Joseph Michael Wilsher
On 24 February1971, the aircraft crashed on short final to An Loc from about 20 feet after witnesses heard an explosion and saw a fire. The helicopter dipped it's nose slightly to the left and fell straight down, exploding on impact.
WO Goelz, Pilot-in-Charge (PIC), tail number 16038 was enroute to Quan Loi, leaving Phu Loi at approximately 1750 hours on 24 February 1971. He obtained an ASR vector from Phuoc Vinh GCA, probably because PIREPs were indication of a large storm moving from the SSW toward the Na Loc, Wuan Loi area.
The Phuoc Vinh radar operator attempted to vector '038' around the apparent storm cells, but with difficulty. He was unable to pick up a transponder signal from '038' so he lowered his screen intensity in an effort to utilitze only the image produced by his radar.
When the aircraft reached the Quan Loi area, the pilot requested to descend to 1700 feet. At this time radar contact was lost and the radar operator began calling '038' on guard. Aircraft '038' approached the An Loc airstrip on a heading of about 260 degrees, (the airstrip running 05 and 23.) It appeared to be making a normal approach.
Then, at about 20 feet above the ground, the aircraft yawed to the right, (a small explosion was heard and fire was sighted at this time), dipped its nose to about 045 degrees below the horizon, rolled slightly to the left and fell straight down exploding upon impact.
The crash distribution was extremely compact indicating very little, if any, forward ground speed. Upon impact the engine left the aircraft rolling backward, past the tailboom. Also the right cargo door flew up and behind the aircraft.
It may be noted that the aircraft did not slide through the perimeter wire but remained in the area of initial impact. The pilot and co-pilot were contained within the cabin area. Three of the passengers were found beneath the transmission components. The other two were thrown out the right side of the aircraft.
It should also be noted here that the main rotor and transmision components were initially with the main wreckage. It was moved in order to facilitate removal of three bodies.
The photograph of CPT 'Mike' Wilsher in the medals box above was taken when he was still a Warrant Officer. You can see the WO cap brass and lapel brass of a Warrant. He was given a direct commission as a First Lieutenant and was posthumously promoted to Captain.
1968 Photograph of Mike in his Light Observation Helicopter, named Miss Carriage
From the book titled 365 Days of Mental Siege, by Dan Sutherland, the story of the crash that killed CPT Wilsher was told. From the bottom of page 357 of the book, it read, in part:
"One morning my platoon's duty sergeant woke us about 5 or 6 as they made their rounds and gave us first instructions. Our ship would be flying the courier that morning. Spec. 4 Vernon Andrew Green and I were the gunners, our pilot was WO1 Steven William Goelz, and the co-pilot was WO1 Clarence Dean Hakes and the Aircraft Commander was WO1 Thomas Evans Bennett."
Evelyn points out a passage on page 362 of Sutherland's book where he states: " I would have been on that chopper, if I wasn't told to give my seat to a Captain Joseph Michael Wilsher who was going home on RnR."
Local area papers produced the first news of CPT Wilsher's death similar to the following: Texas Lieutenant Dies in Vietnam WASHINGTON (AP) - The Defense Department said Wednesday that a Texan died in the Southeast Asia war not as a result of hostile action. He was Army 1st Lt. Joseph M. Wilsher, husband of Mrs. Evelyn M. Wilsher, 1311 S. 16th, Edinburg.
In the March 4, 1971 issue of The Corpus Christi Caller-Times from Corpus Christi, Texas, Page 1, an article appeared as:
Valley Copter Pilot Killed in Southeast Asia
EDINBURG -- Army 1st Lt. Joseph M. Wilsher, 29, was killed in a helicopter crash on Feb. 24 during a rescue operation in the Southeast Asia war zone, according to an announcement yesterday by the Defense Department. Wilsher, who was born and grew up in Edinburg, was serving on his second tour of duty in the Vietnam war. He was a member of A Troop, Third Squadron of the 17th Air Cavalry. For heroism in the combat zone, he held the Air Medal with 25 oak leaf clusters and the Air Medal with V device with an oak leaf cluster. During both tours of duty, Wilsher was a helicopter pilot who engaged in observation and rescue operations. He was decorated for landing his aircraft in the midst of enemy concentrations to rescue other pilots downed by ground fire.
The article above mentioned Brenda George. She was not Mike and Evelyn's child, but their niece who was living with the family at the time. Not mentioned in the article were children's full names: Michael Owen Wilsher, Kevin Scott Wilsher and Meishel Lynn Wilsher (now Fry). Mike's parents are J.N. and Mary Etta Wilsher ( -2014). His father goes by the name of J.N.Wilsher. Evelyn also notes that Mike's brother, Gary Harlan Wilsher served in the Army but not in the Vietnam war. Their son, Kevin Scott Wilsher also served in the Army.
News clipping of the posthumous award of CPT Joseph Michael Wilsher medals to his widow, Evelyn. In the photo below, she is holding the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service Citation and the medals 'shadowbox'.
Medals Awarded to CPT Wilsher
|Memorial Flagpole Donated to
Hillcrest Memorial Park by Family
|Closeup of Memorial Flagpole Plaque|
Dedicated March 6, 1971
to all Edinburg Vietnam Casualties
by the family of
Captain Joseph Micheal Wilsher
LCpl. Homero Eliud Tijerina, USMC
LCpl Joce Manuel Gomez, USMC
Pvt. Victoriano Espinoza, Jr., USMC
Sgt. Vicente Garza, USMC
Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez, USMC
LCpl. Nolan Lester Simmons, USMC
PFC Rafael Martinez, ARMY
Pvt. Lionel Alvarez Ryan, USMC
PVT Florentino Martinez, Jr., ARMY
Pfc. Juan Leonardo Contreras, USMC
LCpl. Jaime Arturo Salinas, USMC
PFC Luis Angel Alaniz, Jr., ARMY
SGT Roy Rodriguez Salinas, ARMY
CPT. Joseph Michael Wilsher, ARMY
CPT Wilsher is buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park, Edinburg, Texas. He was survived by his parents Mr. and Mrs Joseph N Wilsher, and wife Evelyn M, 2 sons, a daughter, and a niece who was living with the family at the time, all of Edinburg.
According to a recent email from Evelyn: "J.N. Wilsher is still living and Mike's mother was buried next to him in 2014. His father served in the Navy during World War II and his mother served as a tac welder, helping to build ships during the war. I think they were called riveters." [During WWII, they were called 'Rosie, the riveter' - The Virtual Wall]
- - The Virtual Wall, April 10, 2015
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