WBM july 2019
FTER intense training at three
U.S. bases — Fort Polk,
Louisiana, Fort Wolters,
Texas, and Fort Rucker,
Alabama — he became an officer and
pilot. Arriving in Vietnam in August
1967, he joined the 1st Cavalry Division
Airmobile in Binh Dinh Province and
flew daily missions with the 229th
Assault Helicopter Command in the
Bell UH-1 known as the “Huey.”
The demands on pilots were gruel-ing.
Chief Warrant Officer Lanier flew
troop transport, visual reconnaissance,
gunship duty and medical transport
— often around the clock. Routinely,
Huey pilots spiraled down into landing
zones in tight circles from thousands
of feet up to avoid enemy fire. All
that stood between a Huey pilot and
a small-arms bullet was a thin sheet of
In April 1968, the Marine Corps had
suffered large casualties at the Khe Sanh
Marine Combat Base in northwestern
Quang Tri Province. Contributing to
those casualties was a 25-mile-long
valley known as the A Shau which
lies close by Khe Sanh and served as a
North Vietnamese supply line running
north-south along the Laotian border.
U.S. aerial surveillance confirmed that
the A Shau Valley contained a massive
buildup of Communist troops and war
supplies. Often cloaked under heavy
clouds and prone to sudden weather
changes, the steep mountainous ter-rain
offered protection and was used
by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA)
to launch battles against Khe Sanh and
other major U.S positions.
The Army needed experienced
pilots to fly observation helicopters
into the valley to locate enemy for-mations
and mark them for assault
attacks, usually by dropping white
phosphorous grenades. On May 9,
1968, CWO Lanier and his door-gunner,
Cpl. Chris Frankhauser, left
their base on a mission into the A
Shau Valley to locate NVA positions.
It would be their final flight.
The top two photos were taken in Vietnam circa 1968 by CWO Wayne Lanier.
Helicopters under enemy fire, Lanier's living quarters. Lanier was based in the Binh
Dinh Province with the 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile.