GEIST, STEPHEN JONATHAN "STEVE"

Name: Stephen Jonathan "Steve" Geist 
Rank/Branch: Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: Company A, Detachment A-334, 
5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces                 





Date of Birth: 12 April 1946 (Philadelphia, PA)
Home of Record: Silver Springs, MD
Date of Loss: 26 September 1967 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113115N 1062952E (XT633739)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1D "Bird Dog"
Other Personnel In Incident: Lynn R. Huddleston (missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  The low flying, slow and vulnerable Cessna O1 Bird Dog Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft were inherited by the Air Force from the Army when the Army lost command of this fix-wing observation fleet during 1965. For armament the aircraft itself usually only carried white phosphorous target marker rockets that were mounted beneath the wings. The aircrews, however, carried their own personal weapons, which added a limited degree of firepower to this daring little aircraft. The Bird Dog was not only vulnerable to enemy ground fire, it was also at risk of being accidentally hit by friendly fire from other aircraft because its shape and speed helped it blend into its surroundings. Later in the war the Bird Dog's upper wing was painted white or orange to emphasize the slow-moving aircraft's position to friendly strike aircraft.

Steve Geist left college to join the Army, and graduated from Special Forces training third in his class. He had a choice of training and assignments, and selected to become a heavy weapons specialist and volunteered for Vietnam. He left his treasured old Chevy, "Black Beauty," to the care of his parents. His letters to his family were filled with sadness of the death he saw, and of hopeful anticipation of his return.

t 0910 hours on 26 September 1967, 1st Lt. Lynn R. Huddleston, pilot; and then Sgt. Stephen J. Geist, observer; comprised the crew of an O1D Bird Dog that departed Minh Thanh Airfield to conduct a visual reconnaissance mission of the surrounding area, which was somewhat populated and hotly contested. 1st Lt. Huddleston was assigned to the 74th Aviation Company, 145th Aviation Battalion while Sgt. Geist was assigned to Company A, Detachment A-334, 5th Special Forces Group.

At 0930 hours, 1st Lt. Huddleston established radio contact with Detachment A-332's communications center. He again established radio contact at 1030 hours, which was the last contact with the aircraft and its crew. During both transmissions he reported the flight was progressing normally. During the last radio contact with 1st Lt. Huddleston, he gave their position as being "in the vicinity of grid coordinates XT633739," which placed them over the dense triple canopy jungle approximately 4 miles south of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border. The Bird Dog's position was also confirmed by the Hon Quan Radar station that was also monitoring the flight.

By 1300 hours, the Bird Dog was declared overdue. A communications search was initiated at 1310 hours of all airfields in the region to which the aircrew might have diverted. When the communications search proved negative, a full-scale search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated 20 minutes later employing all available air and ground assets. Because no emergency Mayday call was heard, no one knows if the aircraft was downed due to mechanical failure or enemy action. Further, the O1 Bird Dog has an exceptionally good glide configuration, and because of it, the aircraft could have traveled several miles in any direction with no power.

Three days after the formal search was initiated, it was terminated when no trace of 1st Lt. Huddleston, Sgt. Geist or their aircraft was found. At that time Lynn Huddleston and Steve Geist were reported as Missing in Action.

The last known position of the Bird Dog is also its official loss location. It is over triple canopy jungle laced with rivers, streams, footpaths and trails running in all directions. The location was less than ¼ mile west of Route 246, approximately 5 miles south-southeast of the South Vietnamese/Cambodian border, 8 miles due north of Minh Thanh and 9 miles southwest of An Loc. It was also 29 miles northeast of Tay Ninh and 53 miles north-northwest of Saigon, Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam.

If Steve Geist and Lynn Huddleston died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, 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.

Pilots and aircrew 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.