|The mission of
the 170th Assault Helicopter Company ("Bikinis") was to perform the insertion,
support, and extraction of these SOG teams deep in the forest on "the other side of
the fence" (a term meaning Laos or Cambodia, where U.S. forces were not allowed to be
based). Normally, the teams consisted of two "slicks" (UH1 general purpose
helicopters), two Cobras (AH1 assault helicopters) and other fighter aircraft which served
as standby support.
On March 24, 1970, helicopters from the 170th were sent to extract a MACV-SOG long-range
reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) team which was in contact with the enemy about fourteen miles
inside Cambodia in Ratanokiri Province. The flight leader, RED LEAD, serving as one of two
extraction helicopters was commanded by James E. Lake. Capt. Michael D. O'Donnell was the
aircraft commander of one of the two cover aircraft (serial #68-15262, RED THREE). His
crew consisted of WO John C. Hoskins, pilot; SP4 Rudy M. Beccera, crew chief; and SP4
Berman Ganoe, gunner.
The MACV-SOG team included 1LT Jerry L. Pool, team leader and team members SSGT John A.
Boronsky and SGT Gary A. Harned as well as five indigenous team members. The team had been
in contact with the enemy all night and had been running and ambusing, but the hunter team
pursuing them was relentless and they were exhausted and couldn't continue to run much
longer. when Lake and O'Donnell arrived at the team's location, there was no landing zone
(LZ) nearby and they were unable to extract them immeidately. The two helicopters waited
in a high orbit over the area until the team could move to a more suitable extraction
While the helicopters were waiting, they were in radio contact with the team. After about
45 minutes in orbit, Lake received word from LT Pool that the NVA hunter team was right
behind them. RED LEAD and RED THREE made a quick trip to Dak To for refueling. RED THREE
was left on station in case of an emergency.
When Lake returned to the site, Pool came over the radio and said that if the team wasn't
extracted then, it would be too late. Capt. O'Donnell evaluated the situation and decided
to pick them up. He landed on the LZ and was on the ground for about 4 minutes, and then
transmitted that he had the entire team of eight on board. The aircraft was beginning its
ascent when it was hit by enemy fire, and an explosion in the aircraft was seen. The
helicopter continued in flight for about 300 meters, then another explosion occurred,
causing the aircraft to crash in the jungle. According to Lake, bodies were blown out the
doors and fell into the jungle. [NOTE: According to the U.S. Army account of the incident,
no one was observed to have been thrown from the aircraft during either explosion.]
The other helicopter crewmen were stunned. One of the Cobras, Panther 13, radioed "I
don't think a piece bigger than my head hit the ground." The second explosion was
followed by a yellow flash and a cloud of black smoke billowing from the jungle. Panther
13 made a second high-speed pass over the site and came under fire, but made it away
Lake decided to go down and see if there was a way to get to the crash site. As he neared
the ground, he was met with intense ground fire from the entire area. He could not see the
crash site sice it was under heavy tree cover. There was no place to land, and the ground
fire was withering. He elected to return the extract team to Dak To before more aircraft
was lost. Lake has carried the burden of guilt with him for all these years, and has never
forgiven himself for leaving his good friend O'Donnell and his crew behind.
The Army account concludes stating that O'Donnell's aircraft began to burn immediately
upon impact. Aerial search and rescue efforts began immediately; however, no signs of life
could be seen around the crash site. Because of the enemy situation, attempts to insert
search teams into the area were futile. SAR efforts were discontinued on April 18. Search
and rescue teams who surveyed the site reported that they did not hold much hope for
survival for the men aboard, but lacking proof that they were dead, the Army declared all
7 missing in action.
For every patrol like that of the MACV-SOG LRRP team that was detected and stopped, dozens
of other commando teams safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets
and collect vital information. The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special
Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most
sustained American campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on
foreign soil in U.S. military history. MACV-SOG's teams earned a global reputation as one
of the most combat effective deep penetration forces ever raised.
By 1990 over 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. Government concerning men
missing in Southeast Asia. The government of Cambodia has stated that it would like to
return a number of American remains to the U.S. (in fact, the number of remains mentioned
is more than are officially listed missing in that country), but the U.S., having no
diplomatic relations with Cambodia, refuses to respond officially to that offer.
Most authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive in Southeast Asia
today, waiting for their country to come for them. Whether the LRRP team and helicopter
crew is among them doesn't seem likely, but if there is even one American alive, he
deserves our ultimate efforts to bring him home.
Michael O'Donnell was recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on
March 24, 1970. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Bronze
Star and the Purple Heart as well as promoted to the rank of Major following his loss
incident. O'Donnell was highly regarded by his friends in the "Bikinis." They
knew him as a talented singer, guitar player and poet. One of his poems has been widely
distributed, but few understand that the author remains missing.
If you are able, save them a place inside of you and save one backward
glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not
ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take
what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and
keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to
call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you
Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
Gary Alan Harned-RT Pensylvaina
From: email@example.com (Anne Coon)
My name is Robert Schwab and I am from Meadville, Pennsylvania. I am looking
for information on my Uncle, Gary Alan Harned, who was a member of RT
Pennsylvania. He was listed as missing in action in March of 1970. I was
also told to mention the CCC in this e-mail. I would be very interested in
any information that anyone may have about my Uncle from people who knew him
personally or through military operations.
It is believed that in March of 1970, a helicopter that Gary was on was shot
down near Cambodia. Other passengers believed to be aboard were Captain
Michael O'Donnell, Officer John Hosken, Rudy Becerra, Berman Grande, Jr.,
Lieutenant Jerry Poole, and Sergeant First Class John Boronski. Recently the
Army has investigated the crash site and has found human remains. Through
DNA Testing they have positively identified Captain Michael O'Donnell,
Officer John Hosken, Rudy Becerra, and Berman Grande, Jr. The three
remaining men, Lieutenant Jerry Poole, Sergeant First Class John Boronski,
and my Uncle were not positively identified through testing, due to the
condition of the remaining bones. These remaining bones are being offered
for a group burial for Poole, Boronski, and my Uncle at Arlington Cemetery
later this year.
Any information would be very helpful. Thank you for your time.
Robert A. Schwab
(814) 336-2270 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
July 1, 2001 The Journal Standard
Waiting for the turth
Freeport resident Darlene Pool holds her husband, Jerry Pool's MIA bracelet
marking the date that Jerry was reported missing in action; March 24, 1970.
Photo by Steve Ingram
Freeport resident still unsure of exactly what happened to her husband in
FREEPORT -- "I almost died this time," Darlene Pool said about hearing the
latest news on her husband.
"Now he's going to be buried twice and there's still no proof he's there."
It was the third week in May when Darlene Pool of Freeport said she heard
from U.S. Army officials. What they told her was that they had positively
identified the remains of her husband, Jerry Pool, a Green Beret Special
Forces soldier who went down in a helicopter in Cambodia during the Vietnam
She was told a short time later, however, that her husband wasn't
specifically identified, but that a group identification had been made.
In the past, Darlene Pool has suffered from several heart attacks and
strokes and is in failing health. This latest news about her husband has
almost been too painful for her to bear.
"This has been going on off and on for 32 years," Darlene Pool said. "I've
been in too much pain and too much suffering ... Only the truth will end
First, the crash
The Pool odyssey officially began on March 24, 1970, with the crash of a
Huey helicopter in Cambodia. In that helicopter was Jerry Pool, who was part
of a military team sent to Cambodia to extract a U.S. long range
Pool's squad found the patrol and set about leaving the area when they came
under heavy enemy fire. On the helicopter at the time with Jerry Pool were
seven U.S. Army soldiers and five Montagnard tribesman. The Montagnard are
an indigenous people of Vietnam and Southeast Asia who aided the U.S. during
the Vietnam War.
"Shortly after they picked up these guys, the helicopter was hit by a rocket
and it exploded at 200 feet, it crashed and burned," said Larry Greer, a
spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department's POW/MIA Office. "There was no
evidence of any survivors. There was heavy enemy activity so (rescuers)
couldn't stay in the area."
According to Greer, the story then picks up again in November of 1993 when a
joint U.S. and Cambodian search team tried but failed to find the crash
site. Then, in 1994, several Vietnamese citizens were interviewed regarding
human remains they had found consistent with what would be left at the
Cambodian helicopter crash site.
After years of investigating, a group identification was finally made
official on June 20, 2001. Using skeletal, tissue and teeth remains at the
crash site, Army officials were able to positively identify four U.S.
soldiers who were on the helicopter.
Jerry Pool was not one of the four. But since the crash was so severe, Greer
said, Pool could not have escaped. Therefore, Jerry Pool is being identified
as part of the group of remains that were found.
"There are frequently individual remains that can't be sorted and
identified," Greer said. "It is just like in some of the large civilian air
disasters where they are never able to identify everyone ... Obviously, no
one got off (of this helicopter) so they made a group identification."
Now, off MIA list
"(Jerry) Pool's remains were not individually identified, but he has been
identified as part of the group," Greer said. "He is now accounted for so he
comes off of our list of MIA (soldiers)."
According to Greer, there are currently 1,966 U.S. soldiers still Missing in
Action from the Vietnam War. There have been 619 identified so far. To put
that in context, there are 8,100 soldiers still MIA from the Korean War and
78,000 from World War II.
For Darlene Pool, her husband's inclusion in this group identification is
not enough to provide closure on an incident that has haunted her and her
family for years.
In addition to the fact that Jerry Pool's remains have still not been found,
Darlene Pool is also fed up with the numerous false alarms and mistaken
identifications that she said have taken place over the years.
Darlene Pool said this has caused a great deal of stress within her family,
which includes two grown children she had with Jerry, Jerry Lynn Pool and
Michele Leigh Pool.
"It has hurt me and it has hurt my children," Darlene Pool said. "I am
personally tired of suffering with this."
As it is, the U.S. Army is in the process of organizing a funeral ceremony
at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C., where the remains
recovered from the crash site will be buried. Darlene Pool said she is not
sure if she will take part in the Arlington ceremony. She is still not
satisfied with the official version of events leading to her husband's
identification. Darlene Pool said she will continue to hope that the truth
about what happened to Jerry Pool on that fateful day in 1970 will surface
"Everybody says I should go (to the ceremony) to pay my respect for the
others who were identified," Darlene Pool said. "I don't think I will be
going because it's false. I'm a person who hates lies ... I'll fight for my
husband until the day I die. He deserves the truth."
Travis Morse can be reached at 232-0178 or at email@example.com.
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2001 12:04:38 EDT
Subject: Soldiers and Airmen Returning Home
I am .... for the US Army at Fort Myer, Va. I also had the pleasure to
serve as ..... for 5th SFG(A) from Dec 91 through Dec 94. Today and
tomorow, I have the honor to be part of an escort for the families and
remains of 3 Special Forces soldiers and 4 members of the Air Force returned
home from Cambodia. These soldiers were lost on 24 March 1970 in Cambodia;
1LT Jerry L. Pool
SSG John Boronski
SGT Gary Harned
CPT Michael D. O'Donnel
WO1 John C. Hosken
SP4 Rudy Becerra
SP4 Berman Ganoe Jr.
There will be a ceremony at the Old Post Chapel on Fort Meyer at 1300 hours
on 16 August. While this was a war before my time, I still feel a deep
sense of pride, honor, and esprit de corps in their return. These days are
very special for anyone who has every worn a uniform or served in the the
defense of their country. I have the deepest pride in my service and the
highest regard for my brothers who have fallen before me. I hope their
return brings some closure and ease to the minds and hearts of those who