Name: David Donald Berdahl

Rank/Branch: Private First Class/US Army

Unit: Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 

Date of Birth: 16 January 1953 (Michigan, ND)

Home of Record: Minot, ND

Date of Loss: 20 January 1972

Country of Loss: South Vietnam

Loss Coordinates: 163837N 1064557E (XD883408) 
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered

Category: 3

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1 "Iroquois"

Other Personnel in Incident: Harry J. Edwards (missing)


SYNOPSIS:   By early 1967, the Bell UH1 Iroquois was already the standard Army assault helicopter, and was used in nearly every "in-country" mission. Better known by its nickname "Huey," the troop carriers were referred to as "Slicks" and the gunships were called "Hogs." It proved itself to be a sturdy, versatile aircraft which was called on to carry out a wide variety of missions including search and rescue, close air support, insertion and extraction, fire support, and resupply to name a few. It usually carried a crew of four.

On 20 January 1972, PFC David D. Berdahl, was the door gunner assigned to the four-man crew of a UH1H helicopter (tail # 69-16717). The Huey was participating in a search and recovery (SAR) mission for the two-man crew of a downed F4 fighter in the rugged jungle covered mountains a few miles northwest of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Also on board the Huey were four riflemen, including Specialist Harry J. Edwards, who were also taking part in the rescue mission. The aircrew and rifleman were all assigned to Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry.

At approximately 1815 hours, the Huey was struck by enemy anti-aircraft artillery fire and caught fire. The fire, which started at the forward end of the aircraft, rapidly engulfed the entire helicopter. The pilot was able to auto-rotate the helicopter on to the rocks on the bank of the Raoquan River, just north of Highway 9 and approximately 2 miles due north of Khe Sanh. It landed hard and rolled over onto its left side.

An accompanying observation helicopter pilot who was unable to land because of the existing conditions, hovered long enough to visually search the wreckage for survivors. He reported seeing what he believed to be PFC Berdahl dressed in a flight suit, helmet and armored vest pinned in the burning aircraft. He was forced to withdraw when the fuel and ammunition aboard the Huey began to explode. However, he was not able to see SPC Harry Edwards either inside or outside the burning aircraft.

While the observation helicopter pilot did not see anyone leaving the burning aircraft alive, five survivors were rescued from the crash site area and the sixth man was rescued about 50 feet downstream from the crash site. The crew of the F4 was also rescued. At the time SAR efforts were terminated, both David Berdahl and Harry Edwards were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

While the fate of David Berdahl is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, for Harry Edwards and 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.