GRIFFITH, ROBERT SMITH
Name: Robert Smith Griffith
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: 57th Aviation Co., 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade
Date of Birth: 26 December 1942
Home City of Record: Hapeville GA
Date of Loss: 19 February 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 145430N 1072800E (YB665498)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Douglas J. Glover; Melvin C. Dye (still
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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 2010.
SYNOPSIS: SSgt. Melvin C. Dye was the engineer and SSgt. Robert S. Griffith
the door gunner onboard a UH1H helicopter performing an emergency extraction
mission in Laos on February 19, 1968. They were extracting a reconnaissance
patrol team consisting of three U.S. Army Special Forces and 3 indigenous
personnel. The aircraft carried a crew of four. SFC Douglas Glover was one
of the Special Forces personnel aboard.
As the helicopter picked up the team 4 miles inside Laos west of Dak Sut, it
received a heavy volume of small arms fire. It is not known whether the
aircraft was hit by hostile fire or hit a tree, but it nosed over, impacted
the ground and exploded, bursting into flames.
The pilot, co-pilot and one passenger managed to leave the aircraft. Because
of the fire and exploding small arms ammunition, rescue attempts for the
others were futile.
There were six U.S. and 3 indigenous personnel aboard the helicopter. When
search teams reached the site the same day, they could not account for the
other U.S. personnel. Five were accounted for, but could not be recovered
because of intense heat.
Dye, Glover and Griffith were classified as Missing In Action. They did not
return when the general prisoner release occurred in 1973. Since the war
ended, evidence mounts that Americans were left behind in enemy prison camps
and that hundreds of them could be alive today. They deserve better than the
abandonment they received from the country they proudly served.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 950-10
October 18, 2010
Missing Vietnam War Soldiers Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO)
announced today that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from
the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to their families
for burial with full military honors.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert S. Griffith, of Hapeville, Ga., will
be buried on Oct. 23 in Fairburn, Ga. The group remains of the other two
soldiers which could not be individually identified -- Army Staff Sgt.
Melvin C. Dye, of Carleton, Mich., and Sgt. 1st Class Douglas J. Glover, of
Cortland, N.Y., will be buried at a later date. The men were aboard a UH-1H
Iroquois helicopter on Feb. 19, 1968, when it was shot down by enemy fire in
Laos. They were involved in an attempt to extract a long-range
reconnaissance patrol in the mountains of Attapu Province. Three other
American service members survived the crash and were rescued, but three
Vietnamese Montagnards did not survive.
Several hours after the crash, a team was dispatched to
survey the location and reported seeing remains of at least five people.
Enemy activity prevented remains recovery at that time. The following month
a second team was sent to the crash site but found no remains.
In 1995, a joint U.S.-Lao People's Democratic Republic team
traveled to the recorded grid coordinates for the crash site but found no
evidence of a helicopter crash. The team then surveyed a second location in
the area where they found helicopter wreckage and human remains. In 2006, a
follow-on team was not able to resurvey the same site due to severe
overgrowth and time constraints. Another team excavated the location in
late 2007 recovering human remains, wreckage and military-related equipment.
Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial
evidence, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command used dental
x-rays in the identification of Griffith's remains.
Since late 1973, the remains of 938 Americans killed in the
Vietnam War have been accounted for and returned to their families with
1,708 service members still missing.
For additional information on the Defense Department's
mission to account for missing Americans, call 703-699-1169 or visit the
DPMO Web site at http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo.