Recon Team ALASKA, consisting of three US special forces soldiers and three Nung troops, was inserted into the Da Krong Valley, Thua Thien Province, SVN, reportedly on 8 May 1971; the team leader was 1st Lt Danny D. Entrican. On 18 May, when located about a mile from the Laotian/SVN border, RT ALASKA was engaged by an NVA force and called for an emergency extraction.
Two Americans – SP5 Gary L. Hollingsworth and SSG Dale W. Dehnke – and one Nung were killed in the fighting; Entrican and the other two Nungs attempted to evade the NVA. Surviving commando Truong Minh Long and interpreter Truong To Ha stated that they rolled downhill after a hostile search party detected them hiding in the bush. Entrican, who apparently was wounded, yelled at them to move out and try to make the pickup alone.
Meanwhile, the pick-up helicopter, a UH-1H Huey (tail number 67-17607, C Co, 158th Avn Bn) crewed by
- WO David P. Soyland, pilot,
- WO Dale A. Pearce, copilot,
- SP5 Harold E. Parker, crew chief, and
- SP4 Gary A. Alcorn, door gunner,
was hit by automatic weapons and RPG fire as it approached the pickup point, rolled over, impacted on its right side, and slid down a slope. Warrant Officer Pearce was killed in the crash, but the other three crewmen were able to exit the aircraft.
Additional ground forces were inserted in an attempt to recover the survivors of both RT ALASKA and the downed Huey. SP5 Parker, SP4 Alcorn, and the two surviving Nungs were found alive. While Pearce’s remains were identified the rescue party lacked the tools needed to free his body from the wreckage. The bodies of Hollingsworth, Dehnke, and the two Nungs were recovered. SP4 Alcorn reported that he saw a man, believed to be WO Soyland, running on the crest of a nearby ridge, but although search efforts continued until 27 May the searchers were unable to locate either 1LT Entrican or WO Soyland.
Enemy documents dated May 1971 later captured mentioned an American captured in the area, but it was impossible to determine if the documents referred to Entrican or Soyland. Both men were carried as Missing in Action until the Secretary of the Army approved Presumptive Findings of Death (Soyland on 10 Apr 1978; Entrican on 6 Dec 1978).