Ard, Randolph Jefferson, CW3

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Last Rank
Chief Warrant Officer 3
Last Service Branch
Warrant Officer (pre-2004)
Last Primary MOS
100B-Utility/Observation Helicopter Pilot
Last MOS Group
Transportation Corps (Officer)
Primary Unit
1971-2004, POW/MIA
Service Years
1970 - 1971

Warrant Officer (pre-2004)

Chief Warrant Officer 3

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Home State
Year of Birth
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Casualty Info
Home Town
West Pensacola, Fl
Last Address
West Pensacola, FL

Casualty Date
Mar 07, 1971
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Marshall Memorial Gardens - Albertville, Alabama
Wall/Plot Coordinates
4W, 30

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 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans MemorialThe National Gold Star Family Registry
  2013, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page
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Aviator Badge (Basic)

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1970, Aviation Warrant Officer Rotary Wing Course (Fort Rucker, AL)
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Aviation Center and School1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mech)POW/MIA
  1970-1970, Aviation Center and School
  1971-1971, 100B, HHC, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mech)
  1971-2004, POW/MIA
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1970-1971 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VII Campaign (1970-71)
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity



The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Chief Warrant Officer [then Warrant Officer] Randolph Jefferson Ard, United States Army, for gallantry in action while engaged in military operations in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division, on 29 October 1969. His actions, without regard for his own safety, reflect great credit on himself and the Armed Forces of the United States. Department of the Army, General Orders No. 23 (November 14, 1979)


Name: CW3 Randolph Jefferson Ard (Promoted while listed as MIA)
Status: Remains were returned on Dec 2004 from an incident on 03/07/1971 while performing the duty of Pilot.
Declared dead on 09/18/1978.
Age at death: 19.7
Date of Birth: 06/16/1951
Home City: West Pensacola, FL
Service: AV branch of the reserve component of the U.S. Army.
Unit: 1 BDE 5 MECH
Major organization:
Flight class: 70-31
Service: AV branch of the U.S. Army.
The Wall location: 04W-030
Short Summary: Shot down in Laos. Ard trapped in wreckage when NVA arrived. Passengers E&E. See Into Laos.
Aircraft: OH-58A tail number 68-16814
Country: Laos
MOS: *
Primary cause: Hostile Fire
Major attributing cause: aircraft connected not at sea
Compliment cause: vehicular accident
Vehicle involved: helicopter
Position in vehicle: pilot
Vehicle ownership: government
Started Tour: 11/26/1970
"Official" listing: helicopter air casualty - pilot
The initial status of this person was: missing in action - bonified
Length of service: *
Military grid coordinates of event: XD652382
Reason: aircraft lost or crashed
Casualty type: Hostile - died while missing
single male U.S. citizen
Race: Caucasian
Religion: Protestant - no denominational preference
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: battle dead Category of personnel: active duty Army Military class: warrant officer
This record was last updated on 03/02/2005

Information on U.S. Army helicopter OH-58A tail number 68-16814
The Army purchased this helicopter 0170
Total flight hours at this point: 00000563
Date: 03/07/1971 MIA-POW file reference number: 1719
Incident number: 71030725.KIA
Unit: HHC 1 BDE 5 INF
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
for Command and Control
Unknown this helicopter was Unknown at 0004 feet and 004 knots.
UTM grid coordinates: XD653388
Count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = 02 DOI, 02 INJ . .
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Reference Notes. Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: 1719, LNNF, FM386, CASRP (Lindenmuth New Format Data Base. Casualty Report. )
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:

Passengers and/or other participants:

REFNO Synopsis:
 Laos Randolph J. Ard Sheldon J. Burnett (1719) On March 7, 1971, Warrant Officer Ard and Lieutenant Colonel Burnett were with two other U.S. soldiers on an H-58 ostensively on a transport mission over South Vietnam. The aircraft was hit by hostile machine gun fire while at an altitude of 250-300 feet and crashed three kilometers from Ban Houay San Airfield, Savannakhet Province, Laos. After action reports indicate the aircraft was attempting to recover U.S. wounded in Laos when it was hit by groundfire. The two Army crew members who escaped the crash site reported that prior to leaving the site, Warrant Officer Ard had both legs broken, several bullet wounds and possibly a crushed hip. Lieutenant Colonel Burnett was bleeding from the head, neck, arms and was speaking incoherently. The site was taking incoming 155mm artillery fire, shrapnel from exploding rounds was hitting the aircraft after it crash landed, there was incoming rocket fire onto their position and People's Army of Vietnam forces were approaching their crashed aircraft. On March 18, 1971, South Vietnamese Army forces recaptured the area and were unable to locate any sign of the two U.S. officers. They reported the entire area showed clear evidence of the extremely heavy fighting which had taken place in the area which was within the Operation Lamson 719 area of tactical operations. North Vietnamese prisoners later interviewed in South Vietnam reported sightings of U.S. POWs being escorted north along the Ho Chi Minh Trail but none could be correlated to these two missing officers. Neither officer was ever reported alive in the northern Vietnamese prison system. Both individuals were reported missing and in May 1979 were declared dead/body not recovered. CASE SYNOPSIS: ARD, RANDOLPH JEFFERSON ================================== 

Name: Randolph Jefferson Ard 
Rank/Branch: W1/US Army Unit: 
Date of Birth: 16 June 1951 
Home City of Record: West Pensacola FL 
Date of Loss: 07 March 1971 
Country of Loss: Laos 
Loss Coordinates: 163700N 1063250E 
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action 
Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OH58A 
Other Personnel In Incident: Phil Bodenhorn; Jerry Castillo (rescued); Sheldon J. Burnett (missing) 

SYNOPSIS: Randy Ard had been in Vietnam only a few weeks when an emergency call came in for him to fly the squadron commander to a platoon command post to work his way down to his Third Platoon, which was in ambush in the northwest segment of South Vietnam. He flew his Kiowa Scout chopper from the 5th Mech and picked up LtCol. Sheldon Burnett, the squadron commander; Capt. Phil Bodenhorn, Alpha Company commander; and Sp4 Mike Castro, Third Platoon RTO. Ard mistakenly flew past the command post and west into Laos. Seeing yellow marking smoke, he took the chopper down lower. It was too late to pull up when they heard the sound of an RPD machine gun and AK-47's. They had been tricked into a North Vietnamese ambush. The helicopter went down fast, and smashed into the brush, coming down on its side. Ard and Burnett were helplessly trapped in the wreckage, but alive. Ard got on the radio and began mayday calls. Bodenhorn and Castillo got out of the aircraft and soon heard North Vietnamese approaching. Bodenhorn and Castillo killed these Vietnamese, and listened for nearly an hour as others advanced towards their position. They couldn't understand why they were not being rescued, unless it was because the enemy was so close to them. A helicopter flew over, but took heavy fire and left. They decided to leave Ard and Burnett and escape themselves. They told Ard, who nodded wordlessly. Barnett was drifting in and out of consciousness. The two worked their way to 80 yards away when a UH1C came in on a single run, firing flechette rockets which seemed to explode right on the downed chopper. Later, they watched an F4 roll in for a one-bomb strike over the crash site. Ard and Burnett were surely dead. Bodenhorn and Castillo were rescued by ARVN troops an hour later. Ard and Burnett were classified Missing In Action. The story was releasd to reporters at Khe Sanh three days later. The army spokesman accurately described the ambush, but told the press that Burnett had been in radio contact with the ambushed platoon, and that he and Ard had appeared dead to the two escaping officers. The names of the survivors were not released. General Sutherland stated, ".. the decision was not made to employ the Air Cavalry and the Hoc Bao to attempt to retrieve either LtCol. Burnett alive or his body. ..Burnett had no mission nor units in Laos. He had no reason or authority to take his helicopter over the Laotian border."

This record was last updated on 05/25/1998


Additional information about this casualty: 

34 years in limbo Family finds peace as son's remains return from Laos 

Wednesday, March 02, 2005 By SHELBY G. SPIRES Times Military Writer 

ALBERTVILLE - Emmie Ard has a set of fine china in her dining room that her son, Randy, sent while he was flying Army helicopters in South Vietnam. It was delivered the day after Ard and her family were told that Randy, 20, was missing in action after his helicopter was shot down over Laos on March 7, 1971. 

For 34 years, the china set has never been used. "We wouldn't ... couldn't bring ourselves to eat off it," said Nell Vanvooren, Randy Ard's sister. "It sat in a china cabinet since 1971." After more than three decades of waiting, Randy Ard's family now knows without a doubt that he never left Southeast Asia and died at the hands of enemy soldiers there in the jungle. 

His remains were identified in December by a special Army lab in Hawaii and the family learned the results in January. "It was very hard to go through it at first, and I cried every day for a long time, but I put it behind me," Emmie Ard said Tuesday. "I think 34 years is a long time to wait for an answer, but he's coming home now, and I have peace with that now," Emmie Ard said. "But I still think about the families who don't have peace. There are so many who don't know. "I hope they all will one day." 

Few days pass that Randy Ard's family members don't think about him, Vanvooren said. "I always wonder how he would have done something and what he would have thought about something," she said. "He was the oldest and I looked up to him. "This news gives me some peace. I'm just glad he didn't suffer and wasn't in a prison camp for years." 

Randy Ard will be buried March 19 at the Marshall Memorial Gardens during a family ceremony. Flying was his dream He dreamed of flying and wanted to be a pilot most of his life, his mother said. As a teenager, he washed planes at an airport near Pensacola - where the family lived in the late 1960s - in trade for flying lessons to earn his private pilot's license. 

Dedication and good grades in high school earned him an appointment to the Air Force Academy, Emmie Ard said. There was no promise of flight duty after four years at the academy, though. "He turned (the Air Force Academy) down because the Army told him they would let him fly," Emmie Ard said, "but he had to fly whatever type of aircraft they chose for him. "He came to me and asked me what I thought about it, and I didn't really want him to go into the (Army) because of what was going on in Vietnam at the time." Emmie Ard told her son "that he was grown and could do what he wanted and if that's what he wanted to do, I was fine by it." 

Randy went through flight training in 1970 at Fort Rucker in South Alabama, and soon found himself flying helicopters in Vietnam. On March 7, 1971, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Randy Ard took off in an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter with two passengers from Quang Tri, in what was then the northern portion of South Vietnam. "He was taking passengers in to Laos," said his brother, John, who gleaned information on his brother's fate from the Army and survivors. "But the (enemy) had a radio and convinced him to land at another place. 

He came in to the landing zone and, just as he was hovering, they opened up, shooting him down." The helicopter went down in Laos just across the Vietnam-Laos border, in the village of Ban Kahn. Randy sustained two broken legs and a shattered pelvis in the crash, but the other two managed to drag him free of the wrecked Army helicopter, John Ard said. 

Shortly after the helicopter went down, enemy soldiers were approaching the crash site and the small position of three Americans was about to be overrun. "Randy opened up with his pistol to keep them back, but the others left," John Ard said. "He didn't survive ..." The knock on the door On a pleasant Sunday evening in early March 1971, a government sedan pulled up to the Ard residence with two Army officers. 

They came bringing the news that Randy was missing in action. "I knew it was bad when I heard the knock on the door and saw the two men from the Army standing outside," Vanvooren said. "I shuddered and I knew it was bad." The news shattered their world, but not knowing what happened to Randy would haunt the Ards for decades. "I think if we had known he was not coming back it would have eased the pain, but this changed my family," Vanvooren said. "It certainly weighed on my parents and it made their life harsh at times." 

Randy Ard's father, Tess, who died in November 2002, was realistic about his son's fate. "He never lied to himself about it," Vanvooren said. "He knew Randy wasn't coming back. It bothered him greatly not having a final answer." For years the Ard family had few details about Randy. They knew he wasn't with them and was a missing part of their life. 

It was 34 years of birthdays, family events, Christmas holidays and a 1975 family move to Albertville without Randy. "All we knew at first was he had been shot down and was missing in action," John Ard said. "The details came out more and more over the years, some from the Army and some from the people who were there, but we didn't know all that much at first." 

As a teenager, Vanvooren would play games with herself thinking her brother was alive and well, living an exotic life in Southeast Asia. "I'd think maybe he had woke up and not known where he was and now he was married to a beautiful Asian woman and living a wonderful life," she said. As the years passed and pages on the calendar turned, Randy's family came to realize his life had ended in the Laotian jungle. "Logically, after a few years, you know he's not coming home," Vanvooren said. "You have to face that." 

The Army provides advisers to help families when their loved ones are classified as missing. It was a nice gesture, Vanvooren and her mother said. "At first, as a kid, you hate the Army. It was the Army that took my brother away," Vanvooren, 50, said. "But as you grow older that fades and, in the end, I've come to appreciate the Army for what they have done for the families. For the professional support they have offered." 

Change in status; The Department of Defense changed Randy's status in 1978, John Ard said, from "missing in action" to "missing, presumed dead" because of the number of years that had passed without any information on the case. 

That provided little comfort to the family. Status changes don't provide answers. However, to have his remains on the way home holds the peace the Ards are looking for, John Ard said. "It's a great relief to know this is done," he said. "I want him to be able to walk in here, but I know that's not going to happen," Emmie Ard said. "I've put this to rest and I'm at peace with it now." For 1,842 families that peace may be elusive. 

That's the number of unsolved missing-in-action cases the Department of Defense still has on the books from the Vietnam War. The American involvement in the Vietnam War ended when U.S. troops left in April 1975. 

For years after the war, the Vietnamese government had limited relations with the U.S. government. In 1995, the United States and Vietnam established trade relations. Part of that deal was a full accounting of American servicemen lost in Southeast Asia. Crash site graves have been identified and sets of remains have been sent to the special Army lab in Hawaii over the past decade. Several sets of remains a year are identified by the lab, bringing closure to family members. 

As Randy's family make preparations for a burial, the china set he sent home in 1971 sits looking brand new, unused in a glass cabinet. "We've talked about using it now that we know, but it would be strange to eat off the china now," Vanvooren said. "I think it'll stay where it is for now."

ARD - Chief Warrant Officer 3 Randolph Jefferson Ard, 19, died March 7, 1971 in Laos, just across the Vietnam-Laos border in the village of Ban Kahn.

Services will be today, Saturday, March 19, at 2 p.m. in the Marshall Memorial Funeral Home Chapel in Albertville with full military honors. Burial will be in Marshall Memorial Gardens. Army Chaplain Major Joey T. Byrd and the Rev. Kenny Stripling will officiate. The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Saturday from 9 a.m. until time of service.

© 2005 Sand Mountain Reporter, Albertville, Alabama
Reproduced under 17 USC §107

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