On June 3, 1967, Capt. Steven P. Hanson, pilot; then-1st Lt John G. Gardner, co-pilot; Sgt Timothy R. Bodden, crew chief/door gunner; LCpl Frank E. Cius, doorgunner; SFC Billy R. Laney, USArmy; SFC Ronald J. Dexter, USArmy; SFC Charles F. Wilklow, US Army, and an unknown number of ARVN personnel, all passengers, were aboard a CH46A helicopter (serial #150955) on an extraction mission in Laos. Loss Coordinates were 161914N 1064049E (XD795050).
Six CH-46 aircraft were involved in the mission. They successfully flew in and loaded the Americans and South Vietnamese, but moments after liftoff they came under heavy fire, and three of the aircraft went down, including Gardnerís.
Gardner's aircraft received extensive automatic small arms fire upon takeoff from the Landing Zone, took numerous hits and crashed 350 meters from the LZ, located about 15 miles inside Laos west of the A Shau Valley. The helicopter did not burn on impact, and continued to receive fire.
Three ARVN troops from the aircraft were able to return to the LZ. The troops waiting at the LZ could not search because of the hostile threat in the area. Air searches located the survivors of the crash, but they could not be evacuated. The troops remaining at the LZ were extracted the following day.
One soldier who was captured by the Viet Cong that day and later released testified to U.S. military investigators that he last saw Gardner strapped in the cockpit.
Captain Gardner's remains were repatriated in 1999 and identified in August 2000. He was buried, with military honors, in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Additional details are available on the
A number of American and ARVN troops were killed and captured in this incident. The American dead from Gardner's aircarft included