Warrior 143’s Door Gunner Is Finally Coming Home From Vietnam

January 6, 2023Carl Prine
door gunner

US Army Pfc. Thomas F. Green went missing on Oct. 26, 1971, when the door gunner's CH-47 Chinook, called “Warrior 143,” went down in the South China Sea off South Vietnam. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.

The brave door gunner of Warrior 143 is finally coming home from Vietnam.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced on Friday, Jan. 6, that the remains of US Army Pfc. Thomas Frederick Green had been identified.

On Oct. 26, 1971, Green was the door gunner on a CH-47 Chinook called “Warrior 143” that was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company, 52nd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group.

It departed Tuy Hoa for a supply mission to Cam Rahn Bay, but never made it. The chopper ran into bad weather off the coast of Nha Trang, and then radio contact was lost.

Door gunner

A US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter touches down in the jungle southeast of Saigon, South Vietnam, to land troops of Battalion Landing Team 126 for a search-and-destroy mission in support of Operation Deckhouse III, 28 August 1966. US Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class V.O. McColley, now in the National Archives.

Rescuers fished four of the 10 soldiers killed in the crash from the South China Sea, but they never found Green’s body.

He was 19.

Divers from the Joint Casualty Resolution Center explored what they believed was the crash site in 1974, but failed to find Green. Twenty years later, another team searched for remains, still with no success.

In 2021, more divers returned to the crash site and found what they thought were human remains, plus debris and other evidence they thought might help identify the deceased.

door gunner

A US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter hovers over the jungle southeast of Saigon, South Vietnam, to drop a 105mm howitzer battery, prepping for a search-and-destroy mission in support of Operation Deckhouse III, 28 August 1966. US Navy photo by Photographer's Mate First Class V.O. McColley, now in the National Archives.

Scientists from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used bone and mitochondrial DNA analysis with the evidence collected from the wreckage to identify Green.

On Aug. 23, 2022, they marked him accounted for.

Pfc. Green is memorialized on one of the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, better known as the Punchbowl.

But workers will now affix a rosette next to his name to let visitors know he’s been found.

Green will be buried in Ramona, California, on Feb. 23, 2023.

US military officials lauded Vietnam's government for helping find and return Green's body.

Read Next: Burial Planned for Battleship Oklahoma Sailor, MIA for 81 Years

Carl Prine
Carl Prine

Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

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