PATTON, KENNETH JAMES

Name: Kenneth James Patton 
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Army 
Unit: B Troop, 1st Squad 
9th Cavalry, 
1st Cavalry Division 

Date of Birth: 13 May 1943 
Home of Record: McKee's Rock, PA
Date of Loss: 02 February 1968 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 161209N 1081006E  (AT960937) 
Click coordinates to view  (4)  maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1 "Iroquois"
Other Personnel In Incident: Charles L. Adkins, Joe H. Pringle, Joseph D. Puggi, and Donald I. Burnham (missing) 

REMARKS:  CRASHSITE/PRINGLE ID FOUND

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 February 1967, Capt. Donald Burnham, pilot;  then SP4 Kenneth Patton, crewchief;  SP4 Charles Adkins, door gunner; comprised the crew of an UH1H helicopter (aircraft #66-16442) that departed Camp Evans for Chu Lai, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. There is no record of a co-pilot being assigned to this flight. Also aboard the Huey were passengers SFC Joe Pringle and SSgt Joseph Puggi.

As the helicopter approached the major US military base at DaNang from the northwest, it came under the base's ground radar control center. The controller monitoring all air traffic in the area lost both radio and radar contact with the Huey. The last known position of the helicopter was when it was over dense jungle approximately 12 miles north of DaNang and less than 1 mile east of the coastline on a small finger of land that jutted out into the Gulf of Tonkin. This was also 62 miles north-northwest of their destination.

After multiple attempts to contact Capt. Burnham by radio failed, ramp checks of the nearby airfields were conducted by another pilot from his unit in the hope that the Huey landed at one of them. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated to search the area north of DaNang, but found no trace of the aircraft or its crew and passengers. At the time the formal search was terminated, Donald Burnham, Joe Pringle, Charles Adkins, Kenneth Patton and Joseph Puggi were listed Missing in Action.

On 28 May 1968, nearly 4 months after the Huey's disappearance, burned wreckage of the Huey was located in the general vicinity of loss and identified by it's aircraft number. A search party was inserted into the crash site where they recovered an ID tag belonging to SFC Pringle, several weapons, and some bone fragments believed to be human. The ID tag and weapons were given to an unidentified major; and all subsequent attempts to trace their whereabouts proved unsuccessful.

The remains were delivered to the US Army Mortuary at DaNang. Once examined, laboratory personnel determined they were human, but unidentifiable due to their poor condition and the small amount of fragments. All recovery efforts were terminated on 16 November 1972. Because of the density of the jungle and underbrush in and around the crash site, a thorough and complete recovery operation without specialized heavy equipment was not possible. A recovery team returned to the crash site in July 1974 to photograph it as a precursor to a full field excavation. At the time the team learned that a local Vietnamese woodcutter had removed some of the wreckage from the site. During this field survey no evidence of human remains were found in or around the wreckage.

In early 1972 the Adkins family was shown an 8-MM filmstrip by a US Army Casualty Officer that was approximately 20 minutes in length and showed American POWs in captivity during the war. Mr. Adkins described seeing his son and other POWs as follows: "On this film was a mess of them - hundreds of them - single file coming through a door that appeared to be metal, but not a door to the outside. Each man came through the door, and shook hands with a minister or priest, then walked down an open stairway that looked to be made of marble or granite. Each POW had on a white tag sewn on his right breast pocket with a name or a number - I could nor tell which, except for the priest, who did not have a tag. Bud (SP4 Adkins) came through the door, then shook hands with the priest and walked down the steps. I knew then for certain that it was Bud, by his walk. After all the men came in and had walked down the steps, the priest gave them communion. The Army said it was a Christmas Service." Mr. Adkins requested, and received, a still photograph made from this 8-MM showing his son and other POWs during this service. He was not able to obtain a copy of the film itself.

Additionally, US intelligence personnel interviewed a Vietnamese rallier who identified a photograph of Donald Burnham as a Prisoner of War. The date of this interview is unknown. CIA analysis of this report after the end of the war failed to determine why Capt. Burnham's photo was selected based on that agency's belief that none of the aircrew or passengers were seen in captivity by returned POWs.

If Donald Burnham, Joe Pringle, Charles Adkins, Kenneth Patton and Joseph Puggi 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 these men survived the Huey's crash, 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 American POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly and 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.