Michael Davis O'Donnell

Army of the United States
13 August 1945 - 07 February 1978
Springfield, Illinois
Panel 12W Line 040

1 AVN BDE UH-1 Huey 170TH AHC
Army Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Michael Davis O'Donnell

09 Jan 2000

Michael O'Donnell wrote the following poem:

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 left behind.

Placed by one who remembers,
but prefers to be anonymous.

Visit the
170th Aviation Company

09 Nov 2002

I would like to return Major O'Donnell's bracelet to his family.

CMSgt Craig B. Bergman
931 N Larry Place Tucson AZ 85710-2652

29 Nov 2005

I purchased a lithographed copy of "Remembrance" for a friend who spent 14 years as a Ranger before joining the Secret Service. On the back is a copy of Major O'Donell's poem.

What the Major demonstrated was the wisdom of an unnamed philosopher who said:

"A nation that makes too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors has its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools".

O'Donnell was a great scholar and a brave warrior.

I pray to God that there will come a day when the spirits of such magnificent men and their fellow soldairs will no longer be taken from us in battle.

From a grateful American who hates war but who loves the American warrior,
Art Bianconi
P. O. Box 494, Milford, NJ 08848

01 Mar 2006

MDO 4 Dec 69
I'm not so proud of everything I've done,
I mean I've let some people down
and heaven knows
there are so many things left
I've got to do...
God knows I'm not so sure of Him these days.
He also understands
why people are bleeding to death in the back
of my helicopter...
and He understands
how we can wash the floor clean
and just one day later
forget He knows
anything at all.

I'd like to talk to the O'Donnell family because Mike was my friend and his loss still pains me.

From a good friend of Michael Davis O'Donnell,
Christopher P. Warren
29635 S W Rose Lane #245, Wilsonville, Or 97070

01 Feb 2007

I memorized that poem after belonging to the unit that took Hamburger Hill. It has remained with me through all of my endeavors. Only just now have I found the selfless man who wrote it. I am in awe. Ne Desit Virtus.

Sgt Brendon Barnes, Infantry

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On March 24, 1970, helicopters from the 170th were sent to extract a Special Forces long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) team which was in contact with the enemy about fourteen miles inside Cambodia in Ratanokiri Province. RED LEAD, one of two extraction helicopters, was commanded by James E. Lake. Captain 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. Hosken, copilot; 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 ambushing, 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 immediately. The helicopters waited in a high orbit over the area until the team could move to a more suitable extraction point.

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 made a quick trip to Dak To for refueling. RED THREE was left on station in case of an emergency.

As Lake was returning to the site, Pool advised if the team wasn't extracted at once 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.

The second explosion was followed by a yellow flash and a cloud of black smoke billowing from the jungle. A wingman made a high-speed pass over the site and came under fire, but made it away unscathed.

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 since 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 were lost.

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 lacked proof that they were dead. The Army declared all 7 Americans missing in action.

From the
A full description of the action is on the
Special Operations Site

Twelve men were aboard UH-1H 68-15262 when it went down:
  • Aircrew, 170th AHC:
  • RT Pennsylvania:
    • CPT Jerry L. Pool, Freeport, IL (11/13/1978)
    • SFC John A. Boronski, Ware, MA (11/27/1978)
    • SFC Gary A. Harned, Springboro, PA (11/13/1978)
    • Five indigenous troops
The seven Americans were carried as missing in action until the Secretary of the Army approved Presumptive Findings of Death on the dates noted above - and so matters stood for two decades.

The remains of the men lost in this crash were repatriated on 12 Apr 1995. DNA tests confirmed individual identification for four Americans - MAJ Michael O'Donnell, CWO John Hosken, SSGT Rudy Becerra, and SSGT Berman Ganoe, Jr. The three other Americans - CPT Jerry Poole, SFC John Boronski, and SFC Gary Harned - could not be individually identified; their presence aboard the helicopter and among the unidentifiable remains was based on circumstantial evidence. The recovery and identification of the remains was made public on 20 June 2001.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 09 Jan 2000
Last updated 05/26/2016