Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Thomas Frederick Buhr, Sergeant, USAF (KIA)
January 13, 1944 – May 23, 1968
Sergeant Thomas Frederick Buhr was killed in action when CH-3E #66-13295 (Call sign Dusty-51) of the 21st Special Operations Squadron from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base was shot down by enemy action in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam on 23 May 1968
By May, 1968, the siege at Khe Sanh, had been lifted, but North Vietnamese, Army activity, in western Quang Tri, remained, at a high, level and the “Mini-Tet,” offensive, had increased, enemy activity, throughout South Vietnam. On 23, May 1968, three, CH-3E, helicopters, departed Nakhon Phanom, RTAFB, on a close-hold mission. – according, to one report, they “on a classified, ordnance, delivery mission,” according to another, they were to deliver sensors, designed, to detect and track, NVA., forces. In any case, the area involved was near, Khe Sanh and the helos, were escorted, by a flight, of A-1, Skyraiders. On arrival, in the target, area, the helos, dropped down through a hole, in a nearly-solid, cloud cover. Once underneath, the flight lead, Captain, John H. McCollum, determined, that the mission was not, practical and directed, the flight, to climb, back above, the cloud deck. The wing helicopters did so, without difficulty, but visual and radio contact, with Captain, McCollum’s aircraft, was lost. Weather conditions pretty much limited, search and rescue efforts, to radio calls and eventually, the effort was called off, pending improved weather. When the cloud, cover, broke up, smoke, from the burning wreckage, led SAR., forces, to the crash site, which was located, several hundred feet, below the peak, of a 5700-foot, mountain. The aircraft wreckage, was in two separate areas, with the bulk, of the fuselage about 450, feet uphill from the aft-most, fuselage section. There were, no signs, of survivors, but attempts, to lower a search party, to the site were foiled, by heavy turbulence, around the peaks. For the next three weeks, Marine, ground forces, attempted, to reach the crash site, but were unable, to do so. Although the crash, was believed to be un-survivable, the six, men aboard, were classed, as Missing, in Action. The five, crewmen, from the 21st, Special Ops., Squadron, were: Captain, James P. McCollum, Pleasantville, NJ., pilot; Captain, William H. Taylor, Wilson, NC., copilot; SSgt., John L. Coon, Phelps, NY., Flight Engineer; Sgt., John E. Albanese, Medina, NY., Flight Engineer and Sgt., Robert A. Fink, San Diego, CA., Crew Chief. The sixth man, Sgt., Thomas F. Buhr, Fort Wayne, IN., a combat photographer, from the 600th, Photo Squadron, was aboard in a non-crew, status. On 02, Nov., 1968, a ground party finally reached, the site and recovered human remains believed, to be those, of at least, five men. A mortuary report, from 15, Jan., 1969, stated, that only, the remains, of Captain, William H. Taylor, could be individually identified. The unidentified remains, were given a group burial, with military honors, in Site, 346, Section, 81, of the Jefferson, Barracks, National Cemetery, Saint Louis, Missouri.
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