On 21 April 1970, Major Eugene L. Wheeler, piot; and Capt. Charles E. Hatch, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an OV-10A Bronco conducting a morning reconnaissance mission over Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. The mission included searching for NVA troops and supplies known to be infiltrating into South Vietnam through a major artery of the infamous HO Minh Trail. As soon as the Bronco entered the target are, Major Wheeler established radio contact with the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC). The FAC provided the Bronco's crew updated information regarding enemy movements before directing them to begin their mission. At 1125 hours, as the Bronco was flying low over the rugged jungle covered mountains along the border, it was struck by enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) FIRE. Major Wheeler and Capt. Hatch ejected their crippled aircraft and landed safely on the ground some distance apart. Both men established voice contact with FAC who, in turn requested a search and rescue (SAR) operation be initiated. The are in which Gene Wheeler vanished was just east of South Vietnamese/Laotian border approximately 17 miles west of Kham Duc. The mountains were covered in dense jungle dotted with small clearins, laced with trails and footpaths and heavily populated with a large number of communist troops. As the SAR Aircraft arrived on site later that afternoon and approached the area of the down aircrew, the SAR helicopter came under intense and accurate groundfire from concealed enemy positions. After several unsuccessful attempts to enter the area, SAR personnel determine they were not going to able to evacuate the men before dark. The SAR commander radioed Major Wheeler and Capt. Hatch to find cover for the night and they would return in the morning at first light. The next morning when the search aircraft returned to the area of loss, they reestablished voice contact with both downed crewmen. Major Wheeler told the resuce personnel to go after his co-pilot first because he was pinned down by enemy fire and he believed it was too dangerous for them to try to pick him up first. As the helicopter moved into position to recover Charles Hatch, Gene Wheeler reported that the enemy troops were moving in on his position. Subsquently, the helicoper successfuly extracted Charles Hatch. In his debriefing statement, Capt. Hatch reported that ahortly before his resuce, he heard automatic weapons fire followed by the sound of pistol shots emanating from the general area of Major Wheeler. He had no further contact with Major Wheeler after that time. The operation continued for the Bronco's pilot, but when no additional radio contact could be established, the serach was terminated and Gene Wheeler was reported as Missing in Action.