April 2001/May 2001
Losing Friends In Vietnam
By George C. Duggins
On April 7, 2001, one month to the day short of the 26th anniversary of
the end of the Vietnam era, seven Americans and nine Vietnamese were killed in a
tragic helicopter crash in Vietnam. The seven Americans, members of Joint Task
Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) Detachment 2, Hanoi, were on a mission to scout a
crash site location scheduled for a Joint Field Activity excavation later this
Among the dead was U.S. Army LTC Rennie M. Cory, Commander of
Det 2. I had the pleasure of meeting Commander Cory when I accompanied
President Clinton to Vietnam last November.
VVA Vice President Tom Corey and members of the Veterans Initiative
Task Force had a very close working relationship with Commander Cory and
his team. For that reason I would like to relinquish the remainder of this
space to Tom.
We were deeply saddened to hear about the loss of the Americans and
Vietnamese in the helicopter crash in Vietnam.
Since 1994, I have had the opportunity to return to Vietnam eleven
times with VVA’s Veterans Initiative Task Force. The VITF is a
veteran-to-veteran effort that has developed a solid working relationship
with members of the JTF-FA and their Vietnamese counterparts involved in
the recovery efforts.
Thirty years ago it was not uncommon to hear someone say, "I just
lost a friend in Vietnam." Each day, someone lost a son, a daughter,
a brother, a friend. The pain of that loss was immediate and did not
subside over time.
Now, more than 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War, it hurts to
say again, we have lost friends in Vietnam.
I first met Rennie Cory a year ago. He had just been designated
Commander of Det 2. He approached VVA wanting to know what could be done
together to achieve the fullest possible accounting. I had the privilege
of meeting with him on our last Veterans Initiative mission to Vietnam.
Last October, as we were leaving the JTF compound in Hanoi, Mrs. Cory
arrived for a visit with her husband. I saw her again on April 25 at a
memorial service at Ft. Myer to honor those whose lives were lost. She
thanked us for being there.
We knew U.S. Air Force Major Charles E. Lewis, U.S. Army SFC Tommy J.
Murphy, and U.S. Air Force MSGT Steven L. Moser. Moser accompanied us to
Ngok Tavak on a mission two years ago, and we had met with him on other
We have had the privilege of knowing many at Det 2, the American
POW/MIA office in Hanoi. We have met them in the field, flown with them in
helicopters to excavation sites, and listened to their stories about why
they chose to volunteer for this duty.
Some of these young men and women have parents who served in Vietnam.
Each feels it is an honor to work toward the fullest possible accounting
of Americans still listed as missing. They are aware of the hazards of the
duty: unexploded ordnance, snakes, the physical toll of the heat and
They believe all unaccounted-for Americans deserve to be recognized and
every effort should be made to determine their fates and to provide the
remains or adequate information to the families who still wait for
answers. They say they know the same would be done for them.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the men who were killed and to the men
and women who are completing a task that was left unfinished 25 years ago.
God bless them and their families and give them the strength to accept and
understand the sacrifices they made for their fellow service members and
for our country.