Name:  John Edward Crowley
Rank/Branch: Specialist/US Army
Unit:  Troop D, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 
23rd Infantry Division (Americal) 

Date of Birth: 25 September 1949 (Sodus, NY)
Home of Record: Williamson, NY
Date of Loss: 10 August 1970
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  152149N 1073055E (YC700000)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  UH1H "Iroquois"
Other Personnel in Incident: CW2 William E. Boyle; WO Gary B. Smith; SP4 Jesus O. Alvarez (all rescued); passengers from MACV-SOG team (unnamed - rescued)


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.

MACV-SOG, or Military Assistance Command Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (though it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. These teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.

On 10 August 1970, WO Gary B. Smith, pilot; William E. Boyle, aircraft commander; SP4 John E. Crowley, crew chief, and SP4 Jesus O. Alvarez, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter (tail #68-16520) on a classified "Prairie Fire" mission. The aircraft was operating in an area approximately 15 miles southwest of Kham Duc Special Forces Camp, South Vietnam; and 2 miles inside Xekong Province, Laos. Also aboard the Huey were an unspecified number of special operations personnel who were being inserted into the area.

When the helicopter was approximately 25 feet above the rugged, jungle-covered ground, it suddenly lost power and crashed. No reason for the crash could be determined. SPC Crowley and one passenger were trapped inside the aircraft. Another helicopter arrived on site within minutes. A medic aboard that helicopter entered the wreckage and managed to free the passenger. He found John Crowley was firmly wedged between the aircraft and the ground. After three minutes of working to free the crewchief, the medic determined there were no vital signs and he was dead. All surviving personnel from the downed Huey were extracted from the crash site.

Later that day another rescue team was inserted into the area armed with the necessary tools and equipment to recover SPC Crowley's remains. Because of enemy activity in and around the crash site, the team was unable to reach the helicopter's wreckage. The second recovery team was extracted by helicopter the next day without ever having an opportunity to recover the trapped crewman. John Crowley was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

John E. Crowley is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

While the fate of SPC Crowley is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country that he gave his life for. 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

American servicemen in Vietnam were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances both on and off duty, 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.