LORD, ARTHUR JAMES

Remains Recovered 14 July 1999; Identified 19 November 2001

Name:  Arthur James Lord
Rank/Branch: Major/US Army
Unit:  478th Aviation Company (Heavy Helicopter),
11th Aviation Group, 1st Cavalry Division
Date of Birth: 06 January 1941 (Athens, GA)
Home of Record: Savannah, GA
Date of Loss: 19 April 1968
Country of Loss:  South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  162127N 1070642E (YD255095) official
(YD 26010 09910) actual

Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH54 “Skycrane”

Other Personnel in Incident: Charles W. Millard; Philip R. Shafer; Michael R. Werdehoff (remains recovered)

REMARKS:CHOPPER CAUGHT FIRE; CRASHED
 

SYNOPSIS:The CH54 Skycrane, also known as the Flying Crane, was a heavy lift helicopter used throughout Southeast Asia to transport really heavy loads of equipment and supplies to their destinations. They were also used to recover damaged aircraft of all types as well as vehicles and equipment when no other means to do so was available. Its unique shape gave it the appearance of a strange prehistoric bird that was missing part of its body flying across the sky.

The A Shau Valley was one of two vital communist strategic areas in South Vietnam. Surrounded by exceptionally rugged mountains many with sheer cliff faces, the valley was located in western Thua Thien Province approximately 5 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border. The long, narrow 25-mile triangular shaped valley, which was covered in jungle, 15 to 20-foot high elephant grass and bamboo groves was an extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail funneling troops and supplies into the acknowledged war zone.

Route 548 was a well traveled road that ran nearly dead center through the valley. It was cleverly concealed and had established bridges over the streams as well as Binh Trams - roadside rest stops with overhead cover that were used for vehicle maintenance, supply depots, etc. The NVA had also constructed a gasoline pipeline running adjacent to the road. At the northern end of the valley was the major NVA staging area known as “Base Area 611.” Because of the valley’s importance to the communists plan for victory, the A Shau was ringed by one of the most sophisticated interlocking anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) battery systems devised to date. Further, at any given time the enemy garrisoned 5,000 to 6,000 troops within their valley stronghold.

Operation Delaware/Lam Son 216 was a joint mission launched to reestablish an American and South Vietnamese presence in the A Shau Valley. To that end on 10 April 1968, a 9-day air campaign to “soften up” the valley in advance of the planned assault began with 21 B-52 air strikes and 209 Air Force and Marine fighter sorties along with artillery barrages that pummeled enemy positions.

At 0930 hours on 19 April 1968, the main assault to establish a fire base on the top of a 3,580-foot ridge on the northwest edge of the A Shau lifted off from a marshalling point located just southwest of Camp Evans. Landing Zone (LZ) Tiger would command the approach into the northern end of the valley from the west. The entire flight, which included 40 lift helicopters and 8 supporting gunships, was forced to climb to 6,000 feet in order to fly over the clouds and descend one at a time into the valley through holes in the overcast. In spite of the heavy bombardment leading up to the assault, each aircraft approaching LZ Tiger ran a gauntlet of withering ground fire ranging from small arms and automatic weapons to .50 caliber machine guns and radar controlled 37mm AAA fire.

Ultimately the decision was made to establish a second LZ Tiger approximately 900 feet below the first with original one known as LZ Tiger Upper and the second as LZ Tiger Lower. Interestingly, the exact location of each was determined by the placement of bomb craters. This situation also contributed to the placement of Signal Hill, Vicky, Pepper, A Luoi, Stallion, Goodman and Cecil, the other fire base/landing zones that were established as part of Operation Delaware.

Then Capt. Arthur J. Lord, aircraft commander; CWO3 Charles W. Millard, pilot; SP6 Michael R. Werdehoff, flight engineer; and SP4 Philip K. Shafer, crew chief; comprised the crew of the lead Skycrane (serial #64-14205), in a flight of two that were each delivering a bulldozer to LZ Tiger so that the work to establish the firebase could continue. The flight was under the radar control of Camp Evans.

According to CWO Ted Jenkins, the aircraft commander of the #2 Skycrane (serial #67-18418) in this flight, “The sky was very overcast to the west and as we climbed over the overcast and were vectored west, radar at Evans said they “believed” they knew where we should start our letdown and when we cleared below just go left down the valley. We had coordinates and the LZ was at the end of this range on a slender ridge or finger.

We were now hearing all kinds of radio traffic. Not the good kind. As soon as we dropped below the overcast, the gunfire started and the cockpit chatter from everyone in the valley never ceased. Other pilots were yelling ‘Get out of there!’ – we (CWO Jenkins and Major Cardwell, the pilot) didn’t know who they were talking to. Tracers followed us the entire way and never stopped. Some of them were almost indescribable, more like red and yellow bowling balls.”

CWO Jenkins went on, “I don’t remember either of us saying anything until we saw 205 (Capt. Lord’s aircraft) overshoot the LZ and make a right turn for another approach coming back in behind us. Then it was just ‘oh shit.’ It was our good fortune that we sighted Tiger further out than 205 did and I’m sure their misfortune helped us identify the LZ and set up the approach early. One of our crew members said that 205 was coming back, but they were behind us a ways and then he said, ‘Sir, she’s blown up!’”

At 1510 hours, the lead Skycrane crashed in flames into the middle of the valley floor below approximately 500 yards behind 418.

CWO Jenkins’ aircraft passed over the still burning wreckage of a CH47 that was lying on its side directly under their flight path on the edge of LZ Tiger. Fortunately, the aircrew of that downed helicopter had been rescued shortly after the loss. Ted Jenkins added, “We made it to the LZ, and it seemed like an eternity hovering with our tail out over the CH47 while the load was winched down and released. At this time most of the tracers seemed to be coming from the rear.”

Once the bulldozer was on the ground, Major Cardwell took the controls and rapidly climbed straight up for altitude. Once above the clouds, he turned on a heading that would take them back to Camp Evans. At the same time due the heavy enemy presence is the valley, only a visual and electronic search was conducted for the crew of the downed Skycrane. When no sign of life was seen in or around the crash site and no emergency beepers heard, Arthur Lord, Charles Millard, Michael Werdehoff and Philip Shafer were declared Missing in Action.

Beginning in 1992, several joint US/Vietnamese teams under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) traveled to the A Shau Valley, A Luoi District, Thua Thien Province to investigate several losses, including that of the Skycrane. They interviewed several witnesses who possessed firsthand and hearsay information about case.

In the summer of 1998 they were taken to a site where they found numerous pieces of wreckage consistent with a CH-54 helicopter. The team cleared away all vegetation and laid out a grid over the crash site area. During the first excavation, they found life support equipment, person effects, possible human teeth and fragments of possible human bone. A month later another team returned to the site to continue the excavation. They found additional wreckage and possible human remains along with cockpit related items.

A third JTFFA team returned to the crash site area in late spring 1999 to excavate the region down slope from the impact crater. The found additional pieces of the helicopter including cockpit avionics, more life support material and personal effects along with a substantial amount of bulldozer wreckage. The team also recovered one more piece of possible human bone.

On 7 May 1999, the excavation site was closed and all personal effects and possible human remains were turned over to the Vietnamese Office Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) for repatriation to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination.

On 19 November 2001, the remains of Capt. Lord, CW3 Millard, SP6 Werdehoff and SP4 Shafer were positively identified through dental comparison and mt-DNA. Shortly thereafter each man’s remains were returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

While the families and friends of Arthur Lord, Charles Millard, Michael Werdehoff and Philip Shafer have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved one lies, for other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

>p>Since the end of the Vietnam War, 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.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fight in many dangerous circumstances, and were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they proudly served

.

During Operation Delaware/Lam Son 216 enemy gunners damaged 25 helicopters including 10 that were shot down. Of those 10 losses, 4 were lost within 5 kilometers of each other and had aircrews or a passenger declared POW/MIA..