Duane Whitney Martin, 1st Lt., USAF (POW – KIA)
January 02, 1940 -July 20, 1966

Name: Duane Whitney Martin          

Rank/Branch:  First Lieutenant/US Air Force           

Unit:    38th Air Rescue/Recovery Sq. 

Da Nang Airbase, South Vietnam      

Date of Birth:  02 January 1940         

Home of Record:        Denver, CO    

Date of Loss:  20 September 1965    

Country of Loss:         North Vietnam           

Loss Coordinates:       180555N 1054400E (WF775009)

Click coordinates to view (4) maps   

Status in 1973:            Prisoner Of War/Died in Captivity    

Category:        1         

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:        HH-43B “Huskie”       

Other Personnel in Incident:   Thomas J. Curtis, William A. Robinson and Arthur N. Black (all returned POW’s)

REMARKS:  REPORTED KILLED BY NATIVE/EE

SYNOPSIS:   The Kaman HH-43 Huskie helicopter, nicknamed “Pedro,” provided the only dedicated rescue capability early in the war and helped to develop many of the techniques which were later perfected by other rescue aircraft. The Huskie was also used extensively to provide airbase crash fire suppression.

On 20 September 1965, Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, aircraft commander, 1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, co-pilot, SSgt. William A. Robinson, crew-chief, and A1C Arthur N. Black, Pararescueman, comprised the crew of a HH-43B helicopter, call sign “Duchy 41,” which was on a rescue mission for the pilot of an F-105D. The Thunderchief crashed 10 miles east of the Lao/Vietnamese border and 40 nautical miles south of Vinh, North Vietnam. The weather conditions included 11,000 foot high broken to scattered clouds with rain showers and low clouds.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft departed Nakhon Phanom Airbase, Thailand. Within five minute of arriving on station, the pilot of an A-1E who was participating in the recovery operation, observed the Huskie take enemy ground fire and crash on a ridge that bordered a small canyon which was enclosed on all sides by steep slopes and by jungle canopy. As a second SAR helicopter hovered over the downed HH-43B fuselage, he saw a pin flare pass in front of his aircraft. At the same time, his helicopter took six hits from enemy ground fire forcing him to move away from the wreckage. Because of the intense enemy presence in the area, no ground search was possible for the crews of the F-105D and HH-43B. All five men were listed Missing in Action. Later it was learned all crewmen aboard the Huskie has in fact been captured.

Thomas Curtis, William Robinson and Arthur Black were captured by the NVA, moved to a POW camp in North Vietnam where they were released during Operation Homecoming. Duane Martin was captured by Pathet Lao forces and immediately moved to a POW camp in Khammouan Province, Laos. This camp already housed Eugene DeBruin, Prasit Promsuwan, Prasit Dhanee, To Yick Chiu (Y. C. To) and Pisidhi Indradat; the surviving five crewmen from an Air America C-46 aircraft shot down in 1963.

By February 1966 Navy pilot Lt. Dieter Dengler joined the POW’s. In late June the seven POW’s prepared for an escape from their camp at Houei Het, Laos. At that time they were housed in two cells constructed of logs in a bamboo fenced compound measuring 20 by 20 meters. Three towers overlooked the compound. The camp’s 16 guards had their quarters and mess hall near the front gate. Each morning the prisoners would be taken to a nearby stream and allowed to bathe and fetch water. They were permitted to walk within the compound until receiving their morning ration of rice. After eating, they were placed in stocks and handcuffs which they soon learned to remove. The guards then would eat together leaving their weapons in the watchtowers.

On the morning of 29 June 1966, while the 16 guards ate their meal in the mess hall, Pisidhi, Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin removed a previously loosened log, left their cell, climbed through a prepared opening in the bamboo fence and secured the rifles from the empty guard towers. The three armed POW’s confronted the guards. When they were ordered to remain still one of the guards panicked and began to flee. The three POW’s killed the guards and all seven POW’s fled the compound. Following prepared plans, they split into three groups: Lt. Dengler and Lt. Martin, Gene DeBruin and a sickly Y. C. To, and the three Thais. They planned that if one group was rescued, it would direct a search party toward the other two groups of escapees.

Some five days after their escape, Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin were near a Kha village. According to one report, after being seen by a young girl, Duane Martin entered the village to beg for food and was killed by a villager with a machete. The man first swung the machete cutting off Duane Martin’s leg. He swung a second time decapitating him. Dieter Dengler, who did not enter the village with Lt. Martin, watched in horror as Duane Martin was murdered. On 20 July 1966, 23 days after making their escape, Dieter Dengler was rescued by helicopter. To date the communists have made no attempt to return the remains of Duane Martin.

Of the other escaping POW’s Gene DeBruin was reportedly recaptured, but never returned to US control. Pisidhi Indradat was recaptured, taken to a compound that housed Royal Lao, and later rescued in a successful raid that liberated all 53 POWs who were incarcerated in that camp. Prasit Promsuwan, Prasit Dhanee and To Yick Chiu vanished and their fate remains unknown.

Duane W. Martin is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. The Lao admitted holding “tens of tens” of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or the Paris Peace Accords since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

While the fate of Duane Martin is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country he gave his life for. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly under many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

http://www.taskforceomegainc.org/M163.htm

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The story of Duchy 41

20 September 1965Laos

The Kaman HH-43 Huskie helicopter was originally designed to provide rescue support and fire suppression for aircraft accidents on or near any given airbase. In the opening days of America’s war in Southeast Asia, however, its job description was forced to expand to include combat rescue operations for downed flight crews. On 20 September 1965, Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, aircraft commander, 1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, co-pilot, crew chief SSgt. William A. Robinson,  and Pararescueman  A1C Arthur N. Black comprised the crew of a HH-43B helicopter, call sign “Duchy 41,” which was on a rescue mission for the pilot of an F-105D. Willis E. Forby of the 334th Tactical Fighter Squadron had taken a severe beating; he ejected ten miles east of the Laotian border, forty miles south of Vinh, North Vietnam.

The little Huskie departed Nakhon Phanom Airbase, Thailand – otherwise known as ‘NKP’ or ‘Naked Fanny’ – and headed northeast, where Air Force search & rescue Skyraider support aircraft were doing their best to keep Forby alive. Within five minutes of arriving on station, one of the Sandy pilots observed the Huskie take ground fire and crash on a ridge that bordered a small canyon which was enclosed on all sides by steep slopes and jungle canopy. As a second SAR helicopter hovered over the downed HH-43, it took several hits from enemy ground fire, forcing him to move away from the wreckage. Because of the intense enemy presence in the area – later determined to be a combination of North Vietnamese regular army troops and Communist Pathet Lao forces – no ground search was possible for the crews of the F-105D and HH-43B. All five men were listed Missing in Action.

Of the helicopter crew, Curtis, Robinson & Black were captured by NVA regulars – as was Forby, the Thud driver – and moved to a POW camp in North Vietnam. Duane Martin was captured by Pathet Lao forces and immediately moved to a POW camp deep in Laos. This camp already housed the surviving crewmen of an Air America C-46 – American Eugene DeBruin, three Thai and one Chinese – which had been shot down in 1963.

Throughout the fall of 1965 and into spring and summer of 1966, the group of Americans suffered regular beatings, torture, harassment, hunger and illness in the hands of their captors. They witnessed their captors behead one unnamed American Navy pilot and execute six wounded Marines.

By February 1966 Navy pilot LT Dieter Dengler joined the POW’s. In late June the seven POW’s prepared for an escape. At that time they were housed in two cells constructed of logs in a bamboo fenced compound measuring 20 by 20 meters. Three towers overlooked the compound. The camp’s 16 guards had their quarters and mess hall near the front gate. Each morning the prisoners would be taken to a nearby stream and allowed to bathe and fetch water. They were permitted to walk within the compound until receiving their morning ration of rice. After eating, they were placed in stocks and handcuffs which they soon learned to remove. The guards then would eat together leaving their weapons in the watchtowers.

On the morning of 29 June 1966, while the 16 guards ate their meal in the mess hall, Dengler, Duane Martin & one of the Thai crewmen removed a previously loosened log, left their cell, climbed through an opening in the bamboo fence and secured the rifles from the empty guard towers. The three armed POW’s confronted the guards. When they were ordered to remain still one of the guards panicked and began to flee. The three POW’s killed the guards and all seven POW’s fled the compound. Following prepared plans, they split into three groups: Dengler & Martin, DeBruin & the Chinese crewman, who was very ill, and the three Thais. They planned that if one group was rescued, it would direct a search party toward the other two groups of escapees.

Dengler and Martin and the others made their way through the dense jungle surviving on fruits, berries, and some rice they had managed to save during their captivity. DeBruin, unwilling to abandon his sick Chinese companion, was captured the next morning and never seen again. The three Thai crewmen managed to reach safety, and freedom.   Dieter and Duane floated down river on a raft they had constructed, eventually coming to an abandoned village where the men found some corn. After a night’s rest, they made their way downstream to another village. It had been five days since their escape; Dengler was weak from dysentery, while Martin was delirious with malaria. As Dengler watched from the relative safety of some brush, Martin decided to get something for them to eat. Seen by a young girl, Duane entered the village to ask for food when another villager charged with a machete. As Lieutenant Martin fell to his knees, pleading with hands clasped, the man’s first swing cut off Martin’s leg. Dengler, too weak to help his friend, could only watch in horror as the villager’s second swing decapitated him. The Naval Aviator was forced to continue alone.  23 days after their escape, on 20 July 1966, Dengler was rescued by helicopter.

To date the Laotians have made no attempt to return the remains of Duane Martin. He left behind a young widow and two small daughters. Martin is one of nearly 600 Americans who remain missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Laos.

Added by Gmasher · May 26, 2011

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