Eugene Lunsford Clay

Staff Sergeant
United States Air Force
20 February 1939 - 09 November 1967
Arlington, TX
Panel 29E Line 057

Air Force Cross

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Eugene Lunsford Clay

03 Feb 2004

When I graduated from Basic Training in July '02, I purchased a POW/MIA bracelet that I have worn every day since. It bears the name of SSgt Eugene L. Clay. I never knew this man, but his name and his sacrifice are etched in my heart like they are etched in The Wall. Words may never say enough, however, "Thank you, SSgt Clay".

Andrea Day
Airman 1st Class, USAF

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 08 November 1967, two HH-3E SAR helicopters of the 37th ARRS departed Danang Air Base for an emergency extraction of a Special Forces road watch team operating in Laos. Shortly after midnight on 09 Nov 67 JOLLY GREEN 29 picked up part of the team before being severely damaged by hostile fire and forced to leave the area. His wingman, JOLLY GREEN 26, then attempted pick-up of the two remaining team members. The two men were brought aboard by hoist, but as the HH-3E (now with 6 men aboard) began lift-out it was heavily hit and crashed in flames.

A search team was inserted into the area during the afternoon of 09 November and reached the downed helicopter as dusk approached. The search team did not actually search the HH-3 wreckage until after daybreak on 10 November, at which time they recovered and identified the remains of five men (three aircrew and the two Special Forces team members). The HH-3E pilot, Captain Gerald O. Young, had escaped the burning aircraft and was recovered (Captain Young received the Medal of Honor for his actions).

Weather and enemy action precluded removal of the bodies from the area, so that five men were left behind when the search team was extracted:

  • From the 37th ARRS (HH-3E tail number 66-13279)
    • CPT Ralph Wayne Brower, copilot
    • SSG Eugene Lunsford Clay, flight engineer
    • SGT Larry Wayne Maysey, pararescueman

  • From C&C Central, MACV-SOG (5th SFG)
    • MSGT Bruce R. Baxter
    • SGT Joseph G. Kusick
The Task Force Omega (TFO) and POW Network sites contain additional and somewhat conflicting information.
  • TFO states that two helicopters (one US UH-1B and one South Vietnamese H-34) were downed in the area before JOLLY GREEN 29 made the first pickup, and Captain Young's MoH Citation contains the sentence "Previous (pickup) attempts had resulted in the loss of 2 helicopters to hostile ground fire." The POW Network makes no mention of these two aircraft. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association database shows one UH-1B (64-13986, 282nd AHC) hit on 8/9 November, but that aircraft returned to base. The database contains no mention of a downed SVN H-34.
  • The POW Network includes a 12 Mar 2001 e-mail from Jeff Nash, MSgt USAF (Ret), citing mission reports from the 37th ARRS and a supporting MC-130 crew which indicate all five men were located and identified; TFO states that only four bodies were located and identified.
  • TFO states that after the HH-3E went down there were a total of 23 US/SVN personnel on the ground (12 road-watch team members, 4 US crewmen from the UH-1B, 3 ARVN from the ARVN H-34, and 4 US from the HH-3H (sic)) and that all but the five listed above were recovered on 09 Nov; apart from 5 road-watch teammembers (3 on JOLLY GREEN 29; 2 on JOLLY GREEN 26) the POW Network mentions only Captain Young.
  • TFO incorrectly identifies JOLLY GREEN 26 as an HH-3H rather than an HH-3E, a small but inexplicable error.

Regardless of the discrepancies between TFO and the POW Network reports, two indisputable facts remain

Five Americans died when JOLLY GREEN 26 went down, and their remains have not yet been repatriated.
Captain Ralph W Brower, SSG Eugene L Clay, and SGT Larry W Maysey received posthumous Air Force Crosses for their parts in the rescue attempt.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wore his MIA bracelet,
Andrea Day
E-Mail may be forwarded via the
3 Feb 2004

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 02/04/2004