|Name:||Jerry William Elliott|
|Rank/Branch:||Staff Sergeant/US Army|
17th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
|Date of Birth:||14 July 1948|
|Home of Record:||Greenville, MS|
|Date of Loss:||21 January 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Billy D. Hill (missing)|
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," troop carriers were referred to as "Slicks" and 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.
On 21 June 1968, Captain Tommy C. Stiner, pilot; WO Gerald L. McKensey, Jr., co-pilot; SSgt. Billy D. Hill, door gunner; and SP5 David H. Harrington, crewchief; comprised the crew of the lead UH1D helicopter in a flight of two. Also onboard the lead aircraft was Lt. Col. Semyo, senior advisor to the ARVN unit being inserted. then PFC Jerry W. Elliott was the door gunner on the #2 aircraft in the flight. The flight was on a troop insertion mission to insert ARVN troops into an old French fort located in a clearing covered in tall elephant grass and surround by jungle approximately 1200 meters east of Khe Sanh and 8 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.
As WO McKensey's aircraft touched down on the landing zone (LZ), NVA troops stood up all around the helicopter and began firing at almost point blank range. As soon as all the ARVN troops were off-loaded, the Huey lifted off. At an altitude of 8-10 feet above the ground, the aircraft was struck by either a 57mm recoilless rifle shell, or it sustained a direct hit from an enemy mortar round. The crippled helicopter immediately burst into flames and crashed to the ground.
As the lead Huey was descending to the LZ, Capt. Stiner last saw SSgt. Hill just prior to the aircraft being hit in the crew compartment where the door gunner was manning his machine gun. Capt. Stiner stated that Billy Hill was probably struck by the same volley of rounds that downed the aircraft because his machine gun was observed blown to pieces. However, the pilot added he did not know that to be the case for a fact.
The second helicopter landed approximately 50-60 feet away from the wreckage. PFC Elliott, the door gunner along with the #2 Huey's crewchief, exited their aircraft to assist the survivors of the downed helicopter. In a matter of seconds, the crewchief reentered his aircraft and advised the pilot to take off because of the intense enemy ground fire. The Huey lifted off leaving Jerry Elliott on the ground to fend for himself.
Capt. Stiner exited the aircraft successfully, evaded capture and made his way to friendly lines. Before taking evasive action himself, Capt. Stiner briefly searched the area for members of his crew. SP5 Harrington also safely exited the Huey and was also able to evade capture by boarding one of the rescue aircraft that landed in the LZ. WO McKensey was killed while escaping with Capt. Stiner and Lt. Col. Semyo was known to have succumbed to wounds received while being pinned underneath the wreckage. Capt. Stiner could find no sign of SSgt. Hill in or around the crash site.
Because of the heavy enemy presence that remained in the area, no immediate air or ground search and recovery (SAR) attempt was possible. Billy Hill and Jerry Elliott were listed Missing in Action while Gerald McKensey and Lt. Col. Semyo were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
Three days after the loss, a visual search by helicopter examined the crash site and surrounding area for signs of the four missing Americans. The aircrew observed bodies lying in the tall elephant grass and small trees, but only one appeared to be an American. By process of elimination, the pilot determined that the body must be that of PFC Elliott even though there was no way to positively identify the body as his.
When a search team from Graves Registration was able to enter the crash site, they successfully recovered the remains of WO McKensey and Lt. Col. Semyo. Both men's remains were positively identified and returned to their families for burial. The team thoroughly searched the entire area in and around the ambush site, but found no trace of Jerry Elliott or Billy Hill. Likewise, they found no evidence of freshly dug graves.
While it appears Billy Hill and Jerry Elliott died in this ambush, there is no way to know for sure. If they are dead, there is no doubt the communists could return each man's remains to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, they most certainly would have been captured and their 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 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, 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.