Klindt's Place Personal Stories From An Old Dog

April 7, 2009

Letter About W01 Frink – My Flight School Roommate

Filed under: Rollcall — admin @ 4:44 pm

April 22, 2004

Good day, my friends —

Over thirty-two years ago, on April 02, 1972, John Frink, my helicopter flight school roommate and my best friend, was killed in South Vietnam. He was flying his first mission in country, an attempted rescue of an Air Force pilot who had been blasted out of the sky by a SAM. I knew of John’s death but had few details surrounding the circumstances. I knew only that there was a tragic crash and he was declared missing in action (MIA). A movie was made about the rescue attempt, titled “Bat 21.”

Today, while browsing the Internet I discovered a complete report about this incident and the attempted rescue, known as the most intense rescue mission ever attempted in South Viet Nam. Four Army helicopters, two Cobra gunships and two Huey transports, entered the target area to save Air Force pilot, Col. Hambleton, call sign BAT 21, navigator of the EB-66 electronic counter-measure aircraft. My roommate, WO1 John Frink, was the copilot of one of the Hueys, the first of two helicopters to be shot down that day.

Only one of John’s crew lived to reveal the details — after spending a year and a half as a POW. As told by this crewmember, John’s Huey crashed, coming to rest on its side with three of the crew pinned inside. John was trapped, with no way to get out. The aircraft was burning intensely, fueled by jet fuel and magnesium. Pinned in the pilot seat, John tossed his survival gear to the one free crewmember and yelled for him to run. There are no words to describe such selfless courage in the face of certain death.

However, I was pleased to learn today that there is an update to this story that provides closure: They found John and the other two crewmembers’ bodies. After twenty-one years of being MIA, John’s body returned home in 1994.

I am honored to have known John and his wife, and I was immeasurably saddened by his death. I am grateful to discover that it has come full circle and he is finally home, 22 years later. My aviation brother, you did well.

Welcome home, Warrant Officer John Frink.

—- Below was received from the Chaplin who buried John Frink —

2005-04-21 14:11:33

My name is Norman Ellis. I’m a chaplain in the Air Force. I was the officiating chaplain at the interment service of 1/2 of John’s remains in Santa Fe, NM, 25 May 1994.

I didn’t know John. I was stationed at Tan Son Nhut AB in Vietnam at the same time John was in country. I was aware of the the Eastertide offensive of 1972 of which the shoot down and search for Bat 21 was a part. But I would not know of John’s role until this funeral service.

Later, around 1998, I provided an invocation for the dedication of the Mississippi Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I spoke of the death of John at the same time I was in Vietnam, and how 22 years later I officiated at his
interment. I spoke of how Vietnam seemed to wrap itself around a person’s life and not let go. Afterwards, a lady introduced herself as John’s cousin. She was confused, because she thought John was buried in Arlington. I researched further and found out that one half of John’s remains were buried with Blueghost-39 crew members Kulland and Paschall in Arlington Nat’l Cemetery on 29 Apr 94, and the other half was buried with
his father, Harry W Frink (who had died 7 years earlier and was cremated), in Santa Fe (the service I attended). John is the only military member I know to receive two Full-Honors Funerals.

Vietnam continues to wrap itself around us.

Feel free to contact me for additional information.
Norman D. Ellis, Ch, Maj, USAF
ellisnd @ juno.com

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