|Name:||David Pecor Soyland|
|Rank/Branch:||Chief Warrant Officer 3/US Army|
158th Aviation Battalion,
101st Airborne Division
|Date of Birth:||29 April 1951 (Fullerton, CA)|
|Home of Record:||Rapid City, SD|
|Date of Loss:||17 May 1971|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Dale A. Pearce (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 17 May 1971, then WO1 David P. Soyland, aircraft commander; WO1 Dale A. Pearce, pilot; SP5 Harold E. Parker, crew chief; and SPC Gary A. Alcorn, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter on an assault/extraction mission. The aircraft departed Camp Evans as the assault aircraft in a flight of helicopters attempting to extract a reconnaissance team that was under heavy fire by an enemy force of unknown size. The recon team was involved in an intense running gun battle with the communists in the hotly contested and extremely rugged jungle covered mountains less than half a mile east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, approximately 10 miles southeast of Khe Sanh, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.
At 0630 hours, as they approached the target area, WO1 Soyland's aircraft began taking heavy and accurate enemy ground fire. As the Huey began to bank to the right, it was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) which severed the tail boom causing the helicopter to start to tumble over. The violence of the explosion threw SPC Alcorn from the aircraft just before it crashed. The helicopter slid to the bottom of the slope tearing out jungle growth as it continued down hill, impacting the ground on its right side.
The next day, a search and rescue (SAR) team was inserted in the area of loss to rescue or recover the remains of the original reconnaissance team and aircrew. Much to their surprise and delight, they discovered both Harold Parker and Gary Alcorn alive. As SAR personnel examined the Huey wreckage, they found the left pilot seat, which was occupied by David Soyland, to be completely intact. All harnesses had been unfastened and there was no sign of blood on the seat, harness or in the immediate area. They also located remains assumed to be those of Dale Pearce wedged beneath the aircraft debris, dirt, trees and brush. Without special tools, the recovery of these remains was impossible.
SPC Alcorn reported to their rescuers that he saw a man in a white T-shirt running across the ridgeline some time before the team arrived. Further, another search aircraft in the area reported hearing a loud beeper distress signal, but was unable to establish voice communication with the downed crewman, or to pinpoint his location.
Search efforts continued until 27 May 1971 for David Soyland, but no trace of him was found. At that time formal search and rescue efforts were terminated, David Soyland was listed Missing in Action even though the US military believed there was a high probability he had been captured. Because of the heavy enemy presence in the area, no further recovery operation was possible to retrieve the remains of Dale Pearce. He was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews 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.