|Name:||Jerry Wayne Hendrix|
|Rank/Branch:||Staff Sergeant/US Marine Corps|
|Unit:||HMM-165, Marine Air Group-36,
1st Marine Air Wing USS Tripoli
|Date of Birth:||27 December 1942 (Wichita, KS)|
|Home of Record:||Wichita, KS|
|Date of Loss:||11 July 1972|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:|| 163433N 1072250E (YD345644)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||CH53D “Sea Stallion”|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Kenneth L. Crody (missing)|
SYNOPSIS:The Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion was the largest, fastest and most powerful heavy lift helicopter in the US Marine Corps’ inventory. Its primary mission was to move cargo and equipment in a timely manner. Its secondary role was to transport troops. The helicopter’s cargo/troop compartment was 30 feet long, 7 ½ feet wide and 6 ½ feet high with a rear door and loading ramp as well as a remotely controlled winch located at the forward end of the compartment capable to lifting downed aircraft or sling-loaded cargo. There was sufficient space available to transport a jeep with trailer, a 105mm howitzer or a Hawk missile system. It was also able to carry 38 combat-equipped Americans or 50 South Vietnamese troops. When conducting a medivac mission, it could transport a total of 24 litter patients. The Sea Stallion was unique in its capacity to make emergency water landings and takeoffs if necessary.
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 11 July 1972, as part of Lam Son 719 Phase II, a total of 34 US Marine helicopters and their aircrews participated in a major troop insertion operation into LZ Blue Jay and LZ Crow. Capt. Erickson, pilot; Capt. Bowman, co-pilot; SSgt. Clyde K. Nelson, crewchief; SSgt. Jerry W. Hendrix, door gunner; and Cpl. Kenneth L. “Kenny” Crody, door gunner; comprised the crew of a CH-53D helicopter (serial #156658) assigned to the USS Tripoli. Also onboard this aircraft was a US Marine combat photographer from Battalion Landing Team (BLT), 1st Battalion, 9th Marines and 50 Vietnamese Marines.
LZ Blue Jay and LZ Crow were located close together in a densely populated and hotly contested sector of northeastern I Corps approximately 2 miles southwest of the coastline, 6 miles north-northeast of Quang Tri City and 11 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. Numerous hamlets and villages dotted the coastal plain to the north, south and west of the LZs while marshes with scattered rice fields were located to the east of them. The Dam Cho Chua River, which was a major tributary that branched off of the Cua Viet River, flowed roughly ¼ mile west of the planned landing zones and Highway 560 was located ½ mile west of them.
The aircrews were assigned to either HMM-164 from the USS Okinawa or HMM-165 from the USS Tripoli, and the Americans were transporting a total of 840 Vietnamese Marines, who were assigned to the 1st Vietnamese Marine Battalion, along with their equipment, rations and 12,000 rounds of ammunition. The troop carriers, which totaled one half of all helicopters participating in this mission, were protected by AH-1G Cobra and UH1H Huey gunships.
After picking up the Vietnamese troops and their gear, all aircraft proceeded toward LZ Blue Jay and LZ Crow in an assault formation. Before the troop transports arrived onsite, the entrenched NVA positions surrounding the designated landing zones were subjected to an intense barrage from artillery and air attacks. Once the barrage was lifted, the Cobra and Huey gunships fired upon any visible enemy position while the Sea Stallions raced toward the LZs to unload their passengers.
As the transports approached their respective LZs, they came under intense NVA ground fire from entrenched bunkers and firing pits. The vulnerable Sea Stallions were exposed to an intense crossfire from small arms, heavy weapons, rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) and missiles.
As the battle raged around them, helicopter #156658 approached the LZ. Capt. Erickson flared before descending toward the landing zone. When the Sea Stallion reached an altitude of 100 feet above the ground, the well-armed communist forces fired a ground-to-air missile at the vulnerable aircraft. The missile, which was either a SA-2 or an SA-7, struck it in its starboard power plant sending engine turbine fragments down and forward into the passenger compartment devastating its occupants and igniting fuel and ammunition. With the assistance of Capt. Bowman, Capt. Erickson auto-rotated the flaming aircraft to the ground in a controlled “crash and burn” procedure. As they did so, the heat and fire continued to ignite more ammunition causing a series of explosions within the fuselage. As soon as the helicopter touched down, only a few surviving crewmen and passengers were able to escape the intense inferno.
According to witnesses, Jerry Hendrix, Kenny Crody and the majority of the Vietnamese Marines were killed outright and their remains incinerated in the fire that literally consumed the Sea Stallion. Once on the ground Clyde Nelson was on fire as he exited the helicopter’s wreckage. Capt. Erickson and Capt. Bowman, who were already out of the burning hulk, put the fire out and then pulled him into the relative safety of a nearby bomb crater. The combat photographer and 7 passengers were the only other survivors of this incident.
The seven Vietnamese Marines successfully escaped and evaded enemy forces to reach the safety of friendly lines. The four Americans stayed together in the bomb crater. As the battle continued all around them, the Sea Stallion’s wreckage burned until very little of it was left. When the wreckage cooled sufficiently, the Americans watched NVA troops poke through the twisted wreckage and ashes. Fortunately, their hiding place remained undetected.
At dusk a Vietnamese Marine search and rescue (SAR) patrol successfully reached the bomb crater. After treating their wounds, the Marines transported the Americans to friendly lines. Afterward, a US Army Medevac helicopter evacuated Clyde Nelson to an American hospital and the pilot, co-pilot and combat photographer to the USS Tripoli. Later SSgt. Nelson was moved to a special burn unit located at Ft. Sam Houston Army Medical Center, San Antonio, TX where he died of his injuries on 9 August 1972. At the time of loss, Kenny Crody and Jerry Hendrix were immediately declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.In mid-2000, a joint US/Vietnamese team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) traveled
to Quang Tri Province, Vietnam to investigate this loss incident. They cleared the area of trees and under growth, and established a search grid over it. Over the next weeks, the team found one of Kenny Crody’s dog tags as well as his high school class ring. They also found and recovered other personal affects including parts of a double-edged razor, nail clippers, part of a comb, part of a wristwatch and a standard military issued fork and can opener. In addition, the team recovered bone fragments that had been fused together by the intense heat of the fire.>[?On 29 August 2000, the crash site excavation was closed. Shortly thereafter all possible human remains were transported to the US Army’s Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination.
On 23 April 2004, the families were notified that because of the small size and poor condition of the recovered bone fragments, DNA analysis was not possible and no individual identification could be made. Under the circumstances, CIL-HI forensic personnel issued a group identification for Kenny Crody and Jerry Hendrix. Marine Corps Casualty personnel presented all information available about the recovery and identification to the Crody and Hendrix families, and based on the reality of the loss, both families accepted the identification. These commingled remains were interred in Arlington National Cemetery in a joint burial under a headstone bearing both men’s names in the summer of 2004.
The families and friends of Kenny Crody and Jerry Hendrix finally have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved ones lie. However, 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
American military men were called upon to fly and 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.