|Name:||Frank Sanchez Hernandez|
|Rank/Branch:||Specialist 4th Class/US Army|
|Unit:||Company B, 158th
160th Aviation Group,
101st Airborne Division
|Date of Birth:||02 December 1947 (Sangor, CA)|
|Home of Record:||Fresno, CA|
|Date of Loss:||06 May 1970|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view(4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Richard C. Worthington (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," the troop carriers were referred to as "slicks" and the 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.
Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley. Highway 92 ran along the west side and Highway 919 along the east. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.
More American aircraft were downed in this sector than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center and contained the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees and were expertly camouflaged.
On 6 May 1970, CW2 Richard C. Worthington, pilot; WO1 Robert L. Kirk, co-pilot; SP4 William C. Weiss Jr., crew chief; and SP4 Frank S. Hernandez, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter (serial #68-15663) that was in a flight of several other helicopters laying a smoke screen between friendly ground troops on a landing zone (LZ) and enemy positions approximately 3 miles east of Khe Sanh and 12 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border where NVA troops and supplies infiltrated from Oscar Eight into Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. The area was also 3 miles south of Highway QL9, the primary east/west road running through this region; 5 miles north of the closest location on the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 10 miles northeast of the Lang Vei Special Forces Camp and 25 miles southwest of Quang Tri City.
In the chaos of battle as the Hueys laid down the smoke screen, CW2 Worthington's helicopter skid had struck the main rotor of another helicopter causing both aircraft to crash land. In his after action debriefing, a survivor from the second helicopter stated he did not see any hostile fire directed at the helicopters at the time of the mid-air collision. However, in the heat of battle, the attention of all crewmen was focused on the battle raging below them.
Later in the day, a search and rescue (SAR) team was dispatched to the area where both helicopters crash-landed, which was located on the side of a fairly steep and rugged mountainside. The Song Quang Tri River was located to the east of the Hueys' wreckage and generally flowed north/south before it wrapped around the north side of the mountain and then flowed toward the west.
The rescue/recovery team found and recovered 2 bodies that were later identified by US mortuary personnel as the remains of WO Kirk and SP4 Weiss. However, they found no trace of either CW2 Worthington or SP4 Hernandez in or around the Huey. When the team members examined the wreckage of #68-15663, they saw no signs of anyone having left the crash site area. At the time, it was believed that there were no survivors from that aircraft.
As for the crew of the second helicopter, all four men survived the crash landing and returned to US control. At the time the search operation was terminated, Frank Hernandez and Richard Worthington were reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 1 North Vietnamese radio message was intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: "4th Company, 2nd Battalion, 83rd Regiment; claims shootdown of two helicopters." Ironically and uncharacteristically, this report makes no mention of the fate of either aircrew.
If Richard Worthington and Frank Hernandez died in the loss of their helicopter, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, they most certainly could have been captured and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is little doubt that the Vietnamese know what happened and could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.
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 aircrews 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.