BRIGGS, ERNEST FRANK JR. Remains ID announced 08/06/07
Name: Ernest Frank Briggs, Jr. Rank/Branch: SP5/US Army Unit: 176th Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal) Date of Birth: 12 December 1944 (Heflin AL) Home City of Record: Devine TX (some records say San Antonio TX) Date of Loss: 05 January 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 161907N 1063445E (XD701021) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1D Refno: 0967
Other Personnel In Incident: James Williamson; John T. Gallagher; Dennis C. Hamilton; Sheldon D. Schultz (all missing); (indigenous team members, names, numbers, fates unknown)
Source: Compiled from 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 in 2007.
REMARKS: NO SIGN OF CREW
SYNOPSIS: On January 5, 1968, WO Dennis C. Hamilton, aircraft commander; WO Sheldon D. Schultz, pilot; SP5 Ernest F. Briggs, Jr., crew chief; SP4 James P. Williamson, crewman, and SSgt. John T. Gallagher, passenger; were aboard a UH1D helicopter (tail # 66-1172) on a mission to infiltrate an indigenous reconnaissance patrol into Laos.
The reconnaissance patrol and SSgt. Gallagher were operating under orders to Command & Control North, 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.
As the aircraft approached the landing zone about 20 miles inside Laos south of Lao Bao, it came under heavy 37mm anti-aircraft fire while at an altitude of about 300 feet above ground level. The aircraft immediately entered a nose-low vertical dive and crashed.
Upon impact with the ground, the aircraft burst into flames which were 10 to 20 feet high. No radio transmissions were heard during the helicopter's descent, nor were radio or beeper signals heard after impact. Four attempts to get into the area of the downed helicopter failed due to intense ground fire.
During the next two days more attempts to get to the wreckage failed. The pilot of one search helicopter maneuvered to within 75 feet of the crash site before being forced out by enemy fire. The pilot who saw the wreckage stated that the crashed helicopter was a mass of burned metal and that there was no part of the aircraft that could be recognized. No signs of life were seen in the crash area.
Weather delayed further search attempts for a couple of days. After the weather improved, the successful insertion of a ground team was made east of the crash site to avoid enemy fire. The team was extracted after the second day, finding nothing. The crash site was located near the city of Muong Nong in Savannakhet Province, Laos.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos. The Pathet Lao insisted that the "tens of tens" of Americans they held would only be released from Laos, but the U.S. did not officially recognize the communist faction in Laos and did not negotiate for American prisoners being held by them. Not one American held by the Lao was ever released.
Alarmingly, evidence continues to mount that Americans were left as prisoners in Southeast Asia and continue to be held today. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of the nearly 2500 men and women who remain missing in Southeast Asia can be accounted for. Perhaps the crew of the helicopter did not survive the crash, but until there is positive proof of their deaths, we cannot forget them. If even one was left behind at the end of the war, alive, (and many authorities estimate the numbers to be in the hundreds), we have failed as a nation until and unless we do everything possible to secure his freedom and bring him home.
=================================== NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 970-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 06, 2007 Media Contact: (703) 697-5131/697-5132 Public/Industry(703) 428-0711
Soldiers Mia From Vietnam War Are Accounted For
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that group remains of five U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, will be returned to their families soon for burial with full military honors.
They are Chief Warrant Officer Dennis C. Hamilton, of Barnes City, Iowa; Chief Warrant Officer Sheldon D. Schultz, of Altoona, Pa.; Sgt. 1st Class Ernest F. Briggs Jr., of San Antonio, Texas; Sgt. 1st Class John T. Gallagher, of Hamden, Conn.; and Sgt. 1st Class James D. Williamson, of Olympia, Wash.; all U.S. Army.The group remains of this crew will be buried on Aug. 14 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.Gallagher's remains were individually identified, and his burial date is being set by his family.
Representatives from the Army met with the next-of-kin of these men to explain the recovery and identification process, and to coordinate interment with military honors on behalf of the Secretary of the Army.
On Jan. 5, 1968, these men crewed a UH-1D helicopter that was inserting a patrol into Savannakhet Province, Laos.As the aircraft approached the landing zone, it was struck by enemy ground fire, causing it to nose over and crash.There were no survivors.All attempts to reach the site over the next several days were repulsed by enemy fire.
Between 1995 and 2006, numerous U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic /Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams, all led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), conducted more than five investigations, including interviews with Vietnamese citizens who said they witnessed the crash.Between 2002 and 2006, JPAC led three excavations of the site, recovering remains and other material evidence including identification tags for Schultz, Hamilton and Briggs.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC also used dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO Web site at http:// www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1169.