AUSTIN, JOSEPH CLAIR Name: Joseph Clair Austin Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 30 June 1929 Home City of Record: Moundsville WV Date of Loss: 19 March 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 174200N 1055000E (WE813606) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D Refno: 0626 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.w. NETWORK. REMARKS: SURVIVAL UNLIKELY SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief (or "Thud") performed yoeman service on many diversified missions in Southeast Asia. F105s flew more combat missions over North Vietnam than any other USAF aircraft and consequently suffered the heaviest losses in action. They dropped bombs by day and occasionally by night from high or low altitude and some later versions (F105D in Wild Weasel guise) attacked SAM sites with their radar tracking air-to-ground missiles. This versatile aircraft was also credited with downing 25 Russian MiGs. LtCol. Joseph C. Austin was an F105 pilot assigned a mission over North Vietnam on March 19, 1967. Departing from his base (probably in Thailand), Austin proceeded to his mission area. When Austin's aircraft was just east of the Ban Karai Pass, it was hit by enemy fire and crashed. The Ban Karai Pass is one of several passageways through the mountainous border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from Thailand to missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and many aircraft were lost. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a road heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos. The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery. It was not known if Austin safely ejected from his aircraft, but not thought likely that he survived. However, because the opportunity existed for him to eject safely, Austin was declared Missing in Action rather than presumed dead. When 591 Americans were released in Operation Homecoming in 1973, Austin was not among them. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of him, although it was their guns that downed him and it is unlikely that the crashing aircraft escaped their attention. The U.S. believes the Vietnamese can account for Austin, alive or dead. Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago enemy. The United States Government, although involved in talks with the Vietnamese since the end of the war, has been unable to bring home a single live prisoner. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, refuse to let the issue die, with the ultimate hope of normalizing relations with the west. The Americans who are still captive have been reduced to bargaining pawns between two nations. For their sakes, everything possible must be done to bring them home. The sacrifice of tens of thousands of America's young men is mocked by the abandonment of their comrades. For the sake of our future fighting men and those who have given their lives in the defense of their country, we must see to it that we never again abandon our soldiers to enemy hands. Joseph C. Austin graduated from West Point in 1952. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.