|Name:||Lawrence Neal Helber|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Marine Corps|
Marine Air Group 11,
1st Marine Air Wing
DaNang, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||05 February 1934 (Logan, OH)|
|Home of Record:||Logan, OH|
|Date of Loss:||24 January 1966|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||161900N 1073900E (YD830065)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4B "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Albert Pitt (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 - 2300 miles depending on stores and mission type. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
On 24 January 1966, Capt. Albert Pitt, pilot; and then 2nd Lt.. Lawrence N. Helper radar intercept officer; comprised the crew of an F4B that departed DaNang Airfield in a flight of Phantoms on a strike mission into enemy held territory northwest of DaNang. The crew of another aircraft in the flight consisted of Capt. Doyle R. Sprick and 2nd Lt. Delmar G. Booze.
At 1005 hours, both Phantoms rolled in to attack an enemy target hidden in the lush jungle covered foothills rising out of the coastal plains. The last radio transmission from either aircraft was after both pulled off target approximately 5 miles southwest of Hue/Phu Bai Airfield, 9 miles due west of Dam Cau Hai Bay and 34 miles northwest of DaNang, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
Extensive visual and electronic search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated for the fighters that were believed to have been downed by the enemy ground fire. Because the area of loss was under total enemy control at the time, no ground search was possible. When no wreckage was found for either aircraft and no contact with either aircrew could be established, Albert Pitt, Lawrence Helber, Delmar Booze and Doyle Sprick were listed Missing in Action.
Throughout the war, US intelligence agencies were continuously searching for any information pertaining to missing Americans. In 1969 a ranking communist rallier provided extensive, detailed information pertaining to a specific VC run POW camp located near the city of Hue in which large numbers of American and ARVN POWs were held. The rallier also reviewed photographs of POW/MIAs in an attempt to assist US officials in identifying any prisoners held in that camp. On 11 April 1969, he positively identified Albert Pitt as having been one of 22 POWs held there, but was not able to provide information about Lawrence Helber, Delmar Booze or Doyle Sprick. The source also accurately listed the Viet Cong's Huong Thuy District Committee members and provided sketches of the committee's headquarters along with drawings of the POW camp. An additional list of 32 Americans tentatively identified was also attached. The source stated that following the 1968 Tet offensive, prisoners were transferred from this camp to either North Vietnam or to an agricultural camp at an unknown location near the border of Laos. None of the families of those men listed as positively or possibly identified Prisoners of War were ever told of this report until it was declassified in 1985, 17 years later.
After Operation Homecoming in 1973, two returned POWs who had been held at that POW camp verified the accuracy of the rallier's report. They added that the compound was actually used more as a temporary holding center where POWs were held only for brief periods of time while decisions were made by the communists about where to send each captive. Further, the returnees were not surprised to see many names of men on the list whom they had not seen while they were at the facility. This was undoubtedly because of the purpose for which the compound was used.
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.
Military men in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight 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.