BACKUS, KENNETH FRANK
Name: Kenneth Frank Backus Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 15 August 1938 Home City of Record: Pyrites NY Date of Loss: 22 May 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 213300N 1063000E (XJ553835) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C Refno: 0706 Other Personnel In Incident: Elton L. Perrine (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 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 2005.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
1LT Kenneth F. Backus and Capt. Elton L. Perrine were F4 pilots assigned a combat mission over North Vietnam on May 22, 1967. At a point near the city of Nam Dinh, their F4C aircraft was struck by enemy fire and crashed. Because of the probability that both men safely ejected from the crippled aircraft, they were both classified Missing in Action.
Who was piloting and who was co-pilot remained a mystery until 2005. Defense Department records indicate that both Backus and Perrine were pilots. Usually, one is coded as the rearseater and the other is coded as the pilot. During a conversation in Washington DC in May 2005, former POW Dave Gray stated Ken Backus was the backseater on this flight.
591 American Prisoners of War were released in Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973, but Backus and Perrine were not. Thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government that indicate hundreds of Americans are still alive and held captive in Southeast Asia, yet the government seems unable or unwilling to successfully achieve their release. Policy statements indicate that "conclusive proof" is not available, but when it is, the government will act. Detractors state that proof is in hand, but the will to act does not exist.
Henry Kissinger has said that the problem of unrecoverable Prisoners is an "unfortunate" byproduct of limited political engagements. This does not seem to be consistent with the high value we, as a nation, place on individual human lives. Men like Perrine and Backus, who went to Vietnam because their country asked it of them, are too precious to the future of this nation to write them off as expendable.
During the period they were maintained missing, Elton L. Perrine was promoted to the rank of Colonel and Kenneth F. Backus was promoted to the rank of Captain.