|Name:||David Gephart Myers|
|Rank/Branch:||1st Lieutenant/US Marine Corps|
Marine Air Group 16,
1st Marine Air Wing
Khe Sanh, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||19 September 1943 (Bellefonte, PA)|
|Home of Record:||State College, PA|
|Date of Loss:||08 June 1967|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Boyd L. Barclay; Thomas Lantham and Charles Alexander (rescued)|
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.
Because the war in Vietnam lacked a defined front line, the enemy strategy made Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols (LRRP) a needed tool to gather intelligence about communist activities throughout Southeast Asia. The ground commanders who fought the day to day war readily recognized the need for special reconnaissance units at the onset of the fighting. During 1965 provisional LRRP units were formed with all assets they could spare.
When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
Shortly after lunch on 8 June 1967, 1st Lt. David G. Myers, aircraft commander; Capt. Boyd L. "Bo" Barclay, pilot; Cpl. Thomas "Tom" Lanham, crewchief; and LCpl. Charles Alexander, door gunner; comprised the crew of the #2 Huey helicopter gunship, call sign Oak Gate," in a flight of 2 that departed Khe Sanh on an early afternoon mission to provide air support for a ground operation. A Marine company was making a sweep through an area near Hill 881 and Hill 861 where another company had been severely mauled by communist forces the day before. Capt. Brackin, pilot; Robert C. Houston, co-pilot; an unidentified crewchief and door gunner comprised the crew of the lead aircraft.
Due to weather conditions, the gunships were the ground patrol's only air cover because the clouds were too low for fixed wing aircraft to operate safely. The ground mission was to locate, identify and report on enemy activity along a suspected infiltration route used by the NVA as an extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail through the sparsely populated rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 7 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 10 miles northwest of Khe Sanh, 21 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 34 miles west of Quang Tri City, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.
Once over the target area, the gunships' mission commander, Capt. Brackin, established radio contact with the ground company commander. After popping a smoke grenade to identify the position of his troops, the ground commander requested that they check out the tree line north of his troops. Oak Gate lead initiated a machinegun pass on the target area followed immediately by his wingman. After making their low pass over the tree line, 1st Lt. Myers exclaimed, "I think I saw something in that tree line! Let's make a gun run and I'll notify our section leader to follow us down!"
On the second pass over the tree line, the helicopter came under heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. A siren began to scream in the cockpit and the red warning light pulsated. According to Capt. Barclay, "It sounded as if the helicopter was coming apart and the engine had been knocked out." The next burst of AAA fire blew through the cockpit and knocked Bo Barclay's hand into his face, but as he looked, he saw no hand there. There was only bone and blood where once his hand had been.
As he reached across his armored vest to try to find the pressure point on his bicep above the bloody stump, he said, "I'm hit!" Then he heard David Myers state, "I'm dead! I'm dead!" Looking to his right, he saw his aircraft commander's arms dangling at his side and his head slumped on his chest. David Myers had been mortally wounded by a .51 caliber round to his chest. At the same time Tom Lantham glanced forward in time to see the aircraft's windshield shatter and both pilots hit. In that split second, Cpl. Lantham thought, "No one is flying this helicopter!"
Capt. Barclay collected himself and regained control of the crippled aircraft. He forced the collective down and braced it in place with his left knee to keep it there in preparation to auto-rotate to the ground. At the same time he guided the Huey toward a small jungle clearing. Unfortunately, he was unable to execute a normal auto-ration and the Huey went into the foliage instead of the clearing. As the helicopter settled into the trees, it shuddered as the rotors sliced through the treetops before hitting the ground in swirl of dirt and foliage. As it crashed and rolled downhill several times, everything inside the helicopter was being thrown around and out before it came to a skidding stop on its left side.
Meanwhile, Capt. Brackin's aircraft made a 180-degree turn and watched 1st Lt. Myers' helicopter smoking and in obvious distress. Lead followed the damaged Huey as it descended toward the ground; then watched in horror as it crashed on the steep slope and rolled downhill. Oak Gate Lead immediately established radio contact with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) controlling air operations in this sector notifying him of the emergency as he began laying down suppressive fire to protect the downed aircrew. Lead also identified the AAA ground fire coming from a Quad-50 battery that was concealed in the tree line's jungle growth. Capt. Brackin immediately attacked the gun emplacement and destroyed it with rockets.
Once the Huey came to a halt, Bo Barclay un-strapped himself with his functioning hand and crawled out of the aircraft through the right door. He found both Tom Lantham and Charles Alexander squatting on the ground in a daze of disbelief. Capt. Barclay shouted to them to "get a tourniquet and put it on my arm." Immediately one of the men jumped up to retrieve the tail rotor tie down and wrapped it securely around the pilot's mangled arm.
Glancing at the wreckage, Bo Barclay exclaimed, "We have to get him out!" then started to take two steps forward when his leg broke and he fell to the ground in a heap. The crewman closest to the down aircraft peered into the cockpit, saw David Myers still strapped in his seat and shouted, "He's dead, Sir!" Then he quickly added, "They're shooting at us!"
Bo Barclay grabbed his survival radio and made a frantic radio call to the flight leader who was circling overhead. His ears were ringing so loudly that he could not hear what was being said so he handed the radio to one of the others with the order to tell them "my arm is blown off, my leg is broken and our aircraft commander is dead. Tell them that we need an H-46 and hoist to get us out!"
Capt. Brackin responded that search and rescue (SAR) were on their way inbound to their location, that there were no heavy lift helicopters available and the three survivors needed to move to the top of the mountain their Huey rolled down for pickup. Tom Lantham and Charles Alexander clutched Bo Barclay by his flight suit and began the arduous task of pulling him up the side of the mountain. Because it was so steep, the crewmen were on their hands and knees with the injured pilot helping by pushing off with his good leg. Shortly after the exhausted men crested the top of the mountain, they watched the H-34 rescue helicopter set down in the clearing near where they lay hidden in the tall grass. The three survivors were evacuated to Khe Sanh for immediate medical treatment.
Shortly after the loss, US military intelligence learned the NVA had direct control of the downed helicopter within five minutes of its crash. The enemy set an ambush around the Huey's wreckage knowing that the Americans would attempt to recover the aircraft commander's remains as soon as it was feasible to do so. Later when a Marine reaction platoon was inserted into the crash site to recover 1st Lt. Myers' body, they were driven back by the intense enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. At the time the recovery operation was terminated, David Myers was reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
While the fate of 1st Lt. David Myers is not in doubt, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. Likewise, there is no doubt that the Vietnamese could return his remains any time they had the desire to do so. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.
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 fly and 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 so proudly served.