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Wavel Wayne Powell
Find A Grave photo courtesy Allen Hathaway,
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Killed in Action [Organization]

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Wavel Wayne Powell

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do."

Eleanor Roosevelt

Wavel Wayne Powell was born on November 17, 1948, in Kopperston, Wyoming County, West Virginia. His father was Theodore W. Powell (1913-1986) and his mother was Opal Lou Brown Powell (1912-2002). He was never married, but he did have four brothers all of whom are deceased: Charles William Powell (1937-2007), who served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force; Mitchell Henry Powell (1940-1989); Richard Earl Powell (1945-2012); and David T. Powell (1953-1953). Wavel Wayne Powell attended Oceana High School in Wyoming County and graduated in May of 1966.

Wavel grew up during the "baby boom" that took place from 1946 to 1964. During his childhood, unemployment and inflation were low and wages were high. Many people had flocked from the urban crowded cities to suburban areas for a quieter life. Wavel's entire life was lived during the Cold War. He grew up during the very early years of the "war." These were times of intense tension between the United States and the Soviet Union over the spread of communism. These times were defined by the atomic arms race, the space race, and the "Red Scare." The arms race was a time where both the United States and the Soviet Union were developing atomic bombs to threaten each other. The space race was a contest to see who could make it to space first, with the Soviets putting the first man into space. The Red Scare was a very tense time within the United States. The fear of communists living and being part of society in the U.S. and working for the Soviet Union was widespread. ("Cold War History,", 27 October 2017, updated 4 December 2019, accessed 9 April 2020,

The Vietnam War was a long and costly conflict that pitted the North Vietnam communist government against South Vietnam, and its principal ally, the United States. Over three million people, including over 58,000 Americans, were killed during the Vietnam War; more than half of those people were Vietnamese civilians. Opposition to the war divided the American public. The United States' military presence increased in the early 1960s after the domino theory came into play, which held that if one Southeast Asian country fell to communism, many other countries would follow. The U.S. deployed military advisers and personnel to South Vietnam to try to contain the spread of communism. The fear of the spread of communism in Asia was intensified by the Cold War. ("Vietnam War,", 29 October 2009, updated 28 February 2020, accessed 9 April 2020,

Shortly after graduating from high school, Wavel was drafted into the United States Army where he was assigned as a Single Rotor Turbine Observation Utility Helicopter Repairman-67N20. Private First Class Powell was assigned to Headquarters Troop (Air Cavalry Troop), 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry ("Blackhorse") Regiment, U.S. Army, deployed to the Republic of Vietnam. Throughout its history, this regiment has been trademarked for its superb demonstration of cavalry agility. Pfc. Powell started his tour of duty as a helicopter repairman, crew chief, and door gunner on an OH-6A in the Republic of Vietnam on March 31, 1969.
Insignia of the 11th Cavalry (

Insignia of the 11th Cavalry ("Blackhorse") Regiment

Information regarding the 11th Armored's involvement in Vietnam from 1968-1970 can be found on the website of the Blackhorse Association. In the last part of 1968 and early into 1969, the weight of the regiment's attention shifted toward the Cambodia border. In operations around Lam Son, the Catcher's Mitt, and the Iron Triangle, the Blackhorse was charged with ending the use of these locations as secure staging areas for the enemy. During "Operation Montana Raider," in April and May 1969, the regiment's reconnaissance in force maneuvers was extended into the areas northwest of Dau Tieng, south of the Cambodian "Fish-hook," and around the Minh Thanh rubber plantation. One tactic which especially added to the Cav's success was the combination of air cavalry and armor to strike swifter lethal blows at the enemy. Successful in war, the 11th Armored Cavalry had also proved successful in its peace-building efforts. The Blackhorse worked with the local population, helping them to secure their villages and giving the local Vietnamese units added training and confidence. At the same time, the regiment provided many villages with medical care, building materials, and other supplies to improve their conditions. (Neil C. Morrison, "11th Armored Cavalry Regiment History," The Blackhorse Association, accessed 9 April 2020,

Pictured is an OH-6A from the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry like the one that Pfc. Powell would have been on as a door gunner. Courtesy Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, permission granted by John Conway

Pictured is an OH-6A from the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th Armored Cavalry like the one that Pfc. Powell would have been on as a door gunner. Courtesy Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, permission granted by John Conway

According to a Unit History for the Air Cavalry Troop, 11th ACR, dated 10 January 1970 and signed by Maj. Charles W. Abbey, for the month of April 1969, there were few enemy sightings by the aerial and ground reconnaissance units. On April 12, 1969, the Air Cavalry Troop along with other elements of the regiment and elements of the 1st Air Calvary Division began Operation Montana, which would carry into May. The Air Cavalry provided aerial reconnaissance, located the enemy, and initiated many of the contacts. While enemy casualties were not as great as in the previous operations, Montana Raider demonstrated the effectiveness of the Air Cavalry Troop in finding well concealed enemy positions and digging them out, forcing him into contact situations. The Air Cavalry Troop accounted for 23 enemy killed in action (KIA), while sustaining six KIA and three wounded in action (WIA) from within the troop. Two aviators, two scout observers, and two aerial rifle platoons (ARPs) accounted for the friendly KIAs. Three light observation helicopters (LOHs) were shot down and destroyed, while a fourth was shot down and recovered. (Charles W. Abbey, "Unit History," Air Cavalry Troop, 11th ACR, 1 January 1969 to 31 December 1969, accessed 9 April, 2020,

On May 2, 1969, Pfc. Powell was a door gunner on an OH-6A tail number 67-16201, piloted by 1st Lt. Edward Claus Powers. While on a reconnaissance mission, it is believed that they were ambushed by 7.62 mm automatic gun fire on a return flight to a base in Binh Duong Province. The helicopter was severely damaged as it crashed landed and burned; their bodies were recovered two days later.

Before Pfc. Powell died, he actively took part in more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory in support of counterinsurgency operations. He received the following medals posthumously: the Air Medal for meritorious achievement, the Air Medal Second Oak Leaf Cluster for heroism, and the Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in ground operations against hostile forces. For actions resulting in his death, he received the Military Merit Medal from the President of the Republic of Vietnam and the Purple Heart. At the posthumous awarding of the Air Medal on June 14, 1969, Pfc. Powell was recognized with the following citation:

Private First Class Powell distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight on 27 April 1969 [note that this date differs from other documentation, including the date on his gravestone] while serving as a helicopter crew chief and gunner with the 3d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in the Republic of Vietnam. On this date while Private Powell's helicopter was conducting a routine reconnaissance mission over an enemy infested area, the pilot observed what appeared to be an enemy base camp. As the pilot made low level passes over the hostile positions, Private Powell observed an enemy soldier attempting to evade detection and quickly took him under fire. In spite of enemy ground fire which disabled the squadron commander's aircraft and forced it to leave the area, Private Powell continued to cover the area with suppressive fire until friendly reinforcements arrived. Private First Class Powell's courage and dedication to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.

Wavel Wayne Powell was laid to rest at the Kopperston Community Cemetery in Kopperston, Wyoming County, West Virginia. Pfc. Powell is remembered on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial in Charleston, West Virginia. He is also honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Panel W26, Line 102, in Washington, D.C. On January 24, 2003, the West Virginia legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution No. 11, wherein they requested the West Virginia Division of Highways to name the bridge located on Route 85, Kopperston Road, Wyoming County, West Virginia, near the family home and the bridge he played on and under as a child, the "Wavel Wayne Powell Bridge." May he not be forgotten.
Grave marker for Pfc. Wavel Wayne Powell in Kopperston Community Cemetery. <i>Find A Grave</i> photo courtesy Allen Hathaway, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Killed in Action

Grave marker for Pfc. Wavel Wayne Powell in Kopperston Community Cemetery. Find A Grave photo courtesy Allen Hathaway, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Killed in Action [Organization]

Article prepared by Jayda McHorney, Omar Maraikayer, and MAJ (Ret) T. Brad McGee, George Washington High School JROTC
March 2020


Wavel Wayne Powell

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