A1C Gerard L. J. Gauthier
September 4, 1967
Lâm Đồng, Vietnam
The Vietnam War
On September 4, 1967, a U.S. Air Force Fairchild C-123K Provider (#54-0621) from the 19th Air Commando Squadron had departed Bien Hoa Air Base on a flight to Nha Trang with an intermediate stop at Bao Loc Airfield. While on approach to Bao Loc, the pilot-in-command failed to realize his altitude was insufficient and the airplane struck the slope of a wooded mountain eleven miles southwest of the airfield.
Eleven USAF personnel died in the crash. It was determined the accident was the consequence of a pilot error as he started the approach prematurely, causing the aircraft to descend below the minimum safe altitude.
The lost crew included aircraft commander LTC Merle D. Turner, co-pilot CAPT Edward L. Goucher, and loadmaster A1C James R. Mayo; and passengers TSGT Jacklin M. Boatwright, MSGT Harold C. Cook, CAPT Virgil K. Kelley Jr., CAPT William B. Mahone, A1C Gerald L. Gauthier, A1C William E. Jerkins, MSGT Charles A. Paradise, and TSGT Fredrick L. Thrower. Mahone, Kelley, Boatwright, and Cook were an Operation Ranch Hand C-123 defoliant crew on their way to pick up their aircraft that had been repaired after battle damage.
An aerial search located the aircraft on the side of a mountain. During the period of September 9-11, 1967, the 222nd Aviation Battalion conducted a recovery operation at the crash site with the recovery of remains and the destruction of the aircraft.