Barry Mercer Straw

Army of the United States
28 January 1944 - 05 March 1971
Panorama City, California
Panel 04W Line 026



Army Aviator

Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Barry Mercer Straw

27 Nov 2001

Remembering our nephew and cousin,


An Army Captain with the 180th Aviation Company
Panorama City, California
January 28, 1944 to March 5, 1971
On the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, panel 04W, line 026

Barry wanted to learn to fly so he enlisted in the US Army (1965) and was sent to Officer Training School with the goal of some day becoming a pilot. When he was 23 years old, he attended the US Army Artillery and Missile School. He was sent to Vietnam from 1968 through 1969. During this period he served as a Forward Observer with the 1st Cavalry Airmobile Division.

The infamous TET Offensive took place during his first tour of duty. The artillery unit to which Barry was assigned became trapped in a valley surrounded by Viet Cong. Only two soldiers from the unit survived. One of the survivors was Barry who escaped with an eye injury.

After his first tour in Vietnam, he returned to the Unites States and was sent to the US Army Aviation School at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Here he learned to fly and became a helicopter pilot certified to fly the Huey and other single-rotor helicopters. His desire was to fly the large Chinook twin-rotor helicopters. After attending extra schooling, Barry became a certified pilot for the Chinook aircraft.

He requested another tour in Vietnam and was assigned to the 180th Aviation Company where he piloted Chinook helicopters on missions including personnel transport and ground force supply drops. On March 5, 1971, he was officially on leave and preparing to depart from Vietnam for a vacation in Hawaii with his wife. Another pilot was unable to fly a scheduled mission. Barry volunteered to fly the mission of resupplying ground troops in Qui Nhon. While enroute, a Korean observation fixed wing aircraft made an error causing a midair collision with the helicopter. The crew of 5 from the helicopter and 2 from the Korean plane were killed.

The last letter he received from his mother, Elizabeth Straw, contained the following excerpt:

February 25, 1971

"At the moment my big worry is you. I know you're right in the middle of all this fighting in Laos and Qui Nhon and every day the news is about more helicopters going down. And when they mention the Big Birds my heart stops beating. Please be careful and write often because we're so worried about your safety. Those big Chinooks are just sitting ducks up there in the sky, when you're doing a drop. I'm so scared something will happen to you. Please, please be careful!! Love, Mom"

Barry Straw died doing what he loved and he is missed.

From his cousin,
Kristine Jones Cohn
6282 Pearl Lake Ave., San Diego, Ca 92119

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 05 March 1971, a CH-47C (tail number 67-18518, 180th Assault Support Helicopter Company) with five crewmen and three passengers aboard was approaching Lane Army Airfield. One other aircraft, a Korean Army O-1D spotter aircraft, was operating in the vicinity. As the CH-47 drew closer to the airfield it was struck in the left rear quarter by the O-1D, which was in a descending left turn. On impact the O-1D flipped upside down, fell straight to the ground, impacted inverted, exploded, and burned.

The impact knocked the port engine free of the CH-47's fuselage and ruptured a fuel tank. The CH-47 caught fire and began to disintegrate in flight. By ground impact the aft pylon had separated entirely. The main body of the fuselage impacted nose-low, at which time the rear ramp portion of the fuselage separated while the forward fuselage section slid downhill, breaking into two pieces before it came to rest. The entire aircraft was destroyed by fire.

Five aircrewmen and one passenger died in the crash; two non-American passengers survived. The six dead were

  • CPT Barry Mercer Straw, pilot, 180th ASHC
  • CPT Ralph Leland Ward, pilot, 180th ASHC
  • SP5 Richard Samuel Dennison, crewman, 180th ASHC
  • SP5 Gary Gale Prentice, crew chief, 180th ASHC
  • SP4 Edward Lee Rayburn, gunner, 180th ASHC
  • L. C. Ho, rank and unit unknown, RoK Army

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009