Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
William David Pruett, SMSgt., USAF (KIA)July 18, 1930 – January 28, 1970
In Memory of Air Force SMS William David Pruett.*** William Dale (Bud) PRUETT was born on Jul 18 1930 in Tazewell Co V. He died on Jan 28 1970 in Viet Nam. He was married to Rita WEIRS in 1952 in Indiana. William Dale (Bud) PRUETT and Rita WEIRS had the following children:1. William Dale Pruett JR.2. David Lee PRUETT.*** Senior Master Sergeant Pruett was a member of 3rd Air Rescue and Recovery Group. On January 28, 1970, he was a crew member of a Sikorsky Sea Stallion Search and Rescue Helicopter (HH-53B) trying to rescue two downed airmen about 20 miles northeast of Mu Gia Pass, Laos. The helicopter was hit by a MiG and exploded. His remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
You may be gone, no longer living on this earth; but you will live on – in the memories of your family and friends. There will always be a part of you living in those who knew you. You will live on because we remember you!
WILLIAM DAVID PRUETT – Air Force – SMS – E8Age: 39Race: CaucasianDate of Birth Jul 18, 1930From: BLUEFIELD, VAReligion: PROTESTANTMarital Status: Married – Ana L. Pruett, Son’s, Michael Wayne Pruett, (Retired Army)and Kenneth D. Pruett, all of Isabela, PR.. Sister, Mrs. Charlotte R. Backus of VA. Brother, David Lee Pruett.
***** ~ Thank You For Your Service ~ May You Rest In Heavenly Peace Dear Cousin ~Orval Lee HodgesFeb. 24, 2016
Length of service 20 yearsHis tour began on Jan 28, 1970Casualty was on Jan 28, 1970In NORTH VIETNAM (DPMO shows Laos)Hostile, died while missing, HELICOPTER – CREWAIR LOSS, CRASH ON LANDPanel 14W – Line 76Home City of Record: Bluefield VADate of Loss: 28 January 1970Country of Loss: North VietnamLoss Coordinates: 180200N 1053300E (WF582048)MILITARY DATAService: United States Air ForceGrade at loss: E8Rank: Senior Master SergeantID No: 227288312MOS:90251: Aeromedical Specialist (Air Rescue)Length Service: 20Unit: 40TH ARRS, 3RD AIR RESCUE GROUP, 7TH AF
CASUALTY DATAStart Tour: 07/20/1969Incident Date: 01/28/1970Casualty Date: 01/28/1970Age at Loss: 39Casualty Type: Hostile, died while missingCasualty Reason: Helicopter – CrewCasualty Detail: Air loss or crash over landStatus (in 1973): Killed/Body Not RecoveredCategory: 2Acft/Vehicle/Ground: HH53BRefno: 1552
Location: LaosRemains: Body not recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Leonard C. Leeser; Gregory L. Anderson; William C. Shinn; William C. Sutton (missing); Holly G. Bell (remains returned). F-105G: Richard J. Mallon; Robert J. Panek, Sr. (remains returned)
On 28 January 1970, Capt. Richard J. Mallon, pilot; and Capt. Robert J. Panek, Sr., electronic warfare officer, comprised the crew of an F-105G aircraft (serial #38-341/8329), call sign “Seabird 02,” that departed Udorn Airfield as the #2 aircraft in a flight of 2 conducting a wild weasel SAM suppression mission to locate and destroy surface-to-air missile sites near Nui Dai Ninh, North Vietnam.
Once Seabird flight arrived, The FAC cleared Seabird flight into the target area to initiate their search for SAM sites located along Route 15, the primary road running through the Mu Gia Pass.
Seabird 01 and 02 pressed forward with one aircraft flying low over the countryside trolling for the enemy gunners to turn on their radarscopes to paint it with radar waves prior to launching missiles at it.
Seabird flight identified an active SAM site and as Seabird 02 attacked it, the Thunderchief was struck by an air-to-air missile from a MiG-21 whose pilot was assigned to the North Vietnamese Air Force’s 921st Flight Regiment.
Richard Mallon and Robert Panek were immediately forced to eject from their crippled Thunderchief. Immediately the lead pilot requested a search and rescue (SAR) mission be initiated. Within minutes the rescue force, including two HH-53B rescue helicopters, were dispatched from Udorn Airfield, Thailand, to pick up Capt. Mallon and Capt. Panek.
Major Holly G. Bell, pilot; Capt. Leonard C. Leeser, co-pilot; SSgt. William C. Shine, flight engineer; MSgt. William C. Sutton, pararescueman; SMSgt. William D. Pruett, crew member; and SSgt. Gregory L. Anderson, aerial photographer; comprised the crew of one of the HH-53B search and rescue helicopters (serial # 66-14434), call sign “Jolly Green 71.”
Once the rescue force arrived in the target area, the FAC directed them into a holding area located approximately 23 miles northwest of the downed wild weasel aircrew.
As Jolly Green 71 waited for clearance from the FAC to enter the rescue area, the helicopter was attacked and shot down by another air-to-air missile from a second MiG-21.
Other flight members watched in horror as the MiG-21 attacked the helicopter causing it to explode in a fireball that turned the aircraft into hundreds of pieces of burning debris that fell onto the steep mountainside.
A short beeper signal was heard from the forested crash site, indicating that at least one person aboard the helicopter may have exited the aircraft alive.
In spite of the possibility that one of the crewmen might have survived based on the short emergency beeper that was heard, the board downgraded the status of all six men from Missing to Killed/Body Not Recovered.
***********************In April 1970, the Air Force conducted a Board of Inquiry to review all facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of Jolly Green 71. In spite of the possibility that one of the crewmen might have survived based on the short emergency beeper that was heard, the board downgraded the status of all six men from Missing to Killed/Body Not Recovered.
Meanwhile Capt. Mallon and Capt. Panek were still attempting to evade capture in an area heavily infiltrated with enemy troops. Other pilots who were providing RESCAP (Rescue Combat Air Patrol) during the SAR operation observed enemy forces recover one of the parachutes on the ground, but saw no sign of the pilot it belonged to. Likewise, during the remainder of the search operation, no trace of the wild weasel aircrew was found. At the time the formal SAR effort was terminated, both Richard Mallon and Robert Panek were also listed Missing in Action.***********************
In December 1988, the Vietnamese returned several sets of remains to U.S. control that they Identified as those of American servicemen. Each of these boxes bore a number which corresponded to a name on the Vietnamese list. The remains of Capt. Mallon and Capt. Panek were among these remains.The remains of Major Bell were also returned in this group of remains; however, there were complications. In box 18 were remains they identified as William Sutton. Those remains actually were identified as those of Holly Bell. In box 17, which was listed by the Vietnamese as being the remains of Holly Bell, proved to be unidentifiable fragments of cranium. The remains in these two boxes were found by a local woodcutter who turned them in along with William Sutton’s military ID card and Geneva Convention card.
***********************In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 8 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to these two loss incidents. The NSA synopsis regarding Jolly Green 71 states: “USAF SAR HH-53B shot down by SRV MiG-21’s.”
In regard to Seabird 02, the NSA correlation study states, “Note; lost during attack on SAM site. Both crewmen ejected with two good chutes. Enemy ground troops in immediate area and observed to recover one of the parachutes on the ground. USAF F-105G and USAF SAR HH-53B shot down by SRV MiG-21’s. Both crewmen reported dead after bailout.”
While Holly Bell, Richard Mallon and Robert Panek’s fate is finally resolved, there are no answers to the question of when, where and how each man died.
Further, there are no answers to the questions pertaining to the fate of the rest of Jolly Green 71’s aircrew.
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