The Last Mission of Hellborne 215
On 9 June 1968, Marine Corps 1st Lt. Walter R. Schmidt, Jr. (call sign Hellborne 215) climbed aboard his A-4E Skyhawk and took off from Chu-Lai Air Base, Republic of Vietnam on a mid-morning mission. He was part of a multiple aircraft direct combat support mission for U.S. troops fighting in the notorious A Shau Valley, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
This area was the primary gateway from the Ho Chi Minh Trail into strategic sections of northern South Vietnam. A border road that cut through the valley was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. U.S. forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
At 10:20 in the morning, after making a bombing run on an enemy position, Schmidt's aircraft was struck by ground fire. His aircraft continued to the northwest and crashed in the densely forested mountains approximately 5 miles northwest of the northern edge of the A Shau Valley, 2 miles northeast of the South Vietnamese/Lao border and the same distance southwest of a primary road leading from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This road ran east/west from the border eastward to a point near the northern tip of the A Shau Valley. It then turned south-southeast running along the full length of the east side of the dense jungle covered valley.
Schmidt was seen to eject from his crippled Skyhawk and descend safely to the ground. Other pilots saw his parachute caught in trees and were able to immediately establish voice contact with him. He reported to the other pilots that he sustained a broken leg while ejecting and was unable to move.
Unfortunately for Schmidt, he had not only landed near a major North Vietnamese Army infiltration route but also on the edge of the North Vietnamese Army Base referred to as Area 611.