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HEFEL, Daniel Henry

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HEFEL, Daniel Henry. (Guttenberg, IA-- ). Hefel entered military service on December 3, 1968 and he was inducted into the Army on December 5, 1968. He was sent to Vietnam on May 23, 1969 and attached to the 101st Airborne Division. He was a foot soldier for eight months and then voluntered to be a door gunner on a helicopter and was accepted.

On February 5, 1970, Capt. James M. Lyon, pilot; Capt. John W. Parsels, co-pilot; SP5 Tom Y. Kobashigawa, crewchief; and then SP4 Daniel Hefel, door gunner; comprised the crew of a UH1H helicopter (serial #68-16441) on a maintenance mission from Hue to Phu Bai, South Vietnam.

When the Huey failed to arrive at its destination on schedule, a ramp check of all the bases and airfields in the area where it could have diverted to was conducted. However, none of them could provide information on the missing aircraft. A search and rescue (SAR) mission was immediately initiated, but found no trace of the Huey or its crew. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, James Lyon, John Parsels, Tom Kobashigawa and Daniel Hefel were listed Missing in Action.

Meanwhile, at 1530 hours, when the aircraft was approximately 18 miles southwest of the city of Hue, the helicopter caught fire due to a malfunction and crashed into the rugged jungle covered mountains. Capt. Lyon was thrown clear of the aircraft and was burned extensively over his body. Further, his right leg was severed four inches below the knee. The other crew members were also injured in the crash, but not as seriously as Capt. Lyon. Because of their injuries, none of the men were capable of taking evasive action. At 1630 hours, NVA troops reached the crash site and immediately captured the Huey's crew. Probably because of the hour, they spent the night near the crash site.

Throughout the night, the other Americans heard James Lyon yelling and moaning in pain. At 0600 hours the next morning, one of the crew heard Capt. Lyon moan and then heard a shot from his position, which was 30 feet from the aircraft wreckage. No other outcry was heard from Capt. Lyon, and the other Americans believed that a guard had killed him at that time.

Two weeks later, Capt. Parsels was told by 1st Lt. Lee Van Mac, the NVA commander of their POW camp, nicknamed "Camp Farnsworth" by the prisoners, that Capt. Lyon died from his wounds and was buried at the crash site. 1st Lt. Lee Van Mac gave Capt. Parsels the personal effects of Capt. Lyon, including his ID card and several photos that appeared to be of James Lyon's wife.

Over the next three years, Capt. Parsels, SP5 Kobashigawa and SP4 Hefel were held in several POW camps from their place of capture to those in North Vietnam. On March 27, 1973, John Parsels, Daniel Hefel and Tom Kobashigawa were returned to US control during Operation Homecoming. In their debriefings, each man reported they believed the NVA shot James Lyon and that it was a mercy killing. Further, the survivors said they doubted that the seriously injured pilot could have survived with his injuries. On March 30, 1973, Hefel's father's birthday, he was flown to Denver, Colorado where he was reunited with his family.