BANNON, PAUL WEDLAKE Name: Paul Wedlake Bannon Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 15 October 1934 Home City of Record: Hueytown AL Date of Loss: 12 July 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 180400N 1051300E (WE229974) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1465 Other Personnel In Incident: Peter X. Pike (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 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 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. The border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was used for transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful and the recovery rate was high. Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact with search and rescue and other planes; some were known to have been captured. But the fates of the men lost in Laos was complicated by U.S. policy. In 1969, U.S. Defense policy for response on U.S. operations in Laos was, "The preferable response to questions about air operations in Laos is no comment." Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke of American prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated, Laos was not included, and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos. 1LT Peter X. Pike and MAJ Paul W. Bannon comprised the flight crew of an Air Force F4D Phantom fighter/bomber sent on a mission over the northernmost Ho Chi Minh Trail on July 12, 1969. During their flight, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Because there was the opportunity for Pike (the pilot) and Bannon (the weapon/systems operator) to safely eject, the two were classified Missing in Action. The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Pike's and Bannon's classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 4. Category 4 indicates "unknown knowledge" and includes individuals whose time and place of loss incident are unknown (e.g. aircrew members downed at unknown locations or ground personnel separated from their unit at an unknown time or place), and those individuals who do not meet the criteria of Categories 1 and 2 ("confirmed" and "suspect" knowledge). When the war ended and 591 Americans were released from POW camps in Southeast Asia, Pike and Bannon were not among them. In fact, no POWs held by the Lao were released at all. There have been over 10,000 reports received by the U.S. Government since the end of the war concerning Americans missing, prisoner and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have reviewed this largely-classified information have concluded that hundreds of them are still alive in captivity today. Were it not for reports such as these, the families of the missing might be able to close this tragic chapter of their lives and go on. But for them, the agonizing uncertainty continues. And for Americans who are still in captivity, the abandonment continues. How much longer must they wait for their country to bring them home? Peter X. Pike was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was maintained missing. Paul W. Bannon was promoted to the rank of Colonel.