Pilot Shot Down Over N. Korea Is to Return to His Unit, U.S. Says
Army Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Hall, whose helicopter was shot down after it strayed over North Korea, is returning to his unit in South Korea next week and will resume flying, a likely indication that he is being cleared of negligence in the incident, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
Although the final report on the matter is not yet complete, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said: “Everything points to the fact this was a mistake of the type made from time to time. . . . Right now I would not anticipate any disciplinary action.”
North Korean gunfire downed Hall’s OH-58A helicopter Dec. 17 during a training flight. Hall and U.S. officials contend that he made a navigational error and inadvertently crossed over the Demilitarized Zone into North Korean airspace. Pyongyang officials captured Hall and initially accused him of spying, but released him 12 days later after a tense, high-stakes round of U.S.-North Korean negotiations.
Hall’s co-pilot, Chief Warrant Officer David Hilemon, 28, of Clarksville, Tenn., died in the incident. His autopsy is complete but has not been released. It reveals, according to a Pentagon source, that Hilemon bled to death after a piece of shrapnel--from a missile or other type of munitions--passed through his lung and lodged in his heart wall.
Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is in South Korea meeting with defense officials who are conducting the Hall investigation.