HUNTLEY, JOHN NORMAN

Name:  John Norman Huntley
Rank/Branch: Private First Class/US Army
Unit:  57th Aviation Company,
17th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade 

Date of Birth: 01 March 1951(Spencer,MA)
Home of Record: Portland, ME
Date of Loss: 27 September 1969 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  144351N 1073316E (YB458318)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  UH1H "Iroquois"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS:
 

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.

On 27 September 1969, PFC John N. Huntley was the door gunner of a UH1H helicopter on an extraction mission to recover a Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) that was operating west of the hotly contested tri-border area where the countries of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. The Huey's crew lowered 4 ropes to the waiting reconnaissance team members who hooked up and then were lifted out of the dense jungle located deep within enemy held territory approximately 10 miles north of the Lao/Cambodian border, 16 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, 20 miles from Dak Seang, South Vietnam and 32 miles east-southeast of Attopeu City, Attopeu Province, Laos.

As the helicopter lifted away from the extraction site with 4 men attached to the rigs, and at an altitude of 400 feet, the Huey came under heavy volumes of enemy small arms and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire striking the aircraft in the engine compartment and causing immediate engine failure. The pilots were able to slow the descent somewhat by autorotation. However, according to survivors, the aircraft twisted and bounced hard before coming to rest on its right side.

Some of the Americans were temporarily knocked unconsciousness, then regained it as the aircraft's pilot and co-pilot attempted to extricate the limp body of PFC Huntley from beneath the burning helicopter. While they were doing so, the fuel tanks exploded knocking them all to the ground. Because of the spreading fire and intense heat, as well as the communist's continuing attack on the downed Americans, all further attempts to rescue the door gunner were rendered impossible.

A second helicopter arrived on site and successfully evacuated the surviving aircrew and team members. The remains of John Huntley were believed to have been partially or totally consumed in the fire. Because the area was under total enemy control, no ground search was possible and John Huntley as immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence-gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. Military Assistance Command Vietnam - Studies and Observation Group's (MACV-SOG) teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.

John Huntley is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

While the fate of PFC Huntley is not in doubt, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible. 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 and Laos 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.