|Name:||Frankie B. Johnson|
|Rank/Branch:||Sergeant First Class/US Army|
10th Aviation Battalion,
16th Aviation Group,
1st Aviation Brigade
|Date of Birth:||04 November 1947 (Greensville, SC)|
|Home of Record:||Fountainhead, SC|
|Date of Loss:||21 April 1968|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||161810N 1071956E (YD481033)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Floyd W. Olsen; Robert C. Link; James E. Creamer, Jr.; Lyle MacKedanz, Larry C. Jamerson (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.
On 21 April 1968, Capt. Floyd W. Olsen, aircraft commander; WO2 Robert C. Link, pilot; then SP5 Frankie B. Johnson, Jr., crew chief; SP4 Larry C. Jamerson, door gunner; comprised the crew of a helicopter (serial #66-16209) in a flight conducting a combat mission. Also on board the Huey were passengers SSgt. Lyle E. MacKedanz and SP4 James E. Creamer.
The aircraft left Phu Cat with rigging equipment for a recovery from Landing Zone (LZ) Zeghel. In the last communication with Capt. Olsen, he reported the recovery had been canceled because of the inclement weather and tactical situation in the area. When the Huey failed to return to base, several attempts to contact him by radio proved unsuccessful. Further, ramp checks of all airfields and camps in the area revealed the aircraft had not diverted to any of them. The last known location of the Huey was when it was over extremely rugged double-canopy jungle covered mountains approximately 4 miles northeast of the notorious A Shau Valley, 12 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 17 miles southwest of Hue and 24 miles west-southwest of the Hue/Phu Bai Airfield, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
On 22 April, an extensive visual and electronic search was conducted from dawn until 1830 hours. Search and rescue (SAR) operations continued throughout the next week with the following results:
- On 8 May, elements of the
8th ARVN Airborne Division found SP5 Johnson's dog tags in a non-US 3/4-ton
- On 25 May, a UH1C gunship from the 101st Airborne Division sighted a tail boom of a crashed helicopter.
- On 26 May, the downed aircraft was positively identified by its tail number by a Huey aircrew from the 17th Armored Calvary. - On 27 May, the main rotor blades were found in a river bed 200 meters west of the tail by Company A, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry who was conducting a ground search of the crash site area. Before the search team could locate the main cabin section of the Huey, they came under enemy fire and were forced to depart the area. However, they were able to determine the helicopter was downed by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. At the time the formal search was terminated, Larry Jamerson, Floyd Olsen, Robert Link, James Creamer, Lyle MacKedanz and Frankie Johnson were listed Missing in Action.
In the fall of 1985, a declassified CIA document was obtained that contained drawings of a Viet Cong (VC) detention center where US servicemen were detained through 1969 prior to their being moved north to Hanoi. This POW camp was located just 20 miles southwest of Camp Eagle, a major American base near Hue, South Vietnam. The document contained drawings in great detail made by the Communists, a list of prisoners incarcerated there, and another list of US servicemen identified from photographs. The name of SSgt. Lyle MacKedanz was on that list of positively identified prisoners. Other names of men who were identified as POWs in that camp were confirmed when they were released in 1973 during Operation Homecoming. One of them has verified the authenticity of the report as far as the camp itself is concerned.
If the crew of the Huey was killed in their aircraft loss, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived their loss, they most certainly would have been captured and 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews 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.