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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Gregory Paul Lawrence, Sgt., USAF (KIA)March 10, 1938 – October 05, 1968
Rank/Branch: E4/US Air ForceUnit: 37th Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron, Da Nang AB SVDate of Birth: 10 March 1938Home City of Record: Phenix ALDate of Loss: 05 October 1968Country of Loss: LaosLoss Coordinates: 155357N 1072258E (YC592700)Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not RecoveredCategory: 2Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: HH-3ERefno: 1298Other Personnel in Incident: Albert D. Wester (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1999 with information from his daughter, Debbie Webster. Update 2000 with information from James Grady. 2020
SYNOPSIS: Maj. Albert D. Wester was a copilot of an HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter dispatched on a recovery mission on the border of South Vietnam and Laos on October 5, 1968. The Jolly Green normally carried a crew of four, and could carry up to 30 passengers, but the only other crew member whose name is part of public record is Sgt. Gregory P. Lawrence.
At a point about due west of Da Nang in Laos, on the border of Quang Nam Province in South Vietnam and Savannakhet Province in Laos, Maj. Wester’s aircraft was hit by hostile fire and crashed. Both Wester and Lawrence sustained fatal injuries from the subsequent crash, fire and explosion. It is assumed, but not known, that the rest of the crew was either rescued or recovered dead.
Wester and Lawrence are among a number of Americans who were listed as Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. They are counted among the missing because their remains were never recovered for an honorable burial at home.For their families, there can be some assurance that they died in the service of their country.
From – Tue Jul 13 1999
… He was consider an old man while stationed with the 37th ARRS at the age of 30 years old. He volunteered to go to war. I didn’t learn much about my dad until about a year ago (after I had outlived him by a year) when I started my search to learn more about the man he was, the man in the picture on the Wall I called daddy. I have learned from vets that were his buddies in Da Nang that he loved to build model airplanes and spent most of his free time working on them. He didn’t drink or smoke and never left the base to go party with the others. He was trusted by everyone he flew with and was always there for them when they needed to talk. His job in rescue was as the Flight Engineer (door gunner) and he enjoyed it completely. His love for his country and for flying is why he went to Nam. He was always smiling and a very happy man (even in Nam he was happy). I have been told that I am a lot like my dad as far as my personality and I have his smile, hearing the vets that I have met tell me makes me feel closer to my dad. I was 2 yrs old when he died and have no memories of him.
He met my mom while he was in the Army stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga. and they married in 1964. They had 3 children together, two daughters and a son. My brother was born while dad was in Nam and they never had the chance to see one another. When his time was up in the Army he got out and shortly after that enlisted in the AF.
The Joint Task Force has located the crash site and plan on excavating it in 2002 (not holding my breath for that). They only found the wreckage. Maybe one day they will find what might be left of my dad and send him home to beburied at home, where he belongs.
Thank you for your time.Debbie Webster
PDO, Sgt.Gregory Paul Lawrence, KIA/BNR Oct. 5, 1968, USAF
Subject: Re: gregory paul lawrenceDate: Sun, 3 Sep 2000 19:54:19 -0500From: “James Grady” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Jolly Greens at Da Nang maintained two HH-3Es and crews on alert at Da Nang, and also at Quang Tri. On Oct 5, 1968, the Da Nang alert Jolly’s were launched.
A long range patrol consisting of three American special forces men and 7 or 8 Viet mercenaries had been inserted in Laos to monitor traffic on the Ho Che Minh roads. It had been ambushed immediately and the insertion army helicopter had been shot down. The team was able to maintain it’s position on the LZ (landing zone) but was surrounded at close quarters. The army was not able to get a helicopter into the area due to ground-fire. The Jolly Greens were then launched.
The LZ was on the slope of a mountain with a deep narrow valley leading to it from below. Ground fire was coming from all sides.
The Jolly’s were escorted by A-1E (Sandy’s) aircraft which were a part of the alert team. Many “fast movers” (F-4, F-100, etc.) and other A-1’s (Spads) were diverted from other missions to aid in suppressing ground fire. A-1’s were the workhorses of the rescue business because they are much more accurate and more safe to work in close to survivors.
Due to very dense forest it is usually impossible to see anything on the ground. The fixed wing acft try to pinpoint the enemy by flying low andslow in an attempt to get the enemy to fire at them. The survivors may be able to direct fire also. I explain this in order to point out the difficulty in assuring a safe hover by the rescue Jolly. If the survivor is not aware of the enemy position, or if the enemy is not taken in by the teasing of the fixed wing acft. then we can only assume that it is safe. That assumption is all too often incorrect.
In this instance the first Jolly was hit and badly damaged. The second Jolly was required to accompany the damaged one on it’s return to Da Nang. In the meantime a second pair of Jolly’s had been placed on alert. The eng/gunner of one of them needed to leave the facility for some reason and had asked for someone to replace him for a short time. Lawrence volunteered.
The Jolly on which Lawrence flew was designated the “low bird”, or primary. I was in the high bird, (backup).
As much as possible having been done to provide a safe hover, the low bird was cleared in. In the high bird we observed our buddy approach to a hover, then abruptly catch fire, swing about and start down the valley, only to crash almost immediately. We learned later that as the helicopter downwash parted the brush and grass at the edge of the LZ, two enemy were seen lying there. They fired upward from very close range using explosive projectiles. Very probably rifle launched grenades. We immediately descended to hover over the fireball but could see nothing in the fire.
Shortly thereafter we established radio contact with the PJ. He had escaped through a window and run into the jungle, there to find himself in the midst of a campsite, complete with many hammocks hung in the trees. The campers were not at home since they were busy up at the LZ. We also made contact with the right seat pilot who had got out only because one of the grenades had blown out the left side of the cockpit and also blown the left seat pilot, seat and all, into the front of the acft. There is no door to the cockpit except through the main compartment which would by then havebeen impossible to go through due to the fire.
The two men were then able to join just down from the crash, hiding themselves in the brush.
By now the evening was approaching and we needed to finish this episode before dark. We directed the army team to break out and run down the valley to the point where our Jolly Greens were . In order to facilitate the breakout the team was to go immediately as there was an F-4 inbound with two large high drag bombs which impact the the LZ very shortly. This, wehoped, would discourage anyone attempting to follow the team.
We then hovered over our comrades and hoisted them aboard. The team arrived quite quickly, having lost one American on the way.
The PJ confirmed that Lawrence had been killed instantly on impact. The pilot confirmed that the other pilot was dead.
I believe that our brave men were cremated by the fire. They died having lived with the motto of the Jolly Greens; “THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE”
James H. GradyLt. Col, USAF(RET.)
SGT GREGORY PAUL LAWRENCE
On October 5, 1968, an HH-3E Jolly Green helicopter (tail number 65-12782, call sign Jolly Green 10) with a crew of four carried out a combat search and rescue mission to extract an eight-man special operations team from hostile territory in Laos. Upon landing at the LZ to pick up the ground team, the helicopter was hit by enemy ground fire. A fire started on the aircraft, and it moved away from the landing zone but crashed while still on the Lao side of the border. Two members of the crew survived the crash, explosion and fire, and another helicopter moved in to rescue the surviving six members of the special operations team survived the crash. The copilot and flight engineer died in the crash.
Sergeant Gregory Paul Lawrence, who entered the U.S. Air Force from Alabama, served with the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron and was the flight engineer aboard this helicopter at the time of its loss. He was killed in the crash and his remains could not be recovered. Today, Sergeant Lawrence is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
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