Full Name: SHELDON D SCHULTZ
Date of Birth: 4/19/1948
Date of Casualty: 1/5/1968
Home of Record: ALTOONA, PENNSYLVANIA
Branch of Service: ARMY
Casualty Country: LAOS
Casualty Province: LZ
SCHULTZ, SHELDON DUANE
Name: Sheldon Duane Schultz
Rank/Branch: WO/US Army
Unit: 176th Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 23rd Infantry
Date of Birth: 19 April 1948
Home City of Record: Altoona PA
Date of Loss: 05 January 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161907N 1063445E (XD701021)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
REMARKS: NO SIGN OF CREW
SYNOPSIS: On January 5, 1968, WO Dennis C. Hamilton, aircraft commander; WO Sheldon D. Schultz, pilot; SP5 Ernest F. Briggs, Jr., crew chief; SP4 James P. Williamson, crewman, and SSgt. John T. Gallagher, passenger; were aboard a UH1D helicopter (tail # 66-1172) on a mission to infiltrate an indigenous reconnaissance patrol into Laos.
The reconnaissance patrol and SSgt. Gallagher were operating under orders to Command & Control North, MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their “cover” while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on the time frame, “Shining Brass” or “Prairie Fire” missions.
As the aircraft approached the landing zone about 20 miles inside Laos south of Lao Bao, it came under heavy 37mm anti-aircraft fire while at an altitude of about 300 feet above ground level. The aircraft immediately entered a nose low vertical dive and crashed.
Upon impact with the ground, the aircraft burst into flames which were 10 to 20 feet high. No radio transmissions were heard during the helicopter's descent, nor were radio or beeper signals heard after impact. Four attempts to get into the area of the downed helicopter failed due to intense ground fire.
During the next two days more attempts to get to the wreckage failed. The pilot of one search helicopter maneuvered to within 75 feet of the crash site before being forced out by enemy fire. The pilot who saw the wreckage stated that the crashed helicopter was a mass of burned metal and that there was no part of the aircraft that could be recognized. No signs of life were seen in the crash area.
Weather delayed further search attempts for a couple of days. After the weather improved, the successful insertion of a ground team was made east of the crash site to avoid enemy fire. The team was extracted after the second day, finding nothing. The crash site was located near the city of Muong Nong in Savannakhet Province, Laos.
On January 5, 1968, a UH-1D with a four man crew from the 176th Aviation Co., 14th Aviation Bn., Americal Division, and one member of the 5th Special Forces Command and Control Detachment was west of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam, providing support to the insertion of U.S. led cross border forces into the Prairie Fire operational area of Laos. While approaching a landing zone in Savannakhet Province, the helicopter was hit by 37mm anti-aircraft fire. It began a nose low vertical dive from an altitude of 4000 feet and no one was seen to eject before it impacted on the ground and burst into fire with flames reaching a height of 20 feet. There were no radio transmissions or beepers from the crew or passenger after impact and the five men on board the helicopter were declared missing in action. Intense ground fire precluded any entry into the crash site until four days when a ground team was successfully inserted. The
team was unable to locate any evidence of the crew and no evidence anyone had survived.
In December 1971 the CIA forwarded a report to DIA about the sighting of American POWs in Laos. One report described four Americans said to have been captured in South Vietnam as passing through a way station on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in mid 1970, Commo-Liaison Station 12, approximately 25 kilometers southwest of Tchepone, Savannakhet Province. The source pointed out a photograph of Williamson as resembling one of the four Americans. Another report described two captured pilots at Commo-Liaison Station 12 early in 1969 approximately 15 kilometers northwest of Muong Phine. These reports were placed in the file of those associated with this loss incident.
Williamson was considered by other returnees as a “no show” in the northern Vietnamese prison system and U.S. POWs returned during Operation Homecoming had no information that anyone had survived into captivity. However, one returnee reported having seen a statement with the name Williamson on it. After Operation Homecoming the five men in this incident were declared dead/body not recovered, based on a presumptive finding of death.
In 1974, a report was received about the sighting of aircraft wreckage in Laos. The report was placed in the files of this and one other incident in the same general area. In another report, a Vietnamese refugee stated that two bodies were burned up in the crash of a Cobra helicopter and that report was also placed in the files of those associated with the two loss incidents in this general area.
2 August 2007:
Funeral services with full military honors will be held August 14, 2007, for an Altoona serviceman who was shot down 39 years ago in Laos during the Vietnam War, his family said Wednesday.
Chief Warrant Officer Sheldon D. Schultz of Altoona, Pennsylvania, piloted a Huey helicopter when he and his four member crew were hit by artillery fire January 5, 1968.
The services will be held at Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, Virginia, with interment and graveside services to follow at Arlington National Cemetery.
Until now, Schultz; Sergeant First Class Ernest Frank Briggs Jr.; Sergeant First Class James D. Williamson; and Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Clark Hamilton were unaccounted for.
Schultz was unaccounted for, despite the Department of Defense declaring him dead in 1979.
The remains of Sergeant First Class John Theodore Gallagher were identified in November.
With DNA technology and cooperation with the Vietnamese and Lao People’s Democratic Republic governments since the 1973 ceasefire, the U.S. military has been able to recover human remains, military equipment, dogtags and other items to identify missing servicemen in Southeast Asia.
More than 1,750 servicemen have remained unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
“It provides a sense of relief, tremendous relief,” said Ann Marie Griffiths, executive director of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.
Schultz’s late father, George, was a past treasurer and member of the league's board of directors.
“They [George and his wife, Laura] wanted answers. At least he knew where [Sheldon] went down. I wished George would be here to see this day,” Griffiths said.
When contacted Wednesday, family members said they wanted to wait until after the funeral to talk about Sheldon.
To veterans, especially to those of the Vietnam War, this is a time of celebration. It goes back to the ingrained military concept that “you never leave a soldier behind” and doing all that can be done to bring them back, said Tim Susengill, former president and current board member of the Hainley-English chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
“Someone else is home. Another soldier is found,” he said.
The crash site was found in 2002, according to declassified Defense Department documents. Possible dental remains, personal effects and other items were recovered since that time until excavation of the site was stopped last year.
The evidence was transferred to the Central Identification Laboratory of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
Schultz’s flight was part of a two-helicopter team sent to drop off a special forces reconnaissance team in Laos. The lead troop carrier banked sharply to avoid the fire but it struck Schultz’s helicopter, sending it into a nosedive into the ground.
Schultz graduated from Altoona Area High School in 1966. He joined the U.S. Army and graduated 12th out of a class of 250 from helicopter pilot school in 1967. He arrived in Vietnam December 5, 1967.
Schultz received a Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnamese Campaign Medal, Vietnamese Service Medal, Army Aviator Wings and Expert Marksmanship Badge with Automatic Rifle and Pistol bars.
Schultz’s name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and its replica, The Wall That Heals, on the grounds of the Van Zandt VA Medical Center.
A visitation is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. August 13 at Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia.
Schultz is survived by his mother, a brother and a sister.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard