ELDON RAY "DUKE" PAYNE
Warrant Officer, Aviator
281st Assault Helicopter Company
From: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Born: February 7, 1939
Tour of duty began on June 2nd, 1969
Killed in action on February 14, 1970
in Khanh Hoa, South Vietnam due to a
helicopter crash of unknown cause.
"Duke" Payne Eldon (Duke) Ray Payne was a 31-year-old married soldier from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 in Helicopter 66-17127, from 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, Specialist 5 Mike Hughey, crew chief and SSGT Bobbie Brewer, the door gunner.
The 281st Helicopter 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, four Nautical Miles Southwest of Nha Trang, South Vietnam. Six men were on board the aircraft; four aircraft crew members and two Special Forces soldiers operating the SNIFFER machine. At 1000 hours Army the helicopter took off from Nha Trang AAF headed to the Dong Bo Mountain. Its mission was to fly fifty feet above the trees at seventy knots so that the SNIFFER machine could detect any smoke in the area.
The lead gunship, piloted by WO1 Gardner and 1LT MacKeigan, was approximately 100 meters behind 66-17127 and based on their observations it appears that the aircraft may have suffered an equipment failure causing it to assume a nose-low attitude, loose altitude, and crash 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. All of the individuals on board the helicopter were recovered and returned for burial.
The aircraft crash was classified as a non-hostile incident in that neither ground fire our 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