|Name:||Lowell Stephen Powers|
|Rank/Branch:||Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class/US Army|
159th Aviation Battalion,
101st Airborne Division
|Date of Birth:||25 September 1946 (Oakland, CA)|
|Home of Record:||Scottsdale, AZ|
|Date of Loss:||02 April 1969|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: September 1965 marked the introduction of the Boeing CH47 Chinook helicopter into the war in Southeast Asia. Airlifting large quantities of men and material was a routine task for "the Hook." More importantly, it could salvage downed aircraft and return them for repair.
Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center and contained the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam.
This area also included a primary gateway from the equally notorious Ho Chi Minh Trail into strategic sections of northern South Vietnam. 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.
On 2 April 1969, Maj. Butler, aircraft commander; then WO1 Lowell S. Powers, pilot; an unidentified crewchief and gunner comprised the crew of a CH47 helicopter (serial #67-18523) that was conducting a troop insertion mission for allied troops. At 1240 hours, the helicopter landed at a landing zone (LZ) south of Khe Sanh where 73 members of the ARVN 9th Popular Forces Company (ARVN) were loaded aboard in preparation to be airlifted into their mission area.
Shortly after take off, the Chinook lost power and settled back to earth. It touched down on the side of a ravine, then rolled down to the bottom and came to rest on its left side. Upon landing, Maj. Butler radioed for help, giving their location and a brief evaluation of the situation. He asked Lowell Powers if he was all right. Lowell Powers answered yes, he was. Maj. Butler watched as WO1 Powers released his harness and crawled back through the companionway to the passenger compartment to assess the damage. Maj. Butler exited the aircraft through the left window and never saw Lowell Powers again.
The crash site was located in jungle covered mountains approximately 1 mile north of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 9 miles south of Khe Sanh, the same distance east of Oscar Eight, 25 miles northwest of the A Shau Valley and 32 miles southwest of Quang Tri City, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. The region was populated with hamlets and villages of varying sizes and laced with trails and footpaths running in all directions.
Shortly afterward, ARVN troops and their American/Australian advisors from Advisory Team 19 reached the crash site. In the chaos that followed, a series of searches for survivors were conducted in and around the immediate area of the helicopter's wreckage. The ground troops located three members of the flight crew along with 50 of the ARVN who had been on board the helicopter. Some of the survivors were uninjured while others sustained anywhere from moderate to serious wounds. Immediately the rescuers established a triage area near the wreckage to treat the injured. A short time later, the aircraft caught fire and the ammunition inside the fuselage began to explode. When a head count was later taken to determine who was or was not present and accounted for, it was learned that 50 ARVN were wounded and that WO1 Powers and 23 ARVN were missing.
That night the crash site was secured by an ARVN company. The next morning a Graves Registration team comprised of ARVN soldiers and American Marines from the 3rd Marine Division began searching in and around the wreckage to recover the remains of the dead. During the search, the ARVN recovered what US personnel believed to be 17 bodies. The US Marine team recovered 3 more.
On 4 April in Quang Tri the Americans discovered that the Vietnamese had taken the remains they recovered and divided them into 21 caskets, which were in turn given to the families of 21 of the ARVN soldiers who were missing and presumed dead in this incident. The Vietnamese expected the Americans could keep one body and turn the other two over to them so they could return them to the families of the last two ARVN soldiers for burial. In this manner, the Vietnamese conveniently accounted for all of their men.
Later, the US mortician who examined the 3 sets of remains determined that they were all Vietnamese. A US Army mortuary affairs officer made every effort to have the ARVN remains exhumed to determine if WO1 Powers was among them, but his efforts were unsuccessful due to Vietnamese religious constraints. Because no one knows for sure if Lowell Powers managed to exit the aircraft before it exploded, or died with his ARVN passengers, he was listed Missing in Action at the time the formal search effort was terminated.
If Lowell Powers died when his Chinook exploded and his remains were buried with those of his ARVN passengers, exhuming those gravesites for a thorough forensic examination could be the only way to recover his remains. However, if he was not in the helicopter when it exploded, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam 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.