On June 9th, 1968, a Marine A4E Skyhawk, callsign Hellborn
215, was shot down while bombing NVA forces in the heavily
Base Area 611 at the north end of the A Shau Valley in South Vietnam.
A large SAR effort was mounted to rescue the pilot,
1st Lt. Walter R. Schmidt, Jr., USMC, who had landed
along a major branch of the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the Laos-Vietnam
After extensive bombing to silence the enemy ground fire, an
HH-3E Jolly Green Giant helicopter moved in to attempt a pickup.
This helicopter, Jolly Green 22, made two attempts to reach
the survivor but was driven off by heavy ground fire each time.
After each attempt, more ordnance was expended on the surrounding
areas in an effort to suppress this ground fire.
Jolly Green 22 finally was forced to abort its efforts due to low fuel.
Following additional suppression efforts, a second helicopter,
Jolly Green 23, moved in to attempt a pickup.
After entering a hover and beginning to lower a parajumper to assist
the injured survivor, JG23 came under intense ground fire.
related by the supporting FAC, Trail 33, the left engine of
the helicopter erupted in flames, and the pilot reported he was
pulling off and attempting to reach a clearing approximately one
kilometer north of the rescue site.
As JG23 approached the clearing, the rotor noticeably slowed
and the helicopter impacted the ground. The aircraft was totally
engulfed in flame. It was apparent there could be no
survivors from this crash.
There were four men aboard Jolly Green 23:
Lieutenant Jack C. Rittichier, USCG *
Captain Richard C. Yeend, USAF
Staff Sergeant Elmer L. Holden, USAF
Sergeant James D. Locker, USAF
Their remains were not recovered.
Click here for eyewitness narratives and
declassified mission reports on this incident.
Click here for Part Two - The Search Rejoined
* Lieutenant Rittichier was on an exchange tour with the USAF 37th
Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron.
He was the first Coast Guardsman killed in action in Southeast Asia.