Larry Richard Hatter
By Dan Hall
On February 18, 1971 in the Province Thua Thien Viet Nam, a Marine Helicopter lifted off from home base. The helicopter was manned by Major Wayne Reuben Hyatt Aircraft Commander, 1st Lieutenant Strather Franklin Wood, Copilot Sergeant Allen Keith McElfresh, Crew Chief Sergeant William Clinton Odom Jr., and Gunner Corporal Larry Richard Hatter. The crew was part of the USMC Helicopter Squadron HMH-463. These Marines would not return from their mission. The helicopter experienced mechanical failure causing the aircraft to crash at Doi Dian, The crash caused the death of the five Marines and three passengers. Each person had loved ones waiting for them back home. The heartbreak of war would prevent their reunion.
Three years prior to the helicopter crash, Larry Hatter was graduating from Hornell High School (Class of 1968). There is no doubt he had a bright future. He had a loving and caring family. Larry had many friends and a lot of ambition. He was involved with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Larry spent his summers with other Scouts at Camp Gordon. During the winter he played basketball at the YMCA. He was a skilled player who won numerous trophies. In addition, Larry was an active member at Spencer Methodist Church. Larry’s sister, Darlene Hatter Schmitt remembers, “ He was a great brother and I still think about him everyday. So many years have gone by now and there is still a void in our lives. You were only 21 and I often wonder what if… What would you be like today? Soon you would be reaching retirement age and taking life easy. How many children and grandchildren would you have had? Our lives went on … but you’re still in our thoughts every day.” It was not just family that felt the loss of Larry. Corporal Larry South became good friends with Larry while they were stationed stateside. Eventually, they both would be transferred to Viet Nam. Larry remembers, “ I was in the same HYD. shop here in California at Santa Ana. The squadron was HMHT-301. It was the training squadron to train crews going to Viet Nam. We were also in the same squadron in Viet Nam, it was HMH-463. At the time we were the only CH-53 helicopter squadron in country. They have a web site going under hmh463 and have a page call in remembrance showing all the KIA’s we had while in VN. Larry and I were very good friends both here in the US but also while overseas. “ Larry went on to say, “I have remembered Larry almost everyday. He will not be forgotten here.”
Larry’s name is on the Viet Nam Wall in our nation’s capitol. It is located on Panel W5, Line 116. He was awarded the Air Medal National Defense, Viet Nam Service, and Viet Nam Campaign medals. Am Vets Post 245 on the Broadway honored Larry Richard Hatter as part of its official title.
There are not enough words, ceremonies, parades, or monuments that can express the gratitude that all Americans should have for our fallen veterans. Larry was a hometown guy that represented the best in all of us. He brought compassion and conviction to everything he was involved with. Larry served his country with great honor and dignity. His friendship was shared by all who made his acquaintance. Larry’s spirit lives on today in the hearts of all who knew him. A son, a brother, a friend, a teammate, and a Marine. A man of uncommon valor that sacrificed for our freedom. A sacrifice not to be forgotten.