Franklin W Underwood, Jr

Staff Sergeant
Army of the United States
03 April 1947 - 23 June 1969
Sykesville, Maryland
Panel 21W Line 003


Franklin W Underwood

Combat Infantry

Soldiers Medal for Heroism, National Defense, Vietnam Campaign, Vietnam Service

The database page for Franklin W Underwood, Jr

01 May 2001

Army Staff Sergeant Franklin W. Underwood Jr. was killed on June 23, 1969 in the A Shau Valley near Hue, South Vietnam.

A member of company C, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry, Underwood was scheduled to come home five days after his helicopter went down. After the crash and with the helicopter in flames, Underwood directed the injured to safety and helped evacuate the burning wreckage, an effort that cost him his life.

For his heroism, he was posthumously awarded the Soldier's Medal.

From the Carroll County TIMES newspaper,
Memorial Day edition 1989

From a fellow Carroll Countian.

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 23 June 1969 a CH-47C (tail number 67-18544) from the 159th Avn Bn was tasked with a resupply mission from Camp Evans, northwest of Hue, to Landing Zone AIRBORNE about 7 kilometers north-northwest of A Luoi in the A Shau Valley. The CH-47 carried 4 crewmen, 16 passengers, and an internal load of Thermite cans and "C" rations. On arrival at LZ AIRBORNE the aircraft orbited until another helo vacated the landing pad and then began its approach to landing.

About 50 meters from the intended touchdown point the CH-47 lost power and the rotor RPM rapidly decayed. Although the pilots tried to stretch the descent to the landing pad, they failed; the aircraft hit hard with the forward landing gear on the pad and the aft gear off the approach edge. After impact the helicopter made a 180 turn and came to rest on its right side with the nose hanging over the approach edge of the LZ. It began burning immediately.

The internal cargo was not tied down and few, if any, of the passengers were using their seat belts, so when the aircraft came to rest the cargo bay was chaotic at best. The fire spread rapidly within the aircraft, and spilling fuel ignited around its exterior. Unfortunately, the area immediately around the landing pad contained several hundred 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds and powder charges and dozens of 55 gallon drums of diesel and gasoline. The fuel fire from the helo rapidly spread to the munitions and fuel drums.

Evacuation of the helo was hindered by the confused state of affairs within the cargo bay, the spreading fire, and within minutes by fires and explosions among the stored munitions and fuel drums. Sixteen of the twenty men aboard the helo did get clear before the situation became wholly unmanageable, but four men died in the crash:

  • CPT Charles H. Keller, Warren, MI, HQ Co, 2nd Bn, 506th Infantry
  • SSG Franklin W. Underwood, Sykesville, MD, C Co, 2nd Bn, 506th Infantry
  • SP4 David R. Gill, Columbus, OH, C Btry, 2nd Bn, 319th Artillery
  • N. V. Long, not US military
Mr. Long's status is unknown; he probably was an ARVN soldier but may have been a US civilian (war correspondent or Army employee).

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a fellow Carroll Countian. 

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 1 May 2001
Last updated 03/20/2008