|Name:||Douglas Lee O'Neill|
|Rank/Branch:||Chief Warrant Officer/US Army|
37th Signal Battalion,
1st Signal Brigade
|Date of Birth:||03 August 1948|
|Home of Record:||Bayonne, NJ|
|Date of Loss:||03 April 1972|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Allen D. Christensen;Larry A. Zich and Edward W. Williams (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: By early 1967 the UH1, nicknamed "Huey", was already the standard Army assault helicopter, and was used in nearly every "in-country" mission. Huey troop carriers were referred to as "slicks" and 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 supply to name a few. It usually carried a crew of four.
On 3 April 1972, CW2 Larry A. Zich, aircraft commander; then CW2 Douglas L. O'Neill, pilot; Sgt. Allen D. Christensen, crew chief; and SP4 Edward W. Williams, door gunner; comprised the crew of an UH1H helicopter on a routine resupply mission to signal units in and around Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. They were flying from Marble Mountain northwest to Quang Tri City when the aircraft disappeared.
According to after action reports, the pilot contacted ground control at Hue/Phu Bai Airbase at 0945 hours stating that he could not get a ground fix to confirm their location because of heavy ground cover. He added that while he was not certain of his location, he believed they were in the Quang Tri area. Ground control had voice contact with the aircraft, but it did not appear on their radar. This in itself was not abnormal since helicopter pilots flying under this condition would flying at an altitude below that which radar could track him. By 1010 hours, Quang Tri ground control had lost contact with the aircraft and its crew entirely.
An extensive search and rescue (SAR) operation was launched the next morning for the missing Huey in the suspected area of loss. However, the region searched was described as "bound by Hue on the south, Highway QL-1 on the west, the coast line on the east and Quang Tri City on the north." The terrain in this sector is open, flat coastal plain covered with rice fields, roads and waterways of all sizes. It is also densely populated. The location of the aircraft's actual loss is to the west of Quang Tri City and no where near where the search took place.
Per loss coordinates provided by several government agencies, the actual location was in the forested sector approximately 3 miles north of the Thach Han River, 3 miles west of Highway 1 and the single track railroad line that ran just to the west of the road, 4 miles west of Quang Tri City, 6 miles south of Dong Ha, 11 miles west of the coastline, 18 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and 84 miles northwest of Marble Mountain. The area of actual loss is also populated. At the time the formal SAR was terminated, Larry Zich, Douglas O'Neill, Allen Christensen and Edward Williams were listed Missing in Action.
It was well known by the spring of 1972 that the war was drawing to a close, and that the North Vietnamese were offering huge bonuses to anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) gunners who could shoot down American aircraft and capture the aircrews alive. At this stage in the war our enemy knew the more men they could capture, the better their chances were at the negotiating table to secure peace on their terms. Everyone knew the prisoners were worth much more alive than dead to both sides.
After Operation Homecoming all the returned POWs were debriefed to include any information they had pertaining to other prisoners they knew of who were not released. Larry Stark, a civilian captured during the battle for Hue in 1968 and moved to North Vietnam after capture, identified a photo of Larry Zich as "a man he recognized as having seen either in a propaganda picture or as a face in a group of other POWs watching the propaganda picture." When questioned further, Larry Stark said he believed CW2 Zich was among the POWs whom he saw watching a film of B52 attacks and shoot downs that was shown in the courtyard of the Little Vegas section of the Hanoi Hilton (Ha Lo) prison camp in late February or early March 1973.
In July 1974, US intelligence received hearsay information about a helicopter crash site and dead crew that they thought might correlate to this loss incident. However, when the report was investigated, it was learned that the crash site was approximately 20 kilometers away from the region where this Huey was lost.
In 1980, another report was received about an explosion of a helicopter and the location of remains associated with its crew. Again, the report was investigated, and again the report could not be specifically correlated to this loss incident.
If Larry Zich, Douglas O'Neill, Edward Williams and Allen Christensen died in the crash of their helicopter, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. However, if they survived the initial loss, there is every reality they could have been captured since communist forces were known to be operating in this area. And if captured, their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for, 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 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.