by Jennifer Stelling, blogging at JosephPedePoetry

SS Mayaguez Photo: US Air Force

(Feb. 27, 2021) — Howard Zinn made many statements that ring true of the past and seemed to foretell the future. One thing he said rings true and has since the beginning of time: ” I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is….to tell the truth …”

Forgotten by many, unknown to the majority…Ghosts of the Sky, the men of the USAF 56th Special Operations Wing, among them the 56 SPS, highly-trained members sent on what would be their final mission. They made the ultimate sacrifice in a CH53 helicopter 21 SOS helo, call sign “Knife 1-3,” May 13, 1975.

The 18 specially-trained Dash 1 SP’s were originally briefed to be tasked with the rescue mission of the American cargo ship SS Mayaguez, hidden in the name of “Foreign relations” and carrying a secret cargo. Details of the ship’s origins, its contents on board, accounting of total casualties and American service members left behind remained shrouded in political secrecy. Inaccurate service records and inconsistent details involving the crash of “Knife 1-3″ raise doubt as to the results of the crash investigation. A new investigation into the cause of the crash and an official USAF Collateral Crash Report, in stark contrast to other Federal records, was never produced and must be initiated. Declassified documentation has also revealed a very different side to President Ford’s deeming of the mission as a ‘SUCCESS” after the last Marine exited Koh Tang Island.

But the last Marine did not leave that island. Three young Marines watched the US helos disappear from sight as they were left to fare for their own on the island.  Three U.S. Marines went missing: Marine Pvt. Danny Marshall, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Gary Hall and Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove. Following orders from the upper command and the White House, the military said they disobeyed orders and likely died in the firefight, but the brutal war that started with a lie ended with one as well. This is not the first time that Kissinger would advise a President to sacrifice American lives in cover-ups. Nixon was so advised by Kissinger in a 1971 cover-up of a JTF raid into Cambodia tabbed Operation Red Rock. Interestingly enough, the raid was originated out of NKP, the same base from which Knife 1-3 departed.

Additional questions now have surfaced as to the fate of the 23 military members deemed immediately KIA on K1-3 consisting of 18 Air Force Security Police and 5 USAF crew members. Official communications listed possible survivors in a highly hostile area near the Thai/Laotian border. One has to earnestly ask if 23 lives were lost, whether to death or capture, all in the name of patriotism to secure protection of government assets, some of which were hidden from US citizens and possibly even violated federal and international law. The Knife 1-3/Mayaguez incident ripped away lives but also paved the way for the creation of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which provides a curtain of black for all operations and funding attached to it.

The last photo taken of the Mayaguez airmen, public domain, US Air Force photo

“~Human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare independence. In that historical possibility lies hope. ” H Zinn

Knife 01-3
1/Lt James G KAYS, FR, (pilot)
1/Lt.,_Laurence FROEHLICH, FR, (copilot)
TSgt Jackie ll. GLENN, FR, (passenger)
SSgt Gerald A. COYLE, FR, (passenger)
SSgt Faleagafulu ILAOA, FR, (passenger)
SSgt George E. McMULLEN, III, FR, (flight mechanic)
Sgt Jimmy P. BLACK, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Bobby G. COLLUMS, FR., (passenger)
Sgt Thomas D. DWYER, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Bob W. FORD, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Gerald W. FRITZ, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Darrell L. HAMLIN, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Gregory L. HANKAMER, FR, (passenger)
Sgt David A. HIGGS, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Michael D. LANE, FR, (passenger)
Sgt William R. McKELVEY, FR, (passenger)
Sgt Paul J. RABER, FR, (crew chief)
Sgt Robert W. ROSS, FR, (passenger)
A1C Dennis W. LONDON, FR, (passenger)
A1C Robert P. MATHIAS, FR, (passenger)
A1C Tommy R. NEALIS, FR, (passenger)
A1C Robert P. WELDON, FR, (flight mechanic)
Amn Edgar G. MORAN, II, FR, (passenger)

Source: (website now offline)


Editor’s Note: For more information on the SS Mayaguez Incident, see:

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  1. My brother was Capt. Jimmy Kays. Knife 1-3 never made it to Koh Tang. They died in route. Our family was given the report. Investigators had to buy back pieces of the wreckage from locals. The investigation did find there was wrongful death. A mechanic left out a part when the helo was serviced. One blade came lose and hit the others bringing the helo down immediately. One can only imagine the helplessness as my brother could do nothing to save his crew. One can only imagine the guilt the mechanic has to live with.

    1. Lucy, I was on-scene AT THE CRASH SITE as a Medic to recover remains. I SAW the HOLE in the armor-plated bottom plate of the helicopter that was recovered by the CIA and the rotor blade that was BOUGHT by the CIA and returned on a flatbed truck. I SAW THIS!!! It was NEVER a “mechanical error!!!!” I WAS THERE!!

  2. I would still like to see all the names on the Vietnam wall as the last to die in Southeast Asia I was a SP in the 80s and this was not talk about to all RIP

  3. Keep digging Jennifer, there was something on the Mayaguez (cargo) that the U.S. Government didn’t want anyone to know about. Probably won’t be declassified in my lifetime, but hopefully the truth will come to light.

  4. Most of these men were from TIGER FLIGHT. I served with them and Jimmy Black and I were “ROOM DOGS.” These men, my brothers deserve JUSTICE. Their families deserve “JUSTICE.”

    1. I was stationed at U-tapao where the SPs were training to rescue the Mayaguez and the crew. I volunteered for that operation but was told I couldn’t go because I was on stand by to fly as a sky Marshall to deliver repatriated Vietnamese back to Vietnam which never happened. We heard about Knife 1-3 and the death of our fellow Cops. A very sad day. I also remember when the Marines showed up to retrieve the Mayaguez. May our brothers rest in peace.