Name: William Arthur Smith, Jr.
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army
Unit: Company A, 9th Aviation Battalion, 9th Infantry Division
Date of Birth: 24 June 1945 (Americus GA)
Home City of Record: Battle Creek MI
Date of Loss: 27 September 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 101643N 1062847E (XS608377)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
On September 27, 1968, WO1 William A. Smith, Jr. was the aircraft commander of an UH1H helicopter (tail #67-17164) on a command and control mission in the vicinity of My Tho, Kien Hoa Province, Republic of Vietnam. The pilot onboard the aircraft was Lieutenant Quentin F. Hurst, crewchief, Private Jeffrey C. Niles, and gunner Kevin L. Grain.[NOTE: Several Defense Department listings show Smith's aircraft as an OH6A helicopter, but the Army and Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) records indicate it was a UH1H.]
During the mission, the aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire, burst into flames and exploded on contact with the My Tho River. Several U.S. Navy patrol boats were in the area, and the crash of the aircraft was observed. Boats arrived at the site minutes after the crash. During the aerial search of the crash site, three aviator helmets, aircraft debris, personal items belonging to the aircraft crew and an oil slick were located on the water in the vicinity. However, no evidence of survivors was seen, nor were any bodies located.
On 29 September, the bodies of three crew members were found floating in the vicinity of the crash site. The three remains were recovered and subsequently identified as Niles, Hurt and Grain. It was determined that the recovered crew members survived the crash and later died by drowning. Thus it was possible that Smith survived as well and
was captured. He was classified Missing in Action.
A photo taken on the morning of September 28 of the shoreline in the same general area as the crash was examined by a photo interpreter who stated that it appeared that in the photo something or someone was dragged ashore in the vicinity of the crash site. However, questioning of the local riverside people indicated that a small sampan had been pulled ashore at that location.
Leaflets were distributed along the shoreline seeking information from villagers about the fate of WO1 Smith. Also, an indigenous investigator traveled the north bank of the My Tho River searching for information or a body washed ashore. The results of both efforts were negative.
In December 1974, remains were recovered that remotely associated with this incident. However, the Identification Laboratory in Thailand identified the remains as Mongoloid, and not those of WO1 Smith.
A source reported information on a U.S. helicopter shot down in 1973 or 1974 in the vicinity. Reportedly, the dead pilot was pulled out, stripped, and buried in the vicinity. This was thought to possibly correlate to Smith [even though this incident was some 4-5 years following Smith's loss].
CWO Smith's remains were subsequently located and identified. In September 2000 he was laid to rest with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard