THOMAS ANDREW GUENTHER
Warrant Officer, Aviator
281st Assault Helicopter Company
From: Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey
Born: April 6, 1950
Killed in action on February 14, 1970
in Khanh Hoa, South Vietnam due to
helicopter crash of unknown cause.
WO Thomas A. Guenther, a 19-year-old Army Aviator was killed in action in the vicinity of Khanh Hoa, South Vietnam. A summary of the crash follows:
On Feb 14, 1970, the 281st Assault Helicopter Company was conducting a “Sniffer” Mission in Helicopter 66-17127, from Nha Trang, South Vietnam when the aircraft crashed during the performance of the mission, killing the four 281st crew members and two Special Forces equipment operators. The 281st lost Warrant Officer Duke Payne, Aircraft Commander, Warrant Officer Thomas Guenther, Pilot, Specialist 5 Mike Hughey, Crew Chief and SSGT Bobbie Brewer, the Door Gunner.
The 281st Helicopter was performing a combat aviation support mission for the 5th Special Forces Group using an Airborne Personnel Detector (SNIFFER) in the vicinity of Dong Bo Mountain, 4 Nautical Miles Southwest of Nha Trang, South Vietnam. Six people on board; four aircraft crew members and two Special Forces soldiers operating the SNIFFER machine. At 1000 hours Army the helicopter took off from the Nha Trang airbase headed to the Dong Bo Mountain. Its mission was to fly 50 Feet above the trees at 70 knots so that the SNIFFER machine could detect any smoke in the area.
The Lead Gunship, piloted by WO1 Gardner and 1LT MacKeigan, was approximately 100 meters behind 66-17127 and, based on their observations, the aircraft may have suffered an equipment failure causing it to assume a nose-low attitude, lose altitude, and crash into the trees. It was noted that the aircraft had a very slow airspeed and low rotor RPM when it struck the trees and exploded.
Following the explosion, SP4 Johnson, the door gunner on the command ship, was lowered to the ground near the crash site. Finding no sign of life, SP4 Johnson was recovered from the area. All of the individuals on board the Helicopter were later recovered and returned home for burial.
The aircraft crash was classified as a non-hostile incident because neither ground fire nor hostile forces were observed in the area.
Thomas Guenther had recently joined the 281st, and although young and inexperienced, he was well on his way toward being a valuable member of the intruder family. He shall not be forgotten.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER