BOWER, JOSEPH EDWARD

Name: Joseph Edward Bower
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, McConnell AFB KS
Date of Birth: 21 June 1929
Home City of Record: Ely NV
Date of Loss: 03 August 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 182459N 1055159E (WF930880)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Refno: 0120
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 April 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: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more
missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also
suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was
constantly under revision. Between 1965 and 1971, the aircraft was equipped
with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved pilot
ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing
capability and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a
single-place aircraft, the F model carried a second crewman which made it
well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam's missile defenses.

Major Joseph E. Bower was an F105D pilot assigned an operational mission
over North Vietnam on August 3, 1965. During the mission, Bower's aircraft
was struck by hostile fire and Bower radioed that he was heading for sea (to
facilitate easier rescue). Shortly afterward, the aircraft became
uncontrollable. Bower ejected from the aircraft. He was at that time about
20 miles southeast of the city of Vinh in Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam,
very near the coastline.

Observers say that Bower's parachute did not open until just prior to his
impact with the water. Air Force narratives do not describe search and
recovery efforts, but Bower was not recovered, and was declared Missing in
Action. Because of the proximity to the coastline, there was every reason to
suspect that, if he survived the ejection, Bower might have been captured by
any of the multitude of enemy vessels which dotted the coastline.

On August 9, unspecified information was received by U.S. intelligence that
Bower died at the time of the incident. He was then declared Killed in
Action/Body Not Recovered. Because his remains have not been recovered and
returned, Bower is listed by the Department of Defense as unaccounted for in
Southeast Asia.

Bower's unit in Vietnam is not recorded by the Air Force. His last known
duty assignment was with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell
Air Force Base, Kansas.
============================================================
NETWORK NOTE: Original biographies were written from information in casualty
reports shared decades ago, before invasion of privacy laws closed that
access. It is why corrections are appended - and original bios NOT edited.

In your synopsis about Major Joseph E. Bower, there are a few errors, which can be expected due to unintentional misinformation and/or lack of information. On 3 August 1965, our flight of four was assigned a mission to scout for targets along a short section of shoreline of the Gulf of Tonkin. Joe Bower lead the flight. Frank O’neil was his wingman (number 2); I lead the second element (number 3); and Bruce Holmes was my wingman (number 4).  I have made corrections to the synopsis, which are placed in brackets and underlined… The attached text is formatted in Microsoft WORD with “.doc” appended to the file name.

BOWER, JOSEPH EDWARD
Name: Joseph Edward Bower
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, McConnell AFB KS
Date of Birth: 21 June 1929
Home City of Record: Ely NV
Date of Loss: 03 August 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 182459N 1055159E (WF930880)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Refno: 0120

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 April 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: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was constantly under revision. Between 1965 and 1971, the aircraft was equipped with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved pilot ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing capability and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a single-place aircraft, the F model carried a second crewman which made it well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam 's missile defenses.    [There are a few statements made here that are incorrect: For example, the THUD didn’t have armor plating; the losses occurred because of plain old flying missions into heavily defended targets, while the F4s flew MIG-cap (The Pentagon favored the THUDs to face attrition rather than the Phantoms…]

Major Joseph E. Bower was an F105D pilot assigned an operational mission over North Vietnam on August 3, 1965. During the mission, Bower's aircraft was struck by hostile fire    [perhaps, but the aircraft had problems with the turbine blades fracturing due to metal fatigue, or something of that nature]    and Bower radioed that he was heading for sea (to facilitate easier rescue). Shortly afterward, the aircraft became uncontrollable    [At the time Joe radioed us about taking a hit (engine problems of some form?) and that he was headed out to sea for a possible bailout. I led my element out to sea to rendezvous with him. I was able to get within a thousand feet of him off his left wing. When I observed that his A/C was on fire, I radioed Joe that his aircraft was on fire and to bailout (...like, “JOE! YOU’RE ON FIRE… BAILOUT NOW!!!).  Up until the telltale 50-foot long orange flame appeared coming from the tailpipe, a flame usually indicative of failed turbine blades (buckets), the aircraft flew normally. He immediately responded to my instructions for ejection. I observed that before he separated from his chair, which occurs shortly after ejection, his aircraft exploded into several burning pieces. His chute opened immediately after chair separation. After full deployment of the canopy, I observed that a shroud line crossed over the canopy, which produced two canopies. This condition could have been corrected if Joe was conscious by cutting the errant line(s). I reduced my airspeed to 220 knots and lowered my flaps.  I circled him until he hit the water. I noted a pronounced “shockwave” of water as he entered the sea, which appeared to me that he had fallen much faster than normal.   His chute settled on him and all evidence of his chute disappeared rapidly.]     Bower ejected from the aircraft. He was at that time about 20 miles southeast of the city of Vinh in Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam, very near the coastline.   [While I circled Joe, Holmes covered me for MIGs and O’Neil climbed to a satisfactory altitude to coordinate air-sea rescue.]

Observers say that Bower's parachute did not open until just prior to his impact with the water [as stated above, this info is incorrect]. Air Force narratives do not describe search and recovery efforts, but Bower was not recovered, and was declared Missing in Action. Because of the proximity to the coastline, there was every reason to suspect that, if he survived the ejection [as stated before, it appeared that he did not survive… There was no evidence of his raft; no radio communications; and all of this combined with a ‘”bad” chute and high-speed entry into the water.] Bower might have been captured by any of the multitude of enemy vessels, which dotted the coastline. [There were a few boats in the area, but none of them were close to his location. We made several passes at the boats to warn them not to sail into Joe’s downed position by firing our 20mm canons across their bows before we had to leave due to low fuel. How effective that was we’ll never know. We also will never know what caused his aircraft to fail, his chute to fail, and whether he was conscious (or alive) after ejection…]

On August 9, unspecified information was received by U.S. intelligence that Bower died at the time of the incident. He was then declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered. Because his remains have not been recovered and returned, Bower is listed by the Department of Defense as unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.

Bower's unit in Vietnam is not recorded by the Air Force. His last known duty assignment was with the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas.  [Both Joe and I were assigned to the 421st in late 1963 until I joined the 354th.  I deployed with the 469th in late 1964 to Japan , thence Okinawa , thence a short tour at Korat. I returned later to Korat with the 357th in mid-1965 where Bower and O’Neil were assigned to run the command post. Both Bower and O’Neil were attached to the 357th to fly combat missions.]

 

Will Koenitzer

100 missions SEA 1/18/65