Luther Ghahate, 2nd Bde LRRP, KIA Oct 21, 1968

Luther Anderson Ghahate

ghahate pic

Specialist Four
Army of the United States
Zuni, New Mexico
September 02, 1946 to October 21, 1968
LUTHER A GHAHATE  is on the Wall at  Panel W40, Line 12
See the  
full profile  or  name rubbing  for Luther Ghahate

Ghahate medals

SP4 Luther Ghahate’s decorations

ghate pic 1st22nd

Luther Ghahate in Vietnam, wearing black scarf of Regulars By God
Photo courtesy of Fred Childs Company C 1/22 Infantry 1967-1968

ghahate lrrp pic

Luther Ghahate – 2nd Bde LRRP

Luther Ghahate had previously served with Company C 1/22 Infantry,
and was killed in action after he transferred to E CO, 58TH INFANTRY, 4TH INF DIV

 Age: 22
Race: American Indian
Sex: Male
Date of Birth Sep 2, 1946
From: ZUNI, NM
Marital Status: Single

SP4 – E4 – Army – Regular
4th Infantry Division
MOS: 11B20: Infantryman
Length of service 0 years
His tour began on Apr 16, 1968
Casualty was on Oct 21, 1968
Body was recovered

Panel 40W – Line 12

Luther Ghahate was killed in action while on a recon mission
at grid reference ZV207135, approximately 12 kilometers northwest of Ban Me Thout.

ghahate dod news release

ghahate cemetary

Zuni Community Cemetery

Photo from the Together We Served website

Link to Remembrances:



Date of Loss: 21 October 1968

Country of Loss: South Vietnam

Loss Coordinates: 124615N 1075719E (ZV207135)

Other Personnel In Incident: SP4 Luther Anderson Ghahate, killed [American


Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 from one or more of

the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence

with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.


SYNOPSIS: On October 21, 1968, PFC Dickie Finley was the team leader of a

5-man Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team operating in the vicinity

of Ban Me Thuot in Darlac Province, South Vietnam. The unit was based at

Kontum in South Vietnam. During the evening, PFC Finley reported enemy

contact and after expending their ammunition, the team withdrew to a pickup

zone to await a helicopter.

The enemy had previously given a false report on their position and marked

their location with red smoke. Finley radioed again for a pickup. The

extraction helicopter hovered over a shallow pond and began loading the team

members. Finley threw his rifle onboard and was helping three team members

board the aircraft when it took off prematurely, leaving PFC Finley behind.

SP4 Ghahate was clinging to the skids until he fell off.

In the darkness, it was not immediately known that all the team members were

not aboard. One team member looked out and saw a man hanging on the

helicopter landing skid. He signaled the pilot, but when he looked again,

the man was gone. The pilot circled the area in search of the 2 missing men.

the search was terminated after 30 minutes because of darkness.

The following day a 3 day search was initiated by ground forces and

helicopter units. The body of Ghahate was recovered. He had been wounded and

it was believed that it was he who fell from the helicopter. No sign was

found of Finley.

The family was told by friends of Finley’s that during the searches his

Lieutenant went back and found a Bible and flashlight in the fork of a tree,

indicating that some sort of marker had been placed for search teams. The

Army reports no evidence of this in their files. Another account, given by

Finley’s wife states that Finley’s strobe light was found wedged in the

branch of a tree.

Dickie Finley, according to friends, was a scrapper. He wouldn’t give up

easily on anything. It’s their feeling that if Dickie was not killed, he is

still fighting for his freedom.

Dickie W. Finley was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant during the

period he was maintained Missing in Action.

* * *

I remember Luther Ghahate…

Nick “Poz” Posdniakoff, 2nd Bde LRRP (Feb 1968 to Jan 1969)

01 November 1968, I returned to Ban Me Thuot to rejoin the LRRPs after almost three weeks’ absence in hospital with malaria. I learned the stunning news that SP/4 Luther Ghahate was dead, and PFC Dickey Finley MIA – on a mission that had gone bad just nine days before. No one knew exactly what had happened: they were surrounded at night by the enemy… out of ammunition… they made it to the LZ in the dark… the LZ was a swampy pond… no, the LZ was dry grass… TL Finley was on the ground covering the three new LRRP team members climbing on the chopper first… then helping ATL Ghahate get on the skid… finally throwing his CAR on the deck, he grabbed the skid himself, as the chopper was already taking off… apparently one of the LRRPs told the pilot to go – or perhaps the pilot heard him wrong… with the abrupt movement of the aircraft, Finley fell off the skid just near the ground… Ghahate, who had the pack with the radio, managed to hang on, but fell off himself at 100 feet…

Finley is on the ground without a weapon or radio, with the enemy closing in… the chopper comes back to look for him, but can’t find the right spot… his three teammates jump off to frantically look for him in the dark, but they are not on the right LZ… the choppers return empty-handed to Ban Me Thuot. Both the TL and ATL of “Hotel-2-Hotel” are missing.

Our Brigade commanders and CO do not support a rescue mission that night… too risky… an extensive ground search begins at first light… they find Ghahate’s body… some say it was booby-trapped with his own grenades… others say he was wounded… some say he had only injuries from impacting on the ground… Ghahate’s or Finley’s strobe light was found fastened to a tree, perhaps to lure in a rescue helicopter… a Bible was said to have been found as well.

Both Finley and Ghahate joined the 2nd Bde LRRPs just three months before. Both had started their tours in Vietnam in April 1968, first assigned to the 4th Division’s 1/22 Infantry “Regulars By God.” In August 1968, when they became LRRPs, I had trained Finley on a mission near Ban Me Thuot. I was not close to Ghahate, but already heard about his prowess as a scout and point man. Not surprising, as he was a native American Zuni Indian. With his previous four months’ combat experience in the 1/22nd Infantry, and learning the special LRRP tactics, he would soon be a valuable member of the platoon.

After the fateful mission on 21 October, the team leaders of the 2nd Bde LRRPs all sat down in our tent and tried to figure things out. Was it one of our own who panicked and signaled the pilot to lift off before the entire team was aboard? Was it the pilot’s fault? A night extraction under fire was one of the worst nightmares facing a LRRP. Everything could go wrong in the confusion. Our pilots were our lifelines and we had to trust them completely. There was no other way.

The LRRP team leaders at Ban Me Thuot thought that the fault was clearly with the Brigade commanders. In August 1968, there was a sudden massive rotation of personnel in the 4th Division. Our experienced CO, Cpt. Garnett, had left, replaced by a Special Forces captain on his second Vietnam tour, but who had not yet assimilated all the intricacies of LRRP operations. Just the month before, he had lost TL SP/4 Ahrendsen and his ATL Kull of “Hotel-2-Charlie” on a similar mission, where they also had been sent out with only three months experience in the platoon to lead three brand new trainees. Both the TL and the ATL were killed instantly in an ambush. The three trainees survived, with one seriously wounded.

The 2nd Bde LRRPs, at that time, were flooded with new untrained replacement as most of the platoon’s experienced team leaders and patrol members had rotated out all at the same time!! The senior Brigade commanders would not give us any experienced NCOs from their line units, just replacements straight out of boot camp. At the same time, these officers pushed for more field intelligence from the LRRPs, which resulted in the formation of more and more recon teams, staffed by untrained members and inexperienced TLs. Not surprisingly, many of them died.

It is useless to point the finger, 50 years later, how Finley and Ghahate had died, and for what reason.

What is still haunting me, is the vision of Finley, all alone on the ground in the dark, no weapon or radio, the enemy surrounding him – listening to the helicopters going home without him. We should have been down there with him…

* * *


20 November 68:  2nd Bde LRRP team Hotel-2-Hotel (also referred to as recon team 28) was inserted at last light into Grid Square area ZV, 12 kms NW of Ban Me Thuot, to conduct a three-day surveillance mission. Composition: Team leader PFC Dickie W. Finley;   ATL and pointman SP/4 Luther A. Ghahate;   RTO PFC Robert E. Hamby:   PFC Bernard C. Pisarcik;   and SP/4 Gerald O. Hancock. Finley and Ghahate, both from the Infantry, had less than three months’ experience in the LRRPs – while the other three, only one month. The team spent an uneventful night in the forest.

21 November 68:   Hotel-2-Hotel spent the day watching an adjacent trail, with no sign of the enemy. At 1800 hrs, the team returned to its first night location and set up.

At 1900 hrs Finley reported to the TOC in Ban Me Thuot that there was enemy movement close by in their area. The CO ordered the team to relocate. A group vote was taken by the team to remain in their RON, as it was deemed too dangerous to make such a move in the dark. A short time later, Finley ordered his RTO to relay a false report that the team had indeed repositioned as ordered.

At 2000 hrs, the team made numerous frantic calls on the radio to the TOC that they were surrounded by enemy movement and the beams of flashlights.

At 2030 hrs, Finley called in artillery fire, and reported that they were low on ammunition.

At 2100 hrs, the team reported that it had run out of ammunition, requesting emergency night extraction at ZV207135. Finley had his strobe light in hand to mark the position. Helicopters arrived quickly at the LZ and the five men positioned themselves on the starboard side of the ship for boarding. Because of the water, the pilot could not touch down, making his ship rock unsteadily. RTO Hamby was shoved up first, followed by Pisarcik; with Hancock halfway on board. Ghahate was on the skid, with Finley just hoisting himself up behind him – as the helicopter was already lifting off!

At the formal inquiry, a week later, the door gunner claimed the one of the recon members had told the pilot to take off. The three surviving LRRPs, Hamby, Pisarcik and Hancock, recounted what happened to the Board of Inquiry:

As the helicopter rose, Pisarcik yelled to Hamby, “Where’s the other two guys?” Hamby looked over the side, and saw a person hanging from the skid. He shouted “Finley’s on the skid!” Pisarcik looked over, but saw nothing but trees. “You’ve left two people back there!” he screamed to the pilot. At the same time, the door gunner reported that a man had fallen off the skid.

The helicopter circled back and landed, with the three LRRPs jumping off to frantically look for their lost teammates in the dark. But it was the wrong spot, covered by high grass. They reboarded the helicopter telling the pilot, “This is the wrong field.” The pilot circled the woods again, but it was pitch black below, and returned to Ban Me Thout, without the two missing men. A rescue mission the following day found SP/4 Ghahate’s body, but no trace of PFC Finley.

Cpt. Melton, the investigating officer of the Board of Inquiry on 27 November 1968, interviewed the surviving LRRPrs. While they reported sounds, lights, and movement of the enemy around them, they could not confirm incoming fire. The board concluded that the team had made mistakes, and ruled that the helicopter crew lifted off improperly before everyone was aboard.

SP/4 HANCOCK was shortly KIA on another mission in Kontum, on 02/16/1969, together with three other 2nd Bde LRRP teammates.

A detailed account of the mission can be found in “RANGERS AT WAR – LRRPs IN VIETNAM” by Shelby L. Stanton.


                    Team Extraction ZV207135 at 2100 hrs

finley map 1

finley map 2


4th Division Operational Report, Camp Enari,   October 1968

finley report

2nd Bde LRRP Commanding Officer‘s comments 04/19/2016

First, let me say that Sgt. Finley was a fine soldier and a fine human being. He was well liked by everyone, he was serious about his responsibilities, and he was dedicated to the mission that we had to perform.

I reviewed again the summary of events that was published about the extraction, and for the most part I think they are accurate. I don’t remember that the helicopter was hovering because of a pond of water, although that is possible. I had always assumed that it was hovering in order to be able to take off from a hot LZ very quickly. The miscommunication that took place, causing the helicopter to take off prematurely, was the result of one of the team members losing his balance and somehow hitting the pilot or the pilot’s seat, which the pilot interpreted as his signal to pull pitch and take off.

Every effort was made to find and to rescue Sgt. Finley and Specialist Ghahate.   There were many complications, as you undoubtedly know, primarily the lack of visibility at night. After the initial search and the return of the helicopter to our base, the decision was made by the brigade commander that sending out more helicopters that night was not feasible. I supported his decision for the following reasons. First, the enemy had no way of knowing that the entire team had not been evacuated. So there was no reason for them to be searching for anyone left on the ground. Second, both Sgt. Finley and Specialist Ghahate were well trained in survival, escape and evasion. My reasoning at the time is that they knew to lay low and that we would be back to pick them up at first light.   I didn’t know that by that time, Specialist Ghahate had already perished. Third, going back to the area that night with helicopters would have alerted the enemy, and could very well have contributed to more casualties.

When we found Specialist Ghahate, his injuries were consistent with someone who had fallen from a great distance. Although I did not personally examine him, I don’t remember at the time that he had been wounded.

Sgt. Finley’s disappearance, in my opinion, will always remain a mystery. There are many possible scenarios, but they are all speculation. To my knowledge, the stories about a Bible, a flashlight, or a strobe light are not substantiated. I was never informed that any of these items had been found. To my knowledge, there has never been evidence that Sgt. Finley was captured by the enemy, and I really don’t know anything about your reference to radio Hanoi. From what I know about Sgt. Finley, however, regardless of what happened, he comported himself with dignity and courage, and always remained true to his family, his comrades, his unit, and his country.

I would really like to reestablish contact with the other three team members.

I’d be happy to tell you a lot more about this unit, and how I came to become its commander. I could also tell you why I am so confident that by the time of this incident, the unit was very well trained.

Don, 211 Calle Pintoresco, San Clemente, CA 92672

* * *

SP/5 Michael Clough (Crew Chief) “A” Co 4th Aviation Battalion, 4th Infantry


Luther Ghahate,
SP/4 Luther, I was the Crew Chief on the Chopper that came to extract you the night of your accident a long with PFC Dickie W. Finley and the other LRRP Team Member’s. There has not been a night or day since that night of the extraction that I have not thought of you and PFC Dickie! I will not stop until I’m in the Grave! God Bless you, your family, you will always be in my prayers!

Michael Clough –


A few years ago now I saw a posting from some people who had known PFC Finley as a civilian and the outcome of his life and SP4 Ghahate’s.   I responded to Dennis’s posting and here I am.

First a little back ground here, I was assigned to “A Co” (Blackjack’s), 4th Aviation Battalion, 4th Infantry.   Having had my Helicopter Trng at Ft. Eustis, Va.   I left for the Nam and arrived  Jan 3, or 4, 1968 at Camp Enari.   Worked maintenance for a couple months, and then given my own bird to crew (604), think it was March.   As time went I was involved in many different types of missions, day and night.   My very first mission with my chopper was the NIGHT HAWK mission.    Flew around the Division AO at night looking for Charlie or anything unusual with a big light in the door!

Getting on here, my chopper and myself were on what we called LRRP Standby this Tragic Day October 21, 1968.   By the way I turned 19 on the 23rd. This had us as the go bird (ground), with a team of Bravo Company’s Gun Ships for cover, along with two other BLACKJACK Choppers.   One too drop flares, and the other had a dual role of LRRP Command and if needed would pull us out if we went down. Our Chopper number was 16-11579, call sign Blackjack 579!
Ok, now it’s dark out and you try to get some sleep early, because my chopper and I was scheduled in the AM for another day of flying.   And you hoped those LRRP’S didn’t get in a squeeze!

Well here we go, call came into the TOC at BMT Runway.   LRRPS wanting a Hot Extraction!   They had been bumping into these Vietnamese all afternoon and now had made it to a good LZ.   By the way this was a dry LZ no water, grass maybe 4-5 ft.   Surrounded with tree’s, but no water.

As I mentioned we had a flare chopper on site and the sky was lit up like day light in just a little while.   I think ARTY had been working with the LRRP’S before we got out there to get some LUM rounds.

We now have contact with the LRRP’S, as usual you have to identify the the good Guy’s location from the bad.   Smoke was popped in the far-side of the LZ.   Well Charlie had sucked us in on the smoke, instantly the LRRP’S called us off we were right in front of the wrong smoke.   Our pilot instantly backed out and repositioned in the area.   Now the LRRP team leader (Finley) used his strobe light to identify their position.   So now the pilot has a fix on their position and we move in.   I start on my M-60 on the left-side.   My gunner was the pick-up side so he stayed off his M-60 because of the LRRP’S.

I continue to fire on the left-side, I’m looking over my right shoulder at the guy’s getting on.   I saw (3) LRRP’S on board.   Other two guys were   basically standing on the skid or close.   I told our pilot I was clear on the left and ready.   At this time the pilot yanked in everything on the collective and we went up and foward.   My gunner at this time is yelling on the inter-com that two didn’t get on.   Also one of the LRRP’S went to the pilot and obviously let him know of the tragedy.   We instantly re-entered the LZ.   Three LRRP’S left the chopper scanned the LZ and re-turned to the bird, still missing two men! The first LRRP coming back on board had tossed his M-16 on board and it accidently discharged and fired pointing out my side door.   We lifted up again and went out slower to hopefully see something, no LRRP’S.

The Vietnamese just backed out and disappeared!

My recall was that the next day a re-Inforced Platoon from the 7/17th CAV, 4th INF were inserted.   This is where the info of the found bible, SP/4 Ghanate Body, Ruck Sack, etc. were found.

PFC Dickie W. Finley was listed as MIA, later promoted to Staff Sergeant and changed to KIA.   Specialist Ghantate’s was listed as KIA on October 22, 1968.

I hope this description of this tragic account fill’s the void of so many years!   I relive this Mishap each and every day including the days that have went GONE!

May these two brave warriors continue to REST IN PEACE!


I feel like I know you.

1/30/14 – by Dennis Fuehring


Because you died and when a friend of mine / Dickie Finley / was left behind all because of a bad circumstance, Dick was never found, I feel like I have a tie in with you just because I knew Dicky from school and He married my neighbor girl also. Since I found out how you died, I think of you and all the heros of that war. I am a fellow vet. and was ready to go to nam when I found out about Dicky although it was while before I knew about you I think of you both and the other 3 that were with you that night. I pray that those other 3 made it home, I do not know their names to even look on the wall, pray that they are not on the wall.

Dennis   Fuehring, Oct 21, 2014

friend of your patrol and nam vet

POB 653 Higginsville, Mo 64037 United States

You were with my friend when you died

I feel like I know you because you and he were on the same patrol, my friend Dickie Finley now MIA from the same mission. I think of you both every time I see a flag, so that makes it daily! I pray that you are in Heaven together, assuming that he is dead since he was never found. RIP

A Brother Lost But Not Forgotten


Aho, Brother. I’ll never forget you. My you walk in peace with the Great Spirit.

Angela Kraft – January 13, 2003

Luther Anderson Ghahate was a member of C Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. For more information about the battles that took place during his time of service, to view his name among the other KIA’s, or to make a memorial page for him, please visit You may also visit and for more information and message boards.