On Oct. 26, 1971, Albert Raymond Trudeau had lunch with Leonard Maquiling and John Shelton, buddies in the Army’s 68th Assault Helicopter Company. It was a day like any other in Vietnam; full of prepping before a mission but also full of joshing and looking forward to poker games.
Hours later, Trudeau, Maquiling and all eight other men aboard a CH-47B cargo helicopter were lost.
Trudeau, 22, was an Army warrant officer first class.
The chopper, flown by Maquiling and co-piloted by Trudeau, was on a supply mission and crashed in bad weather off the coast of Khanh Hoa Province on the last leg of its journey; Trudeau and five others are MIA but the bodies of Maquiling and three others were recovered when wreckage washed ashore.
Shelton, of Marietta, Ga., posted this memorial on Trudeau’s page at http://www.thewall-usa.com in 2011: “Had lunch that day with Al and Leonard at the Air Force Officer’s Club at Tuy Hoa. Just hours later learned that their aircraft was missing. Al was a great guy and liked by all in the unit. Still hard to believe.”
Shelton was contacted by book author Tom Mueller (and current War Memorial Center Honor Roll Project researcher) in 2012 and said Trudeau “was fun-loving, always with a twinkle in his eye. He seemed to always have his camera slung over his shoulder ready to snap photos. He also often played poker at our company officers’ evening game.”
Not long before his disappearance, Trudeau had called home. He told his oldest sister, Barbara Connolly, who goes by her family nickname of Bobbie, that “he was thinking of buying Christmas presents and asked what would people want.” He also mentioned an upcoming copter mission.
She remembers the phone ringing again the next day: The military informing the family that Trudeau was MIA.
“I said, ‘I just spoke with him last night,’” Bobbie reports. “It can’t be him. … Everybody in the family said that can’t be possible, because everyone in my family who was in World War II came home – my father and his six brothers.”
She says “Alby” was the fourth of nine kids. The family lived in many states because the father, Army Maj. Francis Trudeau frequently was transferred. It had lived in France and West Germany, and Al was born in New Jersey; the family came to Milwaukee from Louisiana when Bobbie was 18 and Alby was 12 or so. It lived at North 34th Street and West State Street, near the headquarters of Harley-Davidson and Miller Brewing Co., and the kids always enjoyed the area playground near the two companies and watching motorcycles in action at the plant.
Al had just started at West Division High School when his father was transferred back to West Germany.
Richard Elias of Lexington, Va., found in the same way that Shelton was tracked down, said his classmate at the Ludwigsburg American High School was one year younger but in the same Class of 1967. Elias’ father was an Army financial officer. They were neighborhood buddies because “our front window and their front window lined up, in opposite buildings,” Elias says.
“We skipped school as much as we could. We partied a lot, played and worked on our cars.”
More on Albert Trudeau can be found in Tom Mueller’s book “Duty, Honor, Country and Wisconsin,” which is in libraries and for sale on Amazon.