|Rank/Branch:||Private First Class/US Army|
11th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
|Date of Birth:||14 June 1954 (Chicago, IL)|
|Home of Record:||Blue Island, IL|
|Date of Loss:||11 June 1972|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||162326N 1072407E (YD565135)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Staus in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Arnold E. Holm, Jr. and Robin R. Yeakley (missing)|
REMARKS: EXPLODE - NO PARABEEPERS - J
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.
In March 1972, the communists launched a three-pronged invasion of South Vietnam. One NVA force swept south across the demilitarized zone (DMZ), its goal to capture the northern provinces along with the city of Hue. A second NVA force drove south through Laos, then east into the Central Highlands. The third force drove further south through Cambodia, then east into those provinces held by US and ARVN troops northwest of Saigon. Fierce and unrelenting fighting ensued on all three fronts, with NVA success being the greatest in those areas attacked immediately south of the DMZ. Continuous fighting lasted until June, at which time the North Vietnamese began consolidating their positions while still holding considerable amount of South Vietnamese territory.
On 11 June, 1972, Capt. Arnold Holm, pilot; PFC Wayne Bibbs, gunner; and SP4 Robin Yeakley, observer; comprised the crew of an OH6A helicopter that departed Camp Eagle on a visual reconnaissance mission to search for signs of enemy activity around two landing zones (LZ's) being used to deploy ARVN troops into this hotly contested area. As Capt. Holm's aircrew monitored the insertion in the jungle covered mountains approximately 10 miles southwest of Hue, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam; they also performed aerial reconnaissance of the surrounding terrain for enemy activity. The aircrew discovered enemy living quarters, bunkers and numerous well established trails. Capt. Holm radioed their findings to all aircraft participating in the troop insertion as well as to headquarters.
During its second attack pass over a ridgeline at an altitude of about 25 feet, the Loach was struck by enemy ground fire, exploded and burned. Other aircrews reported seeing Capt. Holm's aircraft fall from the sky. As it descended, they saw smoke and white phosphorous grenades carried on board the Loach explode. The OH6A exploded again when it impacted the ground. Other aircraft in the area also received heavy enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire as they attacked entrenched communist positions. None of the crew was seen to exit the downed helicopter, nor were any emergency radio beepers heard during the immediately initiated search and rescue (SAR) effort.
During the ensuing search for Capt. Holm, PFC Bibbs and SP4 Yeakley, another OH6A (tail #67-16275) crewed by 1st Lt. James R. McQuade, pilot, and SP4 James E. Hackett, gunner, tried to enter the crash site location. It also encountered heavy ground fire and was shot down just to the northeast of the first aircraft's wreckage. 1st Lt. McQuade's OH6A sustained damage to the fuselage causing white phosphorous and smoke grenades carried aboard to explode prior to crashing. The aircraft continued to burn after impacting the ground. Neither crewman was seen to leave the aircraft before or after the crash. Aerial searches continued until dark, but no sign of either missing crew could be detected. No ground search was possible because of the intense enemy presence throughout the region. Further, at the time SAR efforts were terminated, Arnold Holm, Wayne Bibbs and Robin Yeakley were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. The crew of the second aircraft was also listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
While Wayne Bibbs, Arnold Holm and Robin Yeakley probably perished in the crash of their helicopter, they have the right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. For other Americans, their fate is less certain.
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.