Dawson, Pickett & Scott POW Memorial

In the words of the VFW – “Americans have lost their lives in some 85 wars and assorted military actions in the past 234 years. Most of the casualties occurred in a dozen or so major wars. But that does not lessen the sacrifice of those killed in the numerous and mostly forgotten minor expeditions in the far-flung corners of the globe. Whenever any American in uniform is killed by hostile enemy action it is meaningful, and that loss must be remembered and forever recognized.” (VFW Magazine, June 2009 p.21)

NEW UPDATE January 2024  Finally, DoD has issued the award to the family of Dawson.

Near the waning years of the Central America War, in the early morning hours of January 2, 1991,  228th Aviation 4th battalion commander LTC David Pickett, helicopter pilot CWO4 Daniel Scott and crew chief PFC Earnest G. Dawson departed Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras for El Salvador.  Their route would take them along the Pan American highway across the border.  After dropping off troops at San Salvador, El Salvador, they headed back to home base at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.  Near Lolotique, El Salvador, not too far from the Honduran border, they encountered enemy small arms fire.  CWO4 Scott was killed instantly while piloting.  Some reports claim that he died on impact.  Other reports stated that PFC Dawson was firing his mounted M60 at enemy insurgents.  LTC Pickett, a seasoned helicopter pilot, immediately assumed control of the copter and miraculously auto rotated it down into a controlled crash landing.  LTC Pickett survived the crash landing with minor injuries, while PFC Dawson sustained serious, but non life threatening injuries.

Shortly after the crash landing, LTC Pickett was seen walking around surveying the wreckage looking for the first aid kit and some water for Dawson.  Within minutes, armed members of a communist insurgent guerrilla group surrounded the Americans.  Moments later local villagers wondered upon the crash site.  The guerrillas collected the soldiers weapons.  LTC Pickett reportedly requested water for PFC Dawson.  Not knowing what to do, the guerrillas radioed their superiors.  Pickett and Dawson were taken prisoner and ordered to knell with their hands above their heads.  After a period of roughly an hour, the guerrillas directed the local villagers to fetch some water over some nearby hills.  Another hour had passed as the guerrillas waited for the villagers to vanish from sight over the small mountain top.  The villagers later heard gun shots coming from the direction of the crash.

Upon returning, the villagers found LTC Pickett and PFC Dawson both dead.  Scarred, the villagers didn’t ask too many questions.  The guerrillas reported that all three had died from the crash.  Their story changed many times.  After American doctors conducted an autopsy, it was determined that both Pickett and Dawson were shot in the head at close range.  Eventually, the guerrilla leaders admitted that two of their members had “executed two wounded prisoners of war.”

The U.S. Congress protested siting the Geneva Convention articles for which the Salvadoran guerrillas claimed they were a signing party.

LTC Pickett’s father, a retired Army Colonel, fought long and hard requesting proper recognition for his son David and in 2003, LTC Pickett was eventually awarded the Prisoner of War Medal posthumously.  LTC Pickett was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for landing the craft in a manner that saved PFC Dawson’s and his own life.  All three were awarded Purple Hearts and Air Medals.

PFC Earnest G. Dawson was posthumously promoted to Specialist 4 and finally awarded the Prisoner of War medal as noted above.

CWO4 Scott’s death is listed as an accident in the Defense Casualty Analysis System. The Pentagon determined that LTC Pickett and SP4 Dawson’s deaths were by criminal homicide.  Once President Clinton authorized the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal in 1996 for service in El Salvador from 1981 to 1992, these ‘criminal acts’ became acts of war.  This is why the two accused were never released for prosecution in the U.S..  These classifications should be changed to killed in action.  All three were based in Honduras conducting combat support operations into El Salvador.

Please help ensure that Congress hears this loud and clear.

Here is LTC Pickett’s Purple Heart along with SP4 Dawson and Pickett’s initial award for the POW medal.  The third document is related to Dawson’s family request for the issuance of the medal.  Apparently Dawson was never issued the POW medal even though the 1999 letter claims he was issued an amended DD 214 and issued a DD215 Correction of Military Records awarding the POW medal.  Dawson’s family was issued the award in 2024 with the help of USContraWar and Greg Walker’s exhaustive efforts over the years.

Here are some related headlines:

1998 8 3 House Concurrent Res 314 a 1
U.S. Congress declared this act a war crime

Pickett david west point bio Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 3.56.13 PM Army South 228th history 4 Army Reg POW 1998 8 3 House Concurrent Res 314 b 1991 1 7 LA Times Baker angered by Killings 1 1988 8 30 JTF-Bravo News Quick action saves Huey crew 228th Just Cause TF 160 Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 12.58.22 AM 228th Just Cause TF 160 Pickett Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 1.06.51 AM 228th AV RGM D Co. Hondo 1a 1991 2 25 EL Salvador KILLED 1991 2 6 Herald & Review Rebels killings ended suffering

These classifications need to be changed to KIA

1991 2 4 Kentucky New Era Memorial services set for ex-Campbell soldier 1991 1 30 NYT US gives El Sal Aircraft 1991 1 22 Detroit Free Press Salvadoran rebels admit they killed US crewmen 1991 1 22 Courier Journal Salvo rebels admit they killed 2 Americans 1991 1 22 Courier Journal Rebels admit killing US soldiers 1991 1 13 Chic Tribune US Airman Earnest Dawson 1991 1 11 Courier Journal Salvadoran military copter is shot down by rebel forces 1991 1 10 Reno Gazzette Salvo rebels we may have executed Americans 1991 1 10 LA Times Rebels Admit 2 American May Have Been Slain 1991 1 10 Des Moines Register 2 in downed US copter may have been executed salvo rebels now say 1991 1 9 Pitt Press Bush freeing frozen military aid to help El Sal fight rebels 1991 1 9 LA Times Rebels arrest 2 in Execution of GI's 1991 1 9 Daily Sitka Sentinel FMLN says Salvador rebels executed downed American 1991 1 9 Advocate Messenger El Salvador outrage 1991 1 7 UPU Catholic church condemns deaths of servicemen 1991 1 7 Reno Gazette Rebels now plan to probe US deaths 1991 1 7 LA Times Baker angered by Killings 1991 1 7 Des Moines Register US demands justice in 2 airmen's deaths 1 1991 1 7 Des Moines Register US demands justice in 2 airmen's death 1991 1 7 Democrat & Chronicle Rebels vow to look into deaths of 3 1991 1 6 Journal News U.S soldiers executed autopsy shows 1991 1 6 Asbury Park gunshots killed airmen 1991 1 6 LA Times Autopsies Back Murder charges in El Sal 1991 1 6 Wash Post FMLN shot 2 American Autopsy shows 1991 1 7 Clarion Ledger US calls for justice in El Sal 1991 1 5 Post Dispatch US quotes evidence on 3 slain airmen 1991 1 5 Pittsburg Press How U.S. airmen died in El Salvador remains unclear 1991 1 5 LA Times 2 GI's Probably Shot 1991 1 5 Indianopolis Star Rebels blame copter crew Salvadorans sat US soldiers fired first 1991 1 5 Ariz Rep US investigates GI deaths in El Sal 1991 1 4 Wash Post US Deaths in Salvador in Dispute 1991 1 4 San Bern County Sun U.S. suspects rebels executed airmen 1991 1 4 Balt Sun Crew of US copter slain 1991 1 4 Baltimore Sun US crew slain after Salvador attack 1991 1 4 Chicago Tribune Salvador rebels executed 3 U.S. 1991 1 4 Democrat & Chronicle US soldiers shot to death in Salvador 1991 1 4 Sun Sentinel rebels execute copter crew, craft shot down 1991 1 4 Wash Post Death Toll US troops in El Salvador st 15 1991 1 3 Palm Beach Post Rebels down U.S. copter 1991 1 2 LTC David Pickett 228th AVN BTN CDR Honduras POW executed in El Sal 1991 1 3 Bowling Green KY Daily News US copter downed in El Sal 1991 US State Dept annual report 1991 1 3 NYT Copter shot down in salvador 1991 1 3 Daily Chronicle Helicopter downed 1991 1 3 Philly salvadoran huerrilas shoot down US helo kill 3 1991 1 3 three American soldiers executed 1991 1 3 CBS Evening News El Sal US helo crew executions 1991 1 3 UPI US says servicemen in El Sal may have been executed

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Central America War (1979 – 1992)