66-19053, Boeing build number B-311, was a CH-47A helicopter. The U.S. Army acceptance date was 14 February 1967. The administrative strike date was 20 October 1968. 66-19053 accumulated 1,174.0 aircraft hours.

   At some point, through 20 October 1968, 66-19053 was assigned to the 243rd Assault Support Helicopter Company (ASHC) - "Freight Train", in the Republic of Vietnam.

   On 20 October 1968, 66-19053 was lost due to an accident in the Republic of Vietnam while on a combat resupply mission.

   For many years no sign of the crew or wreckage was found until discovered by Vietnamese farmers on 4 March 1994.

   The last known location of 66-19053 was in the Republic of Vietnam.

   Aircraft status: Crashed.



          An Army Chinook Helicopter Crew

          - Home at Last -



66-19053 in the Republic of Vietnam.



One of the 243rd ASHC unit patch's while they were deployed to the Republic of Vietnam.
   After more than 33 years the remains of an Army helicopter crew missing since the Vietnam War finally came home. The crewmembers, part of the 243rd Assault Support Helicopter Company - "Freight Train", were buried in a joint grave at Arlington National Cemetery on 25 May 2001 at 1100 hours. The 243rd ASHC was assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB), 17th Aviation Group.

             The five crewmembers were last heard from as they operated their helicopter in the Ninh Hoa Valley in the Central Highlands of the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) (South Vietnam) on 20 October 1968.

             The crew of 66-19053 departed Dong Ba Tin Airfield (RVN) on an emergency re-supply mission to Ban Me Thout (Buon Ma Thuot) in the Central Highlands. They were the lead aircraft of a three ship mission. The aircraft had been carrying medical supplies, ammunition and other equipment. The airship's commander had planned to follow a valley road to the Vietnamese city where Americans were under siege. The helicopter and crew, call sign "Freight Train 053", left the airfield ahead of their wingmen to accomplish a "weather check" because the weather conditions were very bad on that fateful day. Sometime after the second flight of two Chinooks departed, Typhoon type weather conditions forced them to return to the airfield. As a result, they were unable to join the lead aircraft.

             Chief Warrant Officer Deitsch, the aircraft commander, radioed at 0700 hours that they were in the Ninh Hoa Valley and would proceed on to Ban Me Thout. That was the last anyone heard of the CH-47 and they never made it to destination. At about 0800 hours, it was determined that the helicopter was overdue. The unit conducted an intensive search for the next eight days throughout the entire II Corps area of operation (AO), but could find no wreckage of the aircraft. Search efforts were concluded on 28 October 1968. Villages were later canvassed throughout the Ninh Ho Valley, and literature was distributed asking about the crash of the Chinook. During the course of the war no new information was ever discovered. The five men aboard the Chinook lost on 20 October 1968 were classified Missing In Action (MIA). They were among approximately 2,500 Americans who went unaccounted for during the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.

             On or about 4 March 1994, two Vietnamese farmers discovered the wreckage of a helicopter bearing an identifying serial number. That wreckage was ultimately identified as the missing Chinook from the 243rd ASHC, even though most of the aircraft, which had burned upon impact, had been scavenged or washed down the hillside. Almost another year would pass before a coordinated effort was made to return the remains of the five American crewmembers. From 5 through 20 January 1995 a team from the United States, consisting of Anthropologists and other experts, was dispatched to the RVN and the remains were located, excavated, and removed to the laboratory in Hawaii operated by the Joint Task Force (JTF) Full Accounting Unit. Seventy possible bone fragments and five teeth were recovered, but it took six years and DNA technology for forensic experts at the Army Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base to come up with a final answer.

Photographs of the excavation site in the RVN.
The excavation site of 66-19053 in the RVN.
The excavation site of 66-19053 in the RVN.
The excavation site of 66-19053 in the RVN.
The excavation site of 66-19053 in the RVN.
The excavation site of 66-19053 in the RVN.

             It was not until sufficient refinement of DNA processing techniques occurred in the late 1990's and early 2000's, that JTF personnel were able to positively identify the crew.

             Although the aviation unit returned to the United States from Vietnam in 1972, the men from the 243rd never forgot about their comrades. On Friday, the unit's final mission was completed when the remains of their fellow soldiers were repatriated and interned on U.S soil. Sixty-five former members of the 243rd, as well as family members and friends of the deceased crewmembers, were in attendance to pay their respects. Funeral services for the crew of Freight Train 053 took place at Arlington National Cemetery on May 24th and 25th, 2001. Visitation was on May 24th from 1800 hours to 2100 hours. The funeral service was held at the Fort Meyer Chapel at 1100 hours on May 25th. Immediately following the group service, a service was held for Henry Knight.

             Grave side services included a "Missing Man" formation fly-over by five CH-47D Chinook helicopters. Three of the aircraft were from the Army Reserve, located at Ft. Eustis, Virginia and two were from the Army National Guard, located in Pennsylvania.
CH-47D Chinook helicopters in the Missing Man formation.

             This was the first time the missing man formation had been accomplished by CH-47 helicopters over Arlington Cemetery.

             Additionally, the Presidential Honor Guard and "Challenger," a bald eagle from The American Eagle Foundation, did a low flight over the markers. There was complete silence except for his cry.

             The five crewmembers, Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CWO3) Charles E. "Pappy" Deitsch, Aircraft Commander; Warrant Officer 1 (WO1) Henry C. "Hank" Knight, Pilot; Specialist 5 (SPC5) Jerry G. Bridges, Flight Engineer (FE); Specialist 5 (SPC5) Charles H. Meldahl, Crew Chief (CE); and Specialist 4 (SPC4) Ronald V. Stanton, Door Gunner received full military honors.

   The cause of the crash was never discovered.


Papers from the memorial service for the crew of 66-19053.
Papers from the memorial service for the crew of 66-19053.
Papers from the memorial service for the crew of 66-19053.
Papers from the memorial service for the crew of 66-19053.



          The Aircrew of 66-19053



Charles Edward Deitsch.
   Charles Edward Deitsch, the Aircraft Commander, was born on 8 May 1922 and joined the Armed Forces while in Mt Dora, Florida.



Henry Clay Knight.
   Henry Clay Knight, the Pilot, was born on 18 March 1943 and joined the Armed Forces while in La Habra, California. In 1960, he attended Waipahu High School, in Hawaii, as a junior, but spent his senior year at North High in Bakersfield, California. He later enrolled at the University of Hawaii, where he spent two years studying marine biology before he was drafted. The doomed flight was Knight's first mission in Vietnam.



Jerry G. Bridges.
   Jerry G. Bridges, the Flight Engineer, was born on 7 January 1948, in Columbia, Tennessee.



Charles H. Meldahl.
   Charles Howard Meldahl, the Crew Chief, was born on 15 July 1948 and joined the Armed Forces while in Monroe, Washington. Specialist 5 Chuck Meldahl had a bad feeling about the resupply mission that they were about to fly, so he asked another Flight Engineer and childhood friend, Brian Main, to swap helicopters. "He just had this bad feeling that something would happen if he flew with this [other] crew chief," said Main.



Ronald V. Stanton.
   Ronald V. Stanton, the Door Gunner, was born on 21 October 1946 and joined the Armed Forces while in Massillon, Ohio.



          The Crash Site Location



66-19053 crash site location in the Republic of Vietnam.



             The crash site of 66-19053 (above) was discovered on or about 4 March 1994. The photographs below were taken at the crash site sometime after that date.



          An Aft Pylon photograph at the crash site clearly showing the aircraft serial number - 19053.
Aft Pylon view of 66-19053 clearly showing the aircraft serial number.


The Aft Transmission of 66-19053 at the crash site.

          The Aft Transmission of 66-19053 at the crash site.



          66-19053 Before The Crash



66-19053 preparing to takeoff with a sling load.

             66-19053 preparing to take off with a sling load from an unknown location on an unknown date.



66-19053 parked at the airfield.

             Two unknown Soldiers near 66-19053 at an unknown location on an unknown date.



          This aircraft was piloted by:


          CW3 Charles E. "Pappy" Deitsch, Aircraft Commander, 1968 (KIA)


          WO1 Henry C. "Hank" Knight, Pilot, Pilot, 1968 (KIA)


          Your Name Here.



          This aircraft was crewed by:


          SP5 Jerry G. Bridges, Flight Engineer, 1968 (KIA)


          SP5 Charles H. Meldahl, Crew Chief, 1968 (KIA)


          SP4 Ronald V. Stanton, Door Gunner, 1968 (KIA)


          Your Name Here.



          The CH-47 - 40 years old and still circling the world.


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