Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Richard Vandegeer, 1st Lt., USAF (KIA)January 11, 1948 – May 15, 1975
On May 12, 1975, Khmer Rouge gunboats captured the S.S. Mayaguez in the Gulf of Thailand, approximately 60 nautical miles off the coast of Cambodia. After the vessel was taken to Koh Tang Island, U.S. aircraft began surveillance flights around the island. When efforts to secure the release of the ship and its crew failed, U.S. military forces began a rescue mission.
Three days after the Mayaguez seizure, the Air Force dispatched six helicopters to the island. One of the helicopters came under heavy enemy fire and crashed into the surf with 26 men on board. Thirteen of the men were rescued at sea, leaving 13 service members unaccounted-for from the crash.
The thirteen lost were interred together in Arlington Cemetery. Lt. Van de Geer’s twelve compatriots were:PFC Daniel Andrew Benedett, USMCPFC Lynn Blessing, USMCPFC Walter Boyd, USMCLance Cpl. Gregory S Copenhaver, USMCLance Cpl. Andres Garcia, USMCPFC James J Jacques, USMCPFC James Rickey Maxwell, USMC