Name: Donald Carroll Grella
Rank/Branch: E5/US 7th Army Special Forces Group
Unit: Aviation Company, (Assault Helicopter) 299th Attack Helicopter
Battalion, assigned to 1st Cavalry Division

Aviation Company, 7th SFGA was withdrawn from the 7th SFGA and redesignated
as one of the four companies (A-D) of the 229th Aviation Battalion.
It would have been designated, for example, Co A, 229th Avn Bn (Aslt Hel). 
It was not uncommon for units and personnel to unofficially insist
on using their old designation when they were absorbed into another
unit and redsignated.  That appears to be the case here.

Date of Birth: 01 December 1940 (Coleridge NE)
Home City of Record: Laurel NE
Date of Loss: 28 December 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 135702N 1084955E (BR570450)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: UH1D
Refno: 0224

Other Personnel In Incident: Jesse D. Phelps; Thomas Rice Jr.; Kenneth L.
Stancil (all missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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 2019.


SYNOPSIS: The large influx of American combat and support battalions
arriving in Vietnam in the mid-1960's afforded the Army Special Forces a
wealth of potential military backup and engineer support. Airmobile infantry
promised quick and decisive response to CIDG patrolling opportunities or
adverse camp situations. The availability of engineers assured required camp
construction and defensive strengthening of existing sites.

In exchange, the Special Forces provided support, regional intelligence and
area indoctrination for the arriving Army formations. In mid to late
December 1965, Special Forces Major Brewington's B-22 Detachment helped the
1st Cavalry Division to settle into the An Khe area. Assisting, was the
299th Attack Helicopter Battalion of the Aviation Company of 7th Special
Forces Group (Assault Helicopter).

On December 28, 1965 a UH1D helicopter from the Aviation Company departed An
Khe on a supply mission to a combat unit in the early hours. Radio
transmissions revealed that flight was difficult because of weather and
darkness. The pilot, WO2 Jesse Phelps, radioed for weather reports. The
other crew of the aircraft consisted of SP5 Donald Grella, crewchief; WO3
Kenneth Stancil, co-pilot; and SP4 Thomas Rice, door gunner.

When the aircraft was about 10 minutes' flying time from An Khe, radio
contact was suspended, and no further word was received from the aircraft.
When the UH1D failed to return, an intensive search was conducted, with no
sign of either the lost aircraft or its crew. The crew was believed to be
all killed.

The crew of the UH1D are among nearly 2500 Americans missing in Southeast
Asia. In the 1950's Henry Kissinger predicted that "limited political
engagements" would result in non-recoverable prisoners of war. This
prediction was fulfilled in Korea and Vietnam, where thousands of men and
women remain missing when ample evidence exists that many of them survived
(from both wars) and are alive today. For Americans, and particularly the
families of those who are missing, this abandonment of military personnel is
unacceptable and the policy that allows it must be changed before another
generation is left behind in some future war.


 Omaha World-Herald
Friday, December 29, 2000

Sister: MIA 'Deserves To Come Home' Nebraska MIAs

...  Thirty-five years ago this week, Spc. 5 Donald Grella disappeared in

  He and three special forces comrades climbed aboard their helicopter for
what was supposed to be a 15-minute, pre-dawn flight. Their chopper never

Mystery of missing US helicopter in Vietnam solved

They pledged to leave no man behind, so for 43 years the mystery of what happened to Huey 808 has tortured veterans of the First Air Cavalry.

Telegraph (London) 
28 May 2009
Donald Grella who died in the crash
The helicopter and its four-man crew failed to return from a routine mission in December 1965, soon after braving enemy fire at the battle of Ia Drang, America's first great clash of arms in Vietnam.
Pilots spent months scouring the jungle looking for traces of a crash site, and for years afterwards, comrades of the lost crew made trips to the steamy hill villages of the Central Highlands looking for clues to what happened.
Four decades on, their prayers have finally been answered. 
A specialist US military unit has returned to Vietnam to excavate a jungle crash site. It found the missing aircraft, and will return the remains of its crew for burial in Arlington National Cemetery, alongside thousands of other servicemen who perished in America's longest war.
Shirley Haase, 63, brother of Donald Grella who was 25 when he died, said: "This is fantastic news after all these years of being tormented by not knowing what happened to them.
"The loss of my brother has been with me for every day of 43 years. At last we have a chance of knowing what really happened."
The crew were heroes in one of America's bloodiest battles, which started when 450 infantrymen landed by helicopter in jungle clearings only to discover they were surrounded by an entire North Vietnamese division of 2,000 men. 
It was the bravery of the helicopter crews, who at terrible risk flew supplies and reinforcements in and casualties out, that kept the soldiers alive.
The battle was immortalised by Hollywood in 2002 in a film called We Were Soldiers Once... And Young starring Mel Gibson as infantry commander Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore.
One of the centrepieces of the film is a speech by Lt Col Moore to his men as they prepare to leave for Vietnam in which he promises to "leave no man behind".
By the time the battle was over, thousands of Vietnamese troops and more than 300 Americans were dead. Soon afterwards, Huey 808 disappeared on a routine resupply mission. Its crew – mechanic Donald Grella, pilot Jesse Phelps, co-pilot Kenneth Stancil, and gunner Thomas Rice – were the only servicemen to take part in the battle who could not be brought home.
When Vietnam re-established diplomatic relations with the United States in the 1990s, family members of the lost crew and fellow veterans started lobbying for a search.
Bruce Crandall and Ed "Too Tall to Fly" Freeman – whose nickname came from his unusual height for a pilot flying in a cramped helicopter – were a major and captain respectively in 1965.
They returned to Vietnam in 1993 to try to find out what had happened to the crew they had commanded, sometimes enlisting the help of their former North Vietnamese enemies.
Joseph Galloway, a journalist who covered the battle and afterwards wrote the book that We Were Soldiers was based on, said: "They were especially troubled by the loss and the mystery of what happened, and concerned by the families waiting for some kind of resolution for over four decades.
"I went on a trip to Vietnam and the battlefield with Bruce Crandall and Hal Moore in 1993, and they asked every North Vietnamese general and officer we met for help finding the missing bird.
"Some of the Vietnamese veterans were helpful; they talked to local officials at all our stops in the Central Highlands and on the battlefields."
Hopes were raised in 1999 when a refugee reported seeing a crashed helicopter in the jungle with a horse painted on the tail fin, which sounded like Huey 808.
In 2006, a mission from the American military's Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, found a villager who had shot down a helicopter in late 1965 and described where it was.
JPAC's excavations resemble archaeological digs, with teams sifting through jungle soil in a search for dog tags and personal effects as well as bones. After decades in the acidic soil of the jungle, the only human remains found at the 808 crash site were teeth which have been sent to JPAC's forensic laboratory in Hawaii for identification.
Mrs Haase said that the tiny town of Laurel in Nebraska, population 1,000, where she grew up with her brother, had never forgotten him.
She said: "It was ironic that they died after surviving that terrible battle. I have reread his letters from the time and they describe the horror of war, but he believed in that mission.
"My mother spent her whole life praying that they would bring Don home during her lifetime, but she died in 2006 so she never got her wish.
"I am so happy that they have found the crash site, but we will still have to wait a few months for a positive forensic identification. For years I have wondered if my brother was taken prisoner or whether he tried to escape into the jungle. Knowing how he died and attending his burial in the United States would give us some closure." 
The burial is expected later this year. 

MIA war casualty coming home

By Paul Hammel

LINCOLN — In the government lingo of soldiers missing in action, the case of Spc. Don Grella was “off the scope.”

There were no known eyewitnesses to the downing of the helicopter that carried Grella and three other Army Special Forces comrades over the jungle-choked central highlands of Vietnam on Dec. 28, 1965......

Contact the writer:


Spec DON Grella, MIA – KIA Vietnam Central Highlands 1965

The Patriot Guard Riders are honored to be asked by the family to provide an escort for Spec Don Grella, Army Special Forces, MIA/KIA, 28 DEC 1965, in the Central highlands of Vietnam. Spec Grella would have been 68 years old now.

Spec Grella will be returning to Nebraska accompanied by his only sibling, Shirley Haase and her husband Ron on Saturday, September 26, 2009. The flight is scheduled to arrive at Eppley Airfield in Omaha at 1:05pm. Ron Haase is a Vietnam Veteran.

The PGR will lead the coach carrying Spec Grella with a 5 man “Missing Man” formation leaving Eppley Airfield at 1:45pm with a scheduled arrival in Laurel at 4:30pm. Other Patriot Guard Riders will follow the coach as Spec Grella makes his final journey home more than 40 years after his Huey went down reportedly based on a villager’s account that he shot down a chopper in 1965.

April 08, 2010

U.S. Soldiers MIA from Vietnam War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office announced today that the remains of four U.S. servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

A group burial for U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth L. Stancil, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Chief Warrant Officer Jesse D. Phelps, Boise, Idaho; Spc. Thomas Rice, Jr., Spartanburg, S.C.; and Spc. Donald C. Grella, Laurel, Neb., as well as Rice's individual remains burial will be tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery. Stancil, Phelps and Grella were buried individually last year.

The four men were aboard a UH-1D Huey helicopter which failed to return from a mission over Gia Lai Province, South Vietnam to pick up special forces soldiers on Dec. 28, 1965. The exact location of the crash site was not determined during the war, and search and rescue operations were suspended after failing to locate the men after four days.

From 1993-2005, joint U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command attempted unsuccessfully to locate the site. But in April 2006, a joint team interviewed two local villagers, one of whom said he had shot down a U.S. helicopter in 1965. The villagers escorted the team to the crash site where wreckage was found. In March 2009, another joint team excavated the area and recovered human remains and other artifacts including an identification tag from Grella.

JPAC's scientists employed traditional forensic techniques in making these identifications, including comparisons of dental records with the remains found at the site.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at or call 703-699-1169.