Major Kevin O’Brien

Name: Kevin O'Brien
Rank/Branch: O2/US Army
Unit: HHC, 2nd Battalion, 94th Artillery, 108th Artillery Group
Date of Birth: 30 August 1946 (Bronx, NY)
Home City of Record: Farmingville NY
Date of Loss: 09 January 1969
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 162816N 1070200E (YD170220)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1G # 5059
Refno: 1357
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2009.


                Kevin O'Brien was born in the Bronx on August 30, 1946. He also lived for a time in Farmingville , New York . The blue-eyed, brown-haired O'Brien, one of four siblings whose parents were deceased, resided at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto , Staten Island and graduated from Tottenville High School Class of 1964. He joined the US Army after attending Bronx and Suffolk County community colleges.

                O'Brien completed Officers Candidate School at Fort Sill , Oklahoma , and was a First Lieutenant when he was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 94th Artillery, 108th Artillery Group in Vietnam . On January 9, 1969, Capt. Hugh Byrd, pilot, and 1st Lt. Kevin O'Brien, observer, were on a visual reconnaissance mission over the Khe Sanh area of South Vietnam in an O1-G Bird Dog aircraft, tail #51-5059. Byrd's aircraft flew from the 200th Aviation Company, 212th Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade. O'Brian's job as observer from HHC, 2nd Battalion, 94th Artillery, was to identify artillery targets. The plane diverted to assist a reconnaissance team that was in enemy contact in the Khe Sanh area. After aiding the team and being relieved by another aircraft, Byrd headed his plane back to Phu Bai. The weather was bad and the pilot reported at 1940 hours that he was lost and the weather was worsening. The aircraft was not equipped to fly on instruments in meteorological conditions. Dong Ha and other radar controllers tried to get a fix on the Bird Dog, and were able to maintain constant radio contact, but were able only to get an imprecise location. Based on the direction the aircraft told them it was flying, the radar station advised it to climb because of mountains in the area. No further transmissions were heard.

                Numerous searches were initiated following the disappearance of the aircraft, but were broken off after a few days due to weather conditions. When the weather cleared and searches were resumed, they failed to locate any wreckage in the remote, triple-canopy jungle area. Byrd and O'Brien were declared Missing In Action (MIA). In August 1975, in the presumed crash location, a refugee reported seeing 2 downed U.S. aircraft which he described as one F-5 jet and one L-19. He was told by villagers that two Americans on the L-19 were killed and buried 1 kilometer from the crash (the O1-G was formerly known as L-19). A hand-drawn map was included in the refugee’s report.

                Beginning in 1990, then Staten Island Borough President Guy V. Molinari and Congresswoman Susan Molinari began an aggressive effort to urge the US government to search for O’Brien and Byrd, despite the low recovery priority assigned to the case (4 on a scale of 1-5). Having obtained a copy of the refugee report, the Molinari’s also approached officials of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam at the UN in 1992 and 1993. Borough President James P. Molinaro and his staff continued to follow the case in the ensuing years, beginning in 2001.

                The US Department of Defense POW/MIA Office conducted a series of searches in the suspected crash area in 1993, 1999 and 2000.  The results of excavations revealed parts of the aircraft (a serial number was confirmed), and other debris. Also recovered was the lower-half of a ball-point pen indicating “Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion…,” a unit of the 94th Artillery.  An artillery collar insignia was also recovered. Unfortunately, no DNA evidence has been found to date.