Name: Donald Martin Cramer
Rank/Branch: Chief Warrant Officer 2/US Army 
Unit: Troop C, 2nd Squadron,
17th Cavalry, 
101st Airborne Division 
Hue/Phu Bai Airfield, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 12 January 1946 (Columbus, OH)
Home of Record: St. Louis, MO
Date of Loss: 05 January 1971 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 161657N 1073102E (ZD060160)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G "Cobra" 
Other Personnel In Incident: SP4 Ronnie V. Rogers (killed, body recovered) 


SYNOPSIS:The first Bell AH1G Cobra helicopter gunships arrived in Vietnam on 1 September 1967 and since it carried both guns and rockets, it was a major step forward in the development of the armed helicopter. The Cobra had enough speed to meet the escort mission parameters, tandem seating, better armor, and a better weapons system than any previous helicopter of its day. By 1970-1, the Cobra's armament included the 2.75-inch rocket with a 17-pound warhead, the very effective 2.75-inch flechette rocket, and the SX-35 20mm cannon which made it a truly powerful aircraft.

On 5 January 1971, then CW2 Donald M. Cramer, pilot, and SP4 Ronnie V. Rogers, observer, comprised the crew of an AH1G (tail #67-16083). At 0210 hours, they departed the Hue/Phu Bai Airfield on a night training mission. Once the helicopter departed base, no radio contact was established with either crewman, a situation that did not raise concern until later.

CW2 Cramer was scheduled to make one stop at a fire support base located near the South China Sea east of the Hue/Phu Bai Airfield, then return to base. When the aircraft failed to return within a reasonable length of time, efforts were made to establish radio contact with the aircrew. At the same time, all airfields and bases in the area were contacted on the chance that for some reason Donald Cramer and Ronnie Rogers were forced to divert to one of them. Those efforts met with negative results.

At 1640 hours, an aerial search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated and continued until dark. The search resumed at first light and continued to crisscross the area around Hue/Phu Bai Airfield and the fire support base.

On 8 January, the body of SP4 Ronnie V. Rogers was found on the beach in the vicinity of the fire support base. The search then shifted to the coastline and adjacent waters. Because it was determined that Ronnie Rogers' cause of death was from drowning, it was concluded that the aircraft departed the fire support base and crashed into the South China Sea. SP4 Rogers remains were found approximately 10 miles east of the Hue/Phu Bai Airfield and 31 miles northwest of DaNang, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. Military intelligence believed the Cobra probably was no more than ½ mile off shore when it went down for unknown reasons.

The extended aerial search continued until 20 January. It was finally cancelled when no trace of CW2 Cramer or the Cobra gunship was found. At the time the search operation was terminated, Donald Cramer was listed Missing in Action.

If Donald Cramer died in the loss of his aircraft, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. However, if he survived, there is a reasonable chance he could have safely reached the beach only to be captured by communist forces. If so, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21000 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.