Paul Leroy Graffe is Missing

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The following are passages from the Annual Supplemental History of the 225th Aviation Company (Surveillance Airplane) - 1969
(Note that Paul Leroy Graffe's last name is sometimes spelled "Graffee")


JULY 1969:

18 July 1969: Congratulations to CW2 Paul L. Graffe. His direct commission to First Lieutenant came in today. Party time!

OCTOBER 1969:

"THE MONTH OF THE DARK CLOUDS AND HEAVY HEARTS"

Lead us on, O Lord
As the night closes in
We ask for strength
To open our eyes and thank
You once again.

1 October 1969: The first day of this the eighth month of the Old Roman year was kicked off by the 225th Aviation Company (Surveillance Airplane) at 0330 hours as "Phantomhawk 01" pointed its nose up into the dark cloudy sky and its pilot, 1LT Paul L. Graffee, reported over his Fox Mike radio, "Phantomhawk control, Phantomhawk 01 off the ground at 30". 1LT Graffee and his observer, SP4 Bobby D. Riddle, were off to be the uninvited guests for Charlie's breakfast call somewhere on the western part of II Corps. And while there, they would probably also listen for and hear "the crack of dawn".

3 October 1969:

2000 hours: Officer's Call started like any other, but it certainly did not end like any other. Business and discussions were going strong, until the point when MAJ Peterson was called to the phone. Some of the thirsty ones took the chance to obtain liquid refreshment which would never be consumed, for as MAJ Peterson gently and slowly put the phone in its cradle you could see in his face that something had just ruined his whole day. "Paul Graffee is overdue," he told us as he walked out the door, and immediately the laughter and jokes that normally conclude our Officer's Calls were void. The tension mounted as results of ramp checks filtered in with negative results, and at 2130, the Operations Officer was forced to declare Phantomhawk 01 and its crew as missing.

At 1610 hours that day, 1LT Paul L. Graffee and PFC Kenneth L. Cunningham, had departed on mission number 2317 which took them into the well known enemy infested area around Dak To and Dac Pek. Their flight plan had an estimated time of arrival of 1915 hours which was never met.

2200 hours: The maintenance and avionics crews all started a maximum effort to have every aircraft in a flyable status by daybreak. The aviators and observers went to bed in anticipation of a long day in the air, while CPT Doug Davis and his operations crew, along with MAJ Peterson and MAJ Page, planned long into the hours of dawn in preparation for an early and hopefully fruitful search for our missing comrades in the morning.

4 October 1969: The whole company is up and around by 0530 hours, and by 0700 hours all search and rescue teams are standing by at the imagery interpretation section for their briefing.

0800 hours: The stillness of the morning air hanging over Phu Hiep Army Airfield is shattered by a loud and crisp radio transmission as MAJ Page calls Phu Hiep Ground Control for taxi instructions for 15 Mohawks. Within minutes, all 15 Mohawks are airborne, and as troops on the ground watch them disappear into the sky to the northwest they wish they too could go on the search.

The search is hampered by bad weather over most of the northern one half of the search area. Weather continued to deteriorate and by early afternoon it forces several of the rescue teams back to Phu Hiep. Artillery agencies, flight following facilities, and towers all along the way ask about the progress of the search, and offer encouraging words and best wishes for tomorrow's search. On the ground the crew chiefs and other troopers anxiously greet each returning search team in hopes of hearing favorable news. This goes on until 1930 hours when MAJ Page and MAJ Peterson return in Phantomhawk 05 and there are no more Phantomhawks in the sky to wait for.

5 October 1969: Six Phantomhawks are off by 0800 hours headed towards the primary search area. The weather seems to be a little better today than it was yesterday, especially on the northern half of the area. So, with renewed hope each search team starts to search once more for their fallen comrades, each meticulously search each square foot, of what seems to be an ocean of green jungle with gigantic waves formed by unending ridge lines and mountain peaks.

0945 hours: "Phantomhawk 00, this is Phantomhawk 03, we've found the crash site! Over". Within minutes, CW2 Robert "Charlie Brown" Jensen directed MAJ Page to the crash site. Pictures were taken of the crash site and the Phantomhawks were on their way to coordinate for a helicopter to penetrate the crash site. The news was brought back to Phu Hiep by the returning search teams. Phantomhawk 01 had been located approximately 30 miles northwest of Dak To on an almost verticle side of a jungle covered mountain at about 7000 feet above sea level. From the initial look at the site, it looks like it is going to be extremely difficult and dangerous to reach.

1000 hours: Contact is made with the 52nd Aviation Battalion for a support helicopter.

1155 hours: Phantomhawk 16 is off the ground and headed for Pleiku with MAJ Page and CPT Tom Higdon, S-3, 223d Aviation Battalion, to coordinate and attempt to penetrate the crash site.

1215 hours: CPT Theodore "Ted" Baranet and CW2 Kevin A. Phillips take off in Phantomhawk 03 to go and take additional photos of the crash site for better coordination and planning, and also to see if we can determine whether the Martin Baker ejection seats are still in the crash or if they were fired.

1300 hours: MAJ Peterson and CPT "Doc" Glenn, 268th Aviation Battalion Flight Surgeon, depart for Pleiku to assist in the recovery.

By 1730 hours everyone coordinating and attempting to reach the crash site is back at Phu Hiep with not so pleasant news. All attempts to reach the site were unsuccessful, primarily because of weather. And so, the 225th with heavy hearts, sees the gray clouds darken as the dreary day turns into night.

6 October 1969: Again today weather was not on our side and made it impossible to even get in the area. We'll try again tomorrow.

7 October 1969: CPT Klinger, Pathfinder Detachment Commander, 52nd Aviation Battalion, and his personnel are standing by the CH-47 when MAJ Peterson, MAJ Page, and "Doc" Glenn arrived at Camp Hollaway at 0730 hours. The weather is much better today than it was yesterday, so it looks like today might be the day. As they approach the side everyone notices that the wreckage is no longer in its original position or configuration. The aircraft commander decides to take a better look at the whole situation before committing himself, so he goes around for another try. During the second approach two men are sighted on the ground in close proximity to the wreckage and scuddling for cover.

"I don't like it", says CPT Klinger to no one in particular as st stares out the little window trying to evaluate the situation below. CPT Klinger had been nominated to receive the Medal of Honor for heroism in action that took place at LZ Yankee, southeast of Ben Het in May 1969, during the siege of Ben Het. He is not the type of man that's known for his reputation of turning down a fight, but he felt uneasy about all the activity down in the crash site. He looked at MAJ Peterson and said, "we can try if you like, but I don't think we'll come out of there". The decision was made to wait and let it cool off for seven days and then go back and give it another try.

9 October 1969: Our sister company, the 219th Aviation Company (BA), has also been stricken with disaster. One of their Headhunters has gone down supposedly over the same area where Phantomhawk 01 went down. Two Phantomhawks are dispatched to assist in the search.

1830 hours: Phantomhawk 08 returns to its nest after a day of search and rescue operations with three bullet holes as manifestation that Charlie is in and around the area where Phantomhawk 01 and the Headhunter went down. Luckily, the crew, 2LT Thomas "Duck" Williams and SP4 James T. Savage were not hurt.

10 October 1969: The rains continued to come down all night last night and it doesn't look like its "fixing" to let up any day now. It looks so bad that 1SG Boone approached MAJ Peterson about a ten man detail to start working on the "Arc".

In spite of the rain and low visibility, by 0830, eight Phantomhawks have departed Phu Hiep to go on SLAR, infrared, photo, and search and rescue missions. After completing his mission, Phantomhawk 21, with CPT Mark "Short Round" Babson at the controls, had to land at Nha Trang due to weather at Phu Hiep. The weather continued to deteriorate and G-2 Air called to cancel missions for the remainder of the day.

10 October 1969:

Since Phantomhawk 01 went down on the 3rd, a total of four aircraft have been lost in that area, and at 1530 hours today G-2 Air called down a directive that there would be no more flights in that area until further notice. Phantomhawk 01, along with two 0-1's and one 0-2 have gone down in the same area, besides, several other aircraft have been shot up while searching for their fallen comrades. It has become very clear that Charlie is in the area and he is not trying to hide so he must be there in force and sure of himself because of the increased activity the rescue effort for all the downed aircraft has been taken out of the hands of the individual units and taken over by higher headquarters.

28 October 1969:

October 1969, a rather stormy month for the 225th Aviation Company. Twice this month the Phantomhawks were taxed by fate with the highest price that can be paid. We salute our comrades: CPT Mark Babson; PFC Kenneth Cunningham; 1LT Paul Graffee; SP4 James Savage. You will always remain in our hearts.......so push away your feelings, do your job this year; if nothing else, so your son does not come here.



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As long as we seek the truth about our past, present and future POW/MIA. As long as we respect, love and care about our past, present and future veterans...They will "NEVER WALK ALONE."


View Paul Leroy Graffe's rubbing from The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall


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