Name: David Donald Berdahl
Rank/Branch: E3/US Army
Unit: Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 101st Airborne Division
Date of Birth: 16 January 1953 (Michigan ND)
Home City of Record: Minot ND
Date of Loss: 20 January 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163837N 1064557E (XD883408)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident:
Harry J. Edwards (missing)
On January 20, 1972, SP4 Harry J. Edwards, one of four riflemen; PFC David D. Berdahl, the door gunner, and a four man crew were aboard a UH1H helicopter (tail #69-16717) on a recovery mission for downed F4 fighter jet pilots.
At about 1815 hours, the aircraft was returning from the mission northwest of Kne Sanh in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, when an anti-aircraft weapon fired on and hit the aircraft, causing it to catch fire.
At first, the fire appeared at the forward end of the tail boom, but immediately spread over the boom and then engulfed the entire aircraft. The helicopter autorotated to the bank of the Raoquan River, landed hard and rolled over onto its left side.
The aircraft commander of another UH1H followed the burning aircraft down, made a pass overhead, and came to a hover adjacent to the downed helicopter. Landing was impossible because of jagged rocks. While in a hover, the aircraft commander saw one man dressed in a flight suit, helmet and armored vest pinned down in the burning aircraft. This individual was apparently Berdahl.
The hovering helicopter was forced to leave because the downed aircraft started to explode. He did not observe anyone leaving the aircraft alive, but picked up 5 survivors from the crash site and flew about 50 feet downstream to pick up another survivor.
Berdahl and Edwards were declared Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. It has not been possible since that day to locate them if alive, or to recover their bodies, if dead.
It was not uncommon for men to die trying to rescue another wounded or downed comrade - each would say it was their duty, and that the same would be done for them. They kept the faith with each other. Edwards had only turned 20 years old the previous November, and Berdahl was only four days older than the legal age for being in a combat zone. He was just 19 years old.
Since the war ended, many thousands of reports have come in convincing many authorities that hundreds of Americans remain alive in enemy hands. The U.S. Government, although admitting the "possibility", continues to assert that there is no "proof". Have we kept the faith with the men we sent to fight for us? What would Berdahl and Edwards say?