Name: Randall David "Randy" Dalton 
Rank/Branch: Specialist 4th Class/US Army 
Unit: Troop A, 3rd Armored Squadron,
17th Cavalry (Air Cavalry),
12th Aviation Group 

Date of Birth: 05 December 1950 (Alton, IL)
Home of Record: Collinsville, IL
Date of Loss: 24 July 1971 
Country of Loss: Cambodia 
Loss Coordinates: 120327N 1063522E (XU730333)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A "Cayuse"
Other Personnel In Incident: Gregory A. Antuanano (missing); Timothy G. Wiltrout (rescued) 


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.

The members of this aircrew were assigned to Troop A, 3rd Armored Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 12 the Aviation Group that was responsible for air cavalry support in the western part of III Corps Tactical Zone. In late 1970, it was placed under the operational control of the 1st Cavalry Division to form a highly successful ad hoc Air Cavalry Brigade.

On 8 February 1971, South Vietnamese President Thieu announced Lam Son 719, a large-scale offensive against enemy communications and supply lines in that part of Laos adjacent to the two northern provinces of South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The mission was to interdict the flow of supplies from North Vietnam. The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) would provide and command ground forces, while US forces would provide airlift and supporting fire. Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by the US from Vandegrift Base Camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, as the US Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones.

On 24 July 1971, WO1 Timothy G. "Tim" Wiltrout, pilot; Sgt. Gregory A. "Greg" Antuanano, observer; and SP4 Randall D. "Randy" Dalton, door gunner; comprised the crew of an OH6A (serial #17-257) in a flight that was conducting a reconnaissance mission for ARVN troops to locate and identify enemy forces believed to be operating in the hotly contested and heavily forested region east-southeast of the city of Snuol, Kracheh Province, Cambodia.

As the Loach flew low over the trees, it was struck by hostile ground fire. WO1 Wiltrout was able to crash-land the crippled helicopter. Another aircrew witnessed the loss and immediately radioed the Forward Air Controller (FAC) apprising him of the situation. In turn the FAC requested a search and rescue (SAR) operation to be initiated for the downed aircrew. At the same time, the rest of the flight provided air cover to keep the enemy away from the crash site, which was located approximately 5 miles north of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 9 miles east-southeast of Snuol and 12 miles north of Loc Ninh, South Vietnam.

When SAR personnel arrived a short time later, they found Tim Wiltrout outside the downed Loach. He sustained a broken leg in the crash, but was otherwise unhurt. Greg Antuanano and Randy Dalton were both still strapped in their seats inside the wreckage. Both men were carefully removed from the helicopter and placed near it on the ground. The medic examined both men for types of injuries each sustained as well as for signs of life. He believed Sgt. Antuanano had already died from his extensive wounds.

SP4 Dalton was seriously injured, but still alive. As the medic worked to stop the bleeding and stabilize him for evacuation, SP4 Dalton stopped breathing. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. The medic turned his attention to stabilizing WO1 Wiltrout's broken leg. As that task was accomplished, the medic again checked both SP4 Dalton and Sgt. Antuanano several times for any signs of life. After he satisfied himself that both men were dead, he so informed the other SAR personnel.

Tim Wiltrout was prepared for evacuation and loaded aboard the waiting SAR helicopter. At the same time, other team members prepared to place Randy Dalton and Greg Antuanano into body bags for their recovery. The Americans were informed that a large number of enemy soldiers were rapidly moving into the area and they needed to immediately get out.

The rescue team scrambled aboard the helicopter and departed under fire. As they pulled away from the crash site, WO1 Wiltrout and the rescue personnel saw both men's bodies lying near the downed helicopter along with their personal equipment and weapons. They also saw communist troops converging on the crash site.

The following day, several additional SAR aircraft returned to the area of loss in an attempt to recover Sgt. Antuanano and SP4 Dalton's remains. As they approached the crash site, they noted that the aircraft had been stripped of anything usable and moved several feet from where it originally landed. Further, once on the ground, they noted that the men's remains along with all personal effects including their helmets, weapons and the aircraft radio had also been removed from the site.

The recovery personnel searched in and around the crash site for any sign of Sgt. Antuanano and SP4 Dalton's bodies, but found none. Next, the SAR team searched the area by air. That effort also failed to detect any trace of the missing men's remains or any freshly dug graves. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Randy Dalton and Greg Antuanano were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

While the fate of Randy Dalton and Greg Antuanano is not in doubt, each man has a right to have his remains returned to their family, friends and country. Above all else, they have the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which they gave their lives.

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 and Cambodia 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.