STUIFBERGEN, GENE PAUL

Name: Gene Paul Stuifbergen 
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant/US Air Force                                    
Unit: 20th Special Operations Squadron
Nha Trang Airbase, South Vietnam  





Date of Birth: 29 June 1934
Home of Record: Augusta, MI
Date of Loss: 27 November 1968 
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 134415N 1072940E (YA700200)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH-1F "Iroquois"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:

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.

When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos and Cambodia 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 27 November 1968, SSgt. Gene P. Stuifbergen was the flight mechanic/door gunner of a UH-1F (tail #65-07942), call sign "Green Hornet," that was conducting a troop movement operational mission near Phu Nhai Village, Rotanokiri Province, Cambodia. They were attempting to insert a special operations team comprised of 2 US Army Special Forces and 4 Montagnard soldiers into an enemy bivouac area situated in a deep ravine and surrounded by dense jungle.

The Green Hornet aircrew flew from their base at Nha Trang to Ban Be Thuot to pick up the reconnaissance team and their equipment, and then proceeded with its escort aircraft to the insertion point located just across the border in Cambodia. As the heavily laden Huey began its steep approach into a ten-foot hover, it immediately came under a fusillade of enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and small arms fire. During the melee, an enemy round ripped through the flight controls, causing the aircraft to crash into the landing zone (LZ) and burst into flames. The pilot, co-pilot, crewchief and both of the Special Forces passengers escaped the inferno. SSgt. Stuifbergen and the four Montagnard strikers were hopelessly trapped underneath the burning wreckage.

The escort aircraft immediately called for search and rescue (SAR) aircraft that were already airborne and standing by in an aerial staging area, to come in to rescue the downed Green Hornet's survivors. Within minutes the SAR force arrived onsite and quickly picked up the five men. Several desperate attempts were made to recover Gene Stuifbergen and the Montagnard passengers, but each attempt was driven back by intense and accurate enemy ground fire. At the time all SAR efforts were terminated, Gene Stuifbergen was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

The crash site was located approximately 1 mile west of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border and the same distance south of Highway QL19, the primary east-west road used to infiltrate communist forces through the southern-most portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail into the acknowledged war zone. It was also 4 miles east-northeast of Pou Nahi and 18 miles east-northeast of Bo Keo, Cambodia; and 10 miles west of Duc Lo, South Vietnam.

There is no question that Gene Stuifbergen died the loss of his aircraft. However, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all humanly possible. Above all else, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life.

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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were call 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.