6 with most its pilots complaining about its lack of power and poor directional control in comparison with the Loach.

On 24 March 1971, Sgt. Harry D. Beckwith III was the observer aboard an OH58A helicopter carrying a crew of three in a flight of aircraft on a visual reconnaissance mission over the extremely rugged jungle covered mountains of extreme western Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. The aircraft was hit by enemy automatic weapons fire and crashed into the enemy controlled jungle just east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border where it exploded and burned.

A search and rescue (SAR) helicopter was immediately dispatched to the crash site with troops sufficient to secure and defend the area should it be necessary to do so while SAR operations were conducted. The Kiowa's pilot, who survived the crash and fire, reported that Sgt. Beckwith and his co-pilot were both killed in the crash. Their remains were recovered, individually wrapped in poncho liners and loaded aboard the rescue helicopter.

After take off, the pilot of the chase helicopter involved in the rescue/recovery operation noted that a poncho liner carrying remains fell from the rescue aircraft. He radioed the lead pilot informing him of the loss. He also noted the location was less then 1 mile east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border and approximately 16 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), 18 miles northwest of Khe Sanh and 41 miles due west of Quang Tri City, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

Later it was learned that the poncho liner contained the remains of Sgt. Beckwith. Over the next several days many aerial attempts were made to locate and recover Harry Beckwith's body. Unfortunately, no ground search was possible due of enemy activity in the area and the lack of a specific location of loss. The aerial search was also hampered by excessive wind conditions in addition to the fact that the poncho liner blended in with the terrain and foliage. At the time formal SAR efforts were terminated, Harry M. Beckwith III was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

Harry Beckwith was a well trained, experienced career-minded soldier on his third tour of duty in Vietnam. In 1968 he served as a tank commander in Cu Chi. During that tour he ignored his own serious wounds during an armored attack in order to rescue three other soldiers who were pinned under a tank. For this selfless act of bravery he was awarded the Silver Star, our nation's third highest award for valor. Ironically, his father, Army Sgt. Major Harry M. Beckwith, Jr., was stationed in Saigon at the same time his son's helicopter was shot down.

While the fate of Harry M. Beckwith III is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains recovered and returned to his family, friends and country he so proudly served. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 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.