|Name:||Wallace Wilson "Skeeter" Leeper|
|Rank/Branch:||Chief Warrant Officer 3/US Army|
268th Combat Aviation Battalion,
17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade
|Date of Birth:||24 April 1947|
|Home of Record:||Wellington, CO|
|Date of Loss:||02 December 1967|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Richard A. Crosby; Manuel J. Moreida and Floyd W. Strange (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 2 December 1967, then WO Wallace "Skeeter" Leeper, aircraft commander; WO Floyd W. Strange, pilot; SP4 Manuel J. Moreida, crewchief; and SP4 Richard A. Crosby, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1D helicopter (aircraft #66-00811) that was conducting an administrative mission to return Captain Woo Shik Pak, a South Korean officer, to his unit. The helicopter departed Phu Hiep Airfield for the short flight to the Republic of Korea (ROK) facility, which was located on the coast approximately 25 miles southwest of Phu Hiep Airfield and 5 miles southwest of the village of Van Ninh, Phu Yen Province, South Vietnam.
Weather conditions were marginal with low overcast clouds and rain. The terrain between Phu Hiep and their destination included forested rolling mountains from the shore westward. Rice fields were scattered from the mountain foothills to the shore. Highway 1, the primary north/south road that ran nearly the full length of the country and usually within a few miles west of the coastline, ran along side a single-track railroad line. Both were located 1 to 3 miles inland. The Huey's planned flight path was also over a populated region that was dotted with small hamlets and villages.
The Huey was last seen as it departed Phu Hiep Airfield and flew toward the southeast in order to follow the coast. When the helicopter failed to return to base at the scheduled time, a communications and ramp check was initiated without success. Search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated. Aircraft searched along the coastline and mountains from 3-9 December. At the same time the aerial operation was underway, ground troops questioned local residents along the briefed flight path. Unfortunately, no information about the Huey's fate was forthcoming.
Subsequent information indicated the aircraft crashed and burned in the mountains north of Vung Ro Bay. The northern edge of the Bay was located 12 miles south of their airfield. When no trace of the aircraft or crew and passenger could be found, the formal search operation was terminated and Richard Crosby, Wallace Leeper, Manuel Moreida and Floyd Strange were listed Missing in Action.
On 3 September 1973, a source reported that 3 local villagers of Hoa Xuan village reported that they had discovered a US helicopter with 2 or 3 remains in uniform at the crash site. Other reports were received by US intelligence personnel that this report possibly correlated to this incident, but later when the wreckage was examined, the hulk belonged to another aircraft loss.
If Richard Crosby, Wallace Leeper, Manuel Moreida, Floyd Strange and Woo Shik Pak died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, their fate, like that of other Americans and Allied personnel 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 American POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
American military personnel 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.