|Name:||Hilario "H" Guajardo|
|Rank/Branch:||Private First Class/US Marine Corps|
|Unit:||1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division|
|Date of Birth:||01 December 1947 (San Antonio, TX)|
|Home of Record:||San Antonio, TX|
|Date of Loss:||01 May 1967|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam/Over Water|
|Loss Coordinates:||153013N 1085408E (BT750150)|
|Status in 1973:||Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||CH46A "Sea knight"|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Stan L. Corfield, John H. Bailey, Roger C. Gaughan, Carl A. Smith and Duwayne Soulier (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The Boeing-Vertol CH46 Sea Knight arrived in Southeast Asia on 8 March 1966 and served the Marine Corps throughout the rest of the war. With a crew of three or four depending on mission requirements, the tandem-rotor transport helicopter could carry 24 fully equipped troops or 4600 pounds of cargo and was instrumental in moving Marines throughout South Vietnam, then supplying them accordingly.
On 1 May 1967, Capt. John Tatum, pilot; Lt. Bob Rogers, co-pilot; LCpl. Terry Blosser, crewchief; and SSgt. Stan L. Corfield, door gunner; comprised the crew of a CH46A Sea Knight helicopter, call sign "Buffalo City 2-2," that was the #2 aircraft in a flight of 2. The helicopter, whose crew was from HMM-165, MAG-36, 1st Marine Air Wing; was transporting sick and wounded Marines from the 1st Hospital Company, Chu Lai, Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam to the US Navy's hospital ship, the USS Sanctuary, stationed in the South China Sea.
The following were Marines were being transported aboard Buffalo City 2-2 to the hospital ship for medical treatment:
Sgt. John H. Bailey, Company M, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division
Cpl. Roger C. Gaughan, 3rd Marine Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division
PFC Hilario H. Guajardo, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division
LCpl. Carl A. Smith, Company B, 1st Support Battalion, 1st Marine Division
PFC Duwayne Soulier, Headquarters Company, 7th Command Battalion, 1st Marine Division
The two aircrews of Buffalo City flight began their day at approximately 0500 hours to conduct a Sparrow Hawk mission around the DaNang area. This overall mission included inserting troops, re-supplying others, providing air support for American and Allied troops under fire, and picking up other troops who needed medical evacuation.
It was well after dark when the aircrews prepared to conclude their day's operations. They were flying south along the coastline destined for their base located at Ky Ha when the pilot of the lead aircraft received a radio call from Chu Lai Med, the command center for the hospital. The controller asked if Buffalo City flight would accept a mission to transport some of the sick and wounded from the hospital to the USS Sanctuary? Capt. Nesmith accepted the mission and asked for the number of patients to be transported. He was informed there was a total of 24 patients.
After confirming that there were 13 ambulatory and 11 litter cases, Capt. Nesmith, the pilot of the lead aircraft, radioed Capt. Tatum to inform him that he would transport those who were ambulatory, the lead Sea Knight would transport the litter cases. The ambulatory patients were described as having parasitic diseases. The two helicopters landed on the hospital's helipad, the wounded were loaded aboard and they departed for the USS Sanctuary with Buffalo City 2-1 in the lead and Buffalo City 2-2 in trail.
At approximately 2300 hours, the flight began its approach to the USS Sanctuary, which was approximately 12 miles east-northeast of Chu Lai and 57 miles southeast of DaNang. In order to lighten their load and reduce the risk of a fire, as well as in accordance with standard operating procedure, the flight leader jettisoned his extra fuel before landing on the ship's helipad.
Meanwhile, Buffalo City 2-2 entered a hard right turn circle at 50 knots and approximately 120 feet above the USS Sanctuary while the wounded were removed from the lead aircraft. The ship's duty officer asked the pilot if they would transport another load of troops who were ready to return to duty back to the 1st Hospital Company? Again Capt. Nesmith complied with the request, loaded the 14 passengers aboard his aircraft and took off.
As Buffalo City 2-1 cleared the landing pad, Capt. Tatum told 1st Lt. Rogers to initiate the procedure to jettison their extra fuel while continuing to fly in a hard right turn at an altitude of 120 feet. The co-pilot turned on both of the fuel jettison switches, however, only fuel from the left tank was dumped. As Capt. Tatum turned on final approach to the ship's helipad a minute and a half later, he told 1st Lt. Rogers to shut off the left switch. Unfortunately, 1st Lt. Rogers did not hear him give that order.
As Buffalo City 2-2 continued to circle the USS Sanctuary, Capt. Tatum felt the aircraft sink a little and get sluggish. He glanced at the cockpit gages and saw that the #1 engine had quit. He immediately radioed Capt. Nesmith stating "I've lost an engine." 5 to 10 seconds later, and before they were able to recover the #1 engine, Capt. Tatum reported they lost the #2 engine and were auto-rotating down. Not realizing they were still dumping fuel at an alarming rate, he told 1st Lt. Rogers to jettison more fuel. Capt. Tatum radioed, "I'm going in," before he made a seemingly very soft landing on the surface of the water in a nose-high attitude with no forward speed.
Also at the same time the in-flight emergency was declared, LCpl. Blosser, the crewchief of the #2 aircraft, began walking backward to the rear of the aircraft yelling instructions over the noise of the rotor blades to the passengers. He reinforced the need for each man to remain inside the helicopter until the rotor blades stopped moving, no matter what happened. He restated the instructions as he returned to his own duty position located at the left door. Terry Blosser anticipated the helicopter would settle on the surface of the water and remain afloat for a little while giving the aircrew ample time to evacuate their passengers in an orderly fashion. However, even though the weather was good, there were 8 to 10-foot swells that tipped the Sea Knight on its right side within 2 to 3 seconds causing it to fill with water and sink within 30 seconds. When the aircraft rolled on its right side, it positioned the door gunner's open door straight down under water.
The crew chief went out his door and swam away from the crippled helicopter underwater as far as he could. When he surfaced several feet away, he looked back at the helicopter. All he saw of the aircraft was one wheel remaining on the surface of the water and men hanging onto it. He yelled to them to get away from it because when the aircraft went down, they would be dragged down by the undertow caused by the sinking helicopter. Unfortunately, before he could swim back to help the others, most of them disappeared below the surface.
The pilot, Capt. Tatum, was the last man to get out of the Sea Knight. With the aircraft upside down, he could not open his escape hatch. He climbed into the main cabin through the space between the pilot and co-pilot's seats, then made his way back to the right side doorway, which was the door gunner's duty position. Capt. Tatum went to the rear of the helicopter, then back forward to where there was an air pocket. As the helicopter rapidly filled with water, he went from one end of the helicopter to the other to verify that the rest of his crew and all the passengers were out of it. Finally he took another breath of air from the rapidly diminishing air pocket and exited through the left side doorway as the Sea Knight began to sink deeper into the South China Sea, then swam roughly 20 feet to the surface. When he surfaced, Capt. Tatum heard cries of "help me, I can't swim." At the same time Capt. Tatum declared an emergency, Capt. Nesmith returned to the USS Sanctuary to off-load his passengers in preparation for the search and rescue (SAR) operation. Within minutes Buffalo City 2-1 was back in the air to search for Buffalo City 2-2. Capt. Nesmith and his crew used the aircraft's searchlight to scan the water for survivors, and when they were found, Capt. Nesmith hovered close by while his crew threw life vests and wands to the men to help them stay afloat in the water. At the same time the emergency was declared, small boats were launched from the hospital ship. Of the 17 men aboard the downed helicopter, SAR personnel were able to locate and rescue 11 of them including John Tatum, Bob Rogers and Terry Blosser. The small boat crews picked up 10 men and Buffalo City 2-1's aircrew hoisted 1 out of the water. After rescue, the survivors were transported to the USS Sanctuary where they spent the night. However, while the search personnel were able to locate and recover 11 men, they were unable to find any trace of Sgt. Bailey, SSgt. Corfield, Cpl. Gaughan, PFC Guajardo, LCpl. Smith and PFC Soulier in the darkness and rolling swells. The next day SAR efforts continued, but again found no sign of the missing men. At the time the formal search operation was terminated, John Bailey, Stan Corfield, Roger Gaughan, Hilario Guajardo, Carl Smith and Duwayne Soulier were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. Recently John Tatum was asked about the loss of his aircraft and the subsequent rescue. He stated, "The ship's rescue boats did an outstanding job of getting into the area quickly and throwing life vests in the general area of all visible survivors. Then they began throwing lifelines. Without the rescue boats and Capt. Nesmith's searchlight, there would have been no survivors." Under the circumstances, it is highly unlikely the remains of the men killed in this tragic loss at sea can ever be found. While each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all humanly possible, that would probably never happen in this case. Above all else, each man has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life. 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 fight 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.