WALTER E DEMSEY - SP4
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- September 17, 1949
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- February 18, 1971
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
Walter E. Demsey, Jr. was born on September 17, 1949. His home of record is Glendora, NJ.
Walter entered the US Army where he attained the rank of Specialist 4(SP4).
Walter remains listed as missing in action since February 18, 1971.
The story begins on February 18, 1971. The crew was stationed at Camp Eagle with the 101st Airborne Comencheros. The crew that day was pilot George Berg, co-pilot Gerald Woods, crew chief Walter Demsey, and door gunner Gary Johnson flying a UH-1H helicopter. On that day, the crew was flying out of Phu Bai, the mission was to extract a Special Forces team located just over the Vietnamese border in Laos. The Special Forces team was on an information-gathering mission on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The team was monitoring the trail, when an enemy soldier was spotted with a bike, carrying documents. Shots were fired, the soldier was killed, and the documents were recovered.
The shots alerted the enemy in the area and a fire-fight broke out. The team called for an emergency extraction. Four choppers were sent in and all four made a pickup and returned safely to Phu Bai. Three Special Forces team members still remained to be picked up, my brother's crew elected to return and make the final pickup.
Daylight was beginning to fade and the weather in the pickup zone was closing in. The chopper proceeded down the ridgeline of the west wall of the Ashau Valley in the clouds moving to the west to the pickup site just inside of Laos. The three remaining Special Forces personnel (Ronald Watson, Allen Lloyd, and Sam Hernandez) were picked up with the enemy firing at the chopper the whole time. The chopper headed to the east towards the Ashau Valley at tree top level, dragging the Special Forces team who were on ropes through the trees. The chopper crossed over the west wall ridgeline and Sam Hernandez's rope broke, dropping him 40 feet to the jungle floor. The chopper continued to head east into the Ashau Valley for 600 feet when the chopper made a U-turn, crashing into the west wall and bursting into a ball of flames. Sam survived the fall and was shaken up but was not injured, he didn't see or hear the chopper go down and started an E&E for the night.
Written by David Demsey, Brother
Synopsis (from the POW Network) as to the circumstances behind being listed as MIA:
WO Gerald E. Woods, pilot; WO George P. Berg, aircraft commander; SP4 Gary L. Johnson, door gunner; SP4 Walter Demsey, crew chief; were assigned to Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. On February 18, 1971, their UH1H was dispatched as part of a flight of four on an emergency patrol extraction mission on the West Side of the A Shau Valley in Thua Tin Province, South Vietnam. The patrol to be rescued included Sgt. Allen R. Lloyd, Capt. Ronald L. Watson and SFC Samuel Hernandez, part of Special Operations Augmentation, Command & Control North, 5th Special Forces Group.
The team was assigned to MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces group) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction which were called, depending on
the time frame, "Shining Brass" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
On Feb. 19, 1971 a Special Forces team was inserted close to the crash site in an attempt to rescue or recover any crew members. The team spotted Sam Hernandez on the ground and picked him up. Sam had the documents that were captured the day before with him. Sam was flown back to base. The team located the crash site 600 ft. down from the top of the ridgeline, the copperhead had been almost totally destroyed. Berg and Woods were found still strapped in their seats, Johnson was found in a tree 30 ft. from the site, and Demsey's leg was found very close to the cargo compartment. It is believed that Demsey was thrown from the chopper when it crashed and it rolled over on him cutting the leg off and trapping the rest of his body under the wreckage.
The team placed the remains into body bags on top of the wreckage. The weather was closing in, the daylight was fading, and the decision was made to leave the remains at the crash site and to stay over night near the crash site. The team headed Northwest on the top of the ridgeline and passed a cliff, the ropes were spotted hanging over the cliff with Watson and Lloyd still attached to their ropes at the bottom. The team continued heading Northwest for hill 1528 where they spent the night. The following morning the team was preparing to return to the crash site when they were attacked. The team suffered two wounded and a convey pilot, Larry Hull, crashed and was killed. The team was extracted without the remains and the decision was made not to return to the area because it was so "hot". Some of the team members on that mission were Charles Westley, Cliff Newman, and Charles Danzer, all with the 5th Special Forces Group out of DaNang.
During the attempt to recover the patrol, Woods' helicopter came under heavy fire and had to leave the pick-up zone with Lloyd, Watson and Hernandez attached to the three-staple rig. While in flight, the rope broke, and Hernandez fell 30 to 40 feet, landing in double canopy jungle. He was rescued the following day. The helicopter continued a short distance, and was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire, crashed and burned.
Sources: David Demsey (brother), POW Network and NJVVMF, Photo from VVMF.
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