Eldon Ray "Duke" Payne
Sketch by Cliff Wheeler
Warrant Officer, Aviator
281st Assault Helicopter Company
10th CAB, 17th CAG, 1st AVN BDE
From Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Length of Service: 12 years
Born February 7th, 1939
Tour of duty began on June 2nd, 1969
Killed n action on February 14, 1970
in Khanh Hoa, South Vietnam
in a non-combat related helicopter crash.
Vietnam Wall Panel 13W, Line 9
"Duke" Eldon (Duke) Ray Payne, 31 year old married soldier from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma joined the 281st AHC on June 2, 1969. At the time of his death WO Payne has served 12 years in the US Army. On Feb 14, 1970 the 281st Assault Helicopter Company was conducting a “Sniffer” Mission run out of Nha Trang, South Vietnam when the aircraft crashed during the performance of the mission killing the four 281st crew members and two Special Forces equipment operators. The 281st lost Warrant Officer Duke Payne, Aircraft Commander, Warrant Officer Thomas Guenther, Pilot, and Specialist 5 Mike Hughey, Crew Chief and SGT Bobby Brewer, Door Gunner. A summary of the accident follows:
The 281st helicopter, UH-1H, SN: 66-17127 was performing a combat aviation support mission for the 5th Special Forces Group using an Airborne Personnel Detector (SNIFFER) in the vicinity of Dong Bo Mountain, 4 Nautical Miles Southwest of Nha Trang, RVN. There was a crew of 6 on board; 4 Aircraft Crew members and 2 Special Forces soldiers operating the SNIFFER machine. At 1000 hours Army Aircraft 67-17127 took off from Nha Trang AAF enroute to its mission on Dong Bo Mountain. Its mission was to fly 50 Feet above the trees at 70 knots so that the SNIFFER machine could detect any smoke in the area. From 1005 to 1006 hours the SNIFFER machine had medium to high readings from BP 960 409 to BP 950 424, the last reading approximately two minutes before aircraft 66-17127 crashed into the trees. The lead gunship, piloted by WO1 Gardner and 1LT McKeegan, was approximately 100 meters behind 66-17127 and based on their observations it appears that the aircraft may have had an equipment failure causing the aircraft to assume a nose low attitude which resulted in it loosing altitude and impacting into the trees. It was noted that the aircraft had a very slow airspeed and low rotor RPM when it struck the trees and exploded. Following the explosion SP4 Johnson, the Door Gunner on the Command Ship, was lowered to the ground, near the crash site. There was no sign of life and SP4 Johnson was recovered from the area. At the time of impact the aircraft was traveling into the wind, which was from the North and its initial impact was on a northerly heading, the wind was light and the visibility was unlimited. The aircraft crash was classified as a non-hostile incident in that neither ground fire nor hostile forces were observed in the area.
WO Payne and the members
of his crew shall not be forgotten by the 281st AHC Flight.
WO Eldon Duke Payne was adopted by Marshall Hawkins of the 281st AHC Association, who is preparing his "Book Of Rememberance" for the 281st AHC web site.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER