Name: Charles Joseph Cudlike 
Rank/Branch: Specialist/US Army 
Unit: Company B, 1st Battalion, 
506th Infantry (Airmobile), 
101st Airborne Division 

Date of Birth: 16 August 1948
Home of Record: Detroit, MI
Date of Loss: 18 May 1969 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 161431N 1071039E (YC312992)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1 "Iroquois"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  On 18 May 1969, SPC Charles J. Cudlike was assigned as a rifleman to Company B, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. His unit was conducting a combat operation to interdict communist men and supplies from entering South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail when they were engaged in battle with Communist forces.

When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

The battle site was located in the hotly contested rugged jungle covered mountains approximately ½ mile east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, on the western edge of the infamous A Shau Valley. This location was also 27 miles west-southwest of Hue City and 35 miles southeast of Khe Sanh, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.

During the battle, SPC Cudlike was wounded. After being treated by the medic, Charles Cudlike and other wounded soldiers were moved from the temporary aid station to the designated landing zone (LZ) for evacuation by medivac helicopter. When the helicopter arrived, the wounded began boarding it. As SPC Cudlike was in the process of doing so, the Huey came under heavy enemy gunfire and the pilot was forced to quickly depart the LZ.

At this time SPC Cudlike was unable to completely board the aircraft. As the helicopter lifted off the ground, he grabbed one of the skids and clung to it as the helicopter pulled up and away from the enemy fire. The medivac's door gunner saw the wounded man hanging from the skid below him. He tried to reach Charles Cudlike to pull him into the Huey; however, due to his own wounds, the door gunner was unable to do so. As soon as the pilot realized what had happened, he immediately began looking for a place to land. Before he could do so, SPC Cudlike lost his grip and fell from the aircraft from an altitude of roughly 500 feet into the dense jungle below.

After the battle, an extensive search and rescue (SAR) operation by air was initiated to search for the missing soldier. During the SAR effort, no trace of Charles Cudlike could be found in or around the area he fell into. At the time the search was terminated, Charles Cudlike was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

There is little double Charles Cudlike died when he fell from the skid of the medivac helicopter into the jungle below. However, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. 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.