SSGT Elmer Larry Holden


This hero is home

The crash site of the Air Force Helicopter Jolly Green 23 was discovered
on 09 November 2002 and excavation began on 17 January 2003.
The remains of the four crew members were repatriated to US soil on 14 February 2003.
SSGT Holden was buried with full military honors in Hampton, SC on 11 October 2003.

See  The Recovery of Jolly Green 23  for pictures from the crash site.
See Tom Pilsch's website for the story of  The Search for Jolly Green 23.

Air Force flag All gave some, Some gave all POW/MIA flag
POW/MIA bracelet
Name Elmer Larry Holden
Rank/Branch E5/US Air Force
Serial Number 18639399
Unit 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, DaNang, Republic of Vietnam
Date of Birth 19 February 1944
Home City of Record Oklahoma City OK
Date of Loss 09 June 1968
Country of Loss South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates 162144 North 107053 East
Status (in 1973) Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category 2 - Suspected Knowledge

This category includes personnel who were:
A. Involved in the same incidents as individuals reported in category 1 (Confirmed Knowledge), or
B. Lost in areas or under such conditions that they may reasonably be known by the enemy, or
C. Connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by name in the enemy news media, or
D. Probably identified through analysis of all-source intelligence.

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground HH3E Jolly Green Giant Combat Rescue Helicopter (Jolly Green 23)
The Wall Panel 58W - Row 9
Other Personnel In Incident James Locker, Jack Rittichier, Richard Yeend (all Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered)
Source Compiled by the P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action Combat Casualty File; PJ's in Vietnam; Task Force Omega. Inc.


On 9 June 1968 US Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier, pilot; and US Air Force Capt. Richard C. Yeend, Jr., Co-pilot; SSgt. Elmer L. Holden, flight engineer; and Sgt. James D. Locker, Pararescueman; comprised the crew of a HH3E helicopter (tail #67-14710), call sign "Jolly Green 23".

Jolly Green 23 was flying a SAR mission for HELLBORNE 215, a USMC A-4E piloted by 1Lt Walter R. Schmidt Jr. (MIA), who was downed northwest of the A Shau Valley, in the middle of a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) encampment, thirty seven miles west of Hue RVN. Voice contact was established with the survivor, who reported he possibly had a broken arm and leg. The enemy was using him as bait to lure SAR aircraft, especially the very vulnerable Jolly Green Giants, within killing range. Air strikes pounded the area and brutalized the enemy, but with little effect.

Three times the lead helicopter, Jolly Green 22, attempted to reach Schmidt, but they were unsuccessful due to the intense ground fire. When that Jolly was forced to depart because of low fuel, Jim's aircraft assumed the low bird role. After suppressive fire was put in, Jolly Green 23 moved in to attempt the pickup. The crew fought its way in but was forced to withdraw. Again it went in, this time surrounded by gun ships, but again the enemy met them head on.

As the Jolly Green Giant hovered over the rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 9 miles northwest of the A Shau Valley floor near the downed pilot, the helicopter was struck by heavy enemy ground fire. It was seen to fall to the ground in flames and disintegrate upon impact by the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC) just to the west of a primary road used by the communists to infiltrate troops and supplies into South Vietnam from the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The location of loss was approximately 1300 meters northeast of the village of Ka Kou, 12 miles northwest of the village of A Luoi, 25 miles southeast of Khe Sanh and 29 miles west-southwest of Hue. This location was also 4 miles north of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, near the border between Thua Thien and Hue Provinces.

The pilot of Jolly Green 23 attempted to land in a small clearing, but the helicopter exploded when it hit the ground and burned intensely, killing Larry Holden and all the others on board. Another aircraft flew over the wreckage, but its crew saw no survivors and heard no emergency beeper signals. Because of the intense enemy presence in the area, no ground search was possible. The pilot they were attempting to pick up was later rescued by another search and rescue (SAR) team. Jack Rittichier, Richard Yeend, Elmer Holden and James Locker were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 12 October 1991 a villager turned in to the "Office PA15 - Public Security", Dong Ngi Province, Vietnam, a dogtag and remains reportedly belonging to Lt. Rittichier. The information on the dogtag correlates with the correct data for Jack Rittichier. That information was provided to US personnel, however, the dogtag and remains were not turned over by the Vietnamese. There was no information provided by the villager as to the fate of Elmer Holden, James Locker or Richard Yeend.

While there is little doubt the crew of the Jolly Green Giant died when their helicopter crashed into the dense jungle covered mountains located at the northern edge of the A Shau Valley, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country if at all possible.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the war well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners or War remaining throughout Southeast Asia TODAY. Rescue aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

The pilot of Jolly Green 23, LTJG Jack Rittichier, was a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter pilot. He is the only USCG man who is unaccounted for in SEA and was the first USCG casualty of the Vietnam war. He was part of a pilot exchange program between the USAF and Coast Guard.

Who Was Elmer Larry Holden?

Larry Holden Larry Holden

Larry Holden
Special thanks for the pictures to the family of Larry Holden.
(Click on the photos to view the full pictures and other photos of Larry.)

Larry Holden was a young man with many years already served in the Air Force when he volunteered for flight duty as a flight engineer on the HH3E Jolly Green Combat Rescue helicopters.

He was a fun loving man who loved to play practical jokes on people, to tell jokes, and to try and get a smile from everyone he flew with. He loved to barbecue steaks and hot dogs and drink a little beer, at times... but always, he loved to smile and sing little songs.

He always seemed to bring sunshine into a room when he entered, and made people smile. I can still see him playing around and joking and being silly... he calmed everyone who was worried about their plight of being in a war time situation, and was loved by all who served with him.

Larry was the truest of real American heroes, who always considered the feelings of others, put people first and loved his fellow man. He died trying to save another human being from death... and there can be no greater love.

I feel privileged to have been associated with Larry and blessed to be able to call him my friend. He will never be forgotten!

-- Douglas Joseph McGill Jr., USAF PARARESCUE, RETIRED

30 September 2003

New York Times
Remains of 4 MIA's Identified

Remains of four servicemen whose helicopter was shot down over Vietnam while on rescue mission during war are identified and being returned for burial with full honors; included is only Coast Guardsman missing in action, Lt Jack Rittchier, and three Air Force personnel, Capt Richard Yeend, Staff Sgt Elmer Holden and Sgt James Locker; 1800 Americans remain unaccounted for from war.

09 October 2003

The State (Columbia, SC)
Thursday, October 9, 2003

Vietnam War casualty to be buried Saturday

Air Force Staff Sgt. Elmer "Larry" Holden will be buried Saturday, 35 years after he died in the Vietnam War. Holden, a flight engineer assigned to the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron at Da Nang, Vietnam, died with three other crewmen when his helicopter was shot down while searching for a missing U.S. pilot near Hue.

The Oklahoma native will be buried in Hampton County because it's the home of his widow, Judy A. Holden Freeman, and two daughters Stephanie H. DeLoach and Tina H. Joyner.

A graveside service with full military honors will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Johnson/St. Paul Cemetery in Hampton.Visitation will be at the Peeples-Rhoden Funeral home from 10 a.m-1 p.m. Saturday.

Pentagon reports said Holden's HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" helicopter exploded in a huge fireball after being struck by enemy fire on June 9, 1968.

U.S. soldiers tried to reach the crash site in Laos, just across the Vietnamese border. Each time, they were driven back by North Vietnamese units. An aerial search indicated there were no survivors and the Pentagon listed the crew as "8220;Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered."

Over the years, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams have made several attempts to recover the crew's bodies after receiving information from Southeast Asian refugees headed to the United States. In May 2002, a recovery team working in Laos learned about a crash site near Ban Kaboui, Laos, nine miles from the spot where Holden's chopper reportedly went down.

Earlier this year, a U.S. Army team excavated the site and recovered human remains. Those remains were identified in September.

Also killed were the pilot, Coast Guard Lt. Jack C. Rittichier of Barberton, Ohio; the co-pilot, Air Force Capt. Richard Yeend Jr. of Mobile, Ala.; and  Air Force Sgt. James Locker, of Sidney, Ohio.

Holden, 24 when he died, had served in the Air Force for seven years and had been stationed in Vietnam for nine months. His honors included a Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. Family members were presented with the POW/MIA Medal by the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., in 1983.


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