Updated: Mar 9, 2020
1st Lt. John Douglas Hale, US Army Troop B, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division. Call Sign - Banshee 13. Born: 07 December 1942 Louisville, KY. Home City of Record: Brandenburg, KY.
He was a Teacher in Meade County Schools, and served as a Constable before he enlisted.
Date last seen 08 March 1971 - Quang Tri (Kwan Tree) Province, South Vietnam
“As a community we can never forget about the ones we left behind on the battlefield. Our primary mission at Rolling Thunder is to remember. We are honored that we have the opportunity to bring awareness to the public so they know we will never forget the sacrifice,” said Todd Matonich, a United States Navy Veteran and President of Rolling Thunder, Inc. Kentucky Chapter 5.
On March 8, 1971, 1st Lt. Doug Hale, pilot, and Sgt. Robert Grantham, observer, were on board an OH6A "Loach" helicopter conducting an armed reconnaissance mission around Tiger Mountain in the infamous A Shau Valley with a Cobra gunship and a Huey helicopter as the control ship. Their Loach was attempting to start a fire on a hilltop by dropping incendiary grenades.
When 1st Lt. Hale's aircraft later made a pass over the area to see if the fire had started, it began receiving ground fire. The crew of the Cobra saw the ground fire and engaged a target while instructing Hale to break away. Lt. Hale called after he broke away, he was taking fire from 3 o'clock. The Cobra then broke away from the first source of gunfire to engage the second. At that time both the Loach and Cobra pilots reported taking fire.
In the next radio transmission, 1st Lt Hale reported that he was hit and was going down, and asked if he was in sight. The Cobra gunship did see him and called the Huey control ship to confirm the sighting, but they could not spot Hale's aircraft. The Cobra began dropping white phosphorous grenades to help illuminate the area of Hale's aircraft.
At the time Hale called that he was going down, his aircraft seemed to come apart and begin spinning, as if it had a tail rotor failure.
Numerous objects were seen flying out of the aircraft while it was spinning, and according to members of the other aircrews, they believed those things were being jettisoned by Sgt.Grantham in order to lighten the aircraft in the hope of regaining control and altitude. The spinning slowed at about 500 feet above the ground, but increased again prior to impact. The Loach exploded upon impact with the ground.
The Huey control ship went over the crash site and hovered there, looking for survivors, but due to the intense enemy fire, it had to leave the area. The Huey returned, but saw no survivors on either hover. An electronic search was unsuccessful. No ground search was possible because of the intense enemy activity.
Hale and Grantham went down in an area so hot that no one could go in for them. Because of this, the U.S. believes there is a strong probability that the Vietnamese know exactly what happened to them and to their aircraft. By 1973, aerial photographs revealed no sign of the aircraft; presumably, the parts had been salvaged by villagers or soldiers. They have never been found.
On Saturday, March 7th, Rolling Thunder KY 5 will lay a Wreath in a short ceremony to remember 1st Lt. John Douglas Hale at his known Monument located at River Front Park 124, 146 Water St, Brandenburg, Ky.
We encourage the public to join us in remembering and honoring those who never returned. The major function of Rolling Thunder, Inc. is to publicize and create awareness of the POWMIA issue. For further information about Rolling Thunder, KY 5 and its mission, please go to www.rollingthunderky5.org.