He Was 19 When He Crashed Over Vietnam. Now He’s Coming Home.
On Oct. 26, 1971, U.S. Army Pfc. Thomas F. Green and nine others took off in a CH-47B Chinook helicopter, call sign Warrior 143, from Tuy Hoa, South Vietnam, on a supply mission to Cam Rahn Bay. The weather was expected to be bad en route, and the pilot was cautioned to stay in touch for weather updates.
Ninety minutes after Warrior 143 failed to arrive at its scheduled time in Cam Rahn, search and rescue was initiated. In the week that followed, debris and four bodies washed ashore near Nha Trang, directly along Warrior 143’s flight path.
It was clear the Chinook has crashed into the South China Sea with the loss of all 10 on board. Green, the Chinook’s door gunner, was not among the four bodies discovered.
At the time of the accident, the 19-year-old from Ramona, California, was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group. A possible crash site was discovered in 1974.
After a number of unsuccessful salvage attempts over the decades, possible human remains were finally recovered in 2021. Using forensic and anthropological analyses, Green’s remains were positively identified a year later.
Although the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency accounted for Green in August 2022, it only publicly announced its finding in January 2023 after having been able to fully brief the soldier’s family. Green will be buried in his hometown of Ramona on Feb. 23, 2023.