CONLEE, WILLIAM WALTER

Name: William Walter Conlee
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force, EWO
Unit: 307th Strat Wing
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Lemon Grove CA
Date of Loss: 22 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210125N 1055100E (WJ880210)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: B52
Refno:

Other Personnel in Incident: Gary L. Morgan; William T. Mayall; David I.
Drummond; John H. Yuill; Louis H. Bernasconi (all released POWs)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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 2011.


REMARKS: RELSD 730329 BY DRV

SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs
were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White
House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only
when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized
cease-fire was in force.

Linebacker II flights generally arrived over Hanoi in tight cells of three
aircraft to maximize the mutual support benefits of their ECM equipment and
flew straight and level to stabilize the bombing computers and ensure that
all bombs fell on the military targets and not in civilian areas.

The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS"
surrounded Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. The Christmas Bombings,
despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most precise the world
had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes generally agree
that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was so
successful that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the entire
country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and
marching them southward."

To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick
to a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes
were anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however,
flight paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile
threat from the ground.

Still, aircraft were shot down near the end of the campaign. On December 22,
1972, a B52 was shot down near Hanoi. Its crew included LTCOL John H. Yuill,
LTCOL Louis H. Bernasconi, LTCOL William W. Conlee, CAPT David I. Drummond,
1LT William T. Mayall, and TSGT Gary L. Morgan. This crew was exceptionally
fortunate--they were all were captured by the North Vietnamese. The captured
crew was held in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, at which time they were
released in Operation Homecoming. The U.S. did not know all of them had been
captured.

Linebacker II involved 155 Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers stationed at
Anderson AFB, Guam (72nd Strat Wing) and another 50 B52s stationed at Utapoa
Airbase, Thailand (307th Strat Wing), an enormous number of bombers with
over one thousand men flying the missions. However, the bombings were not
conducted without high loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of
December 1972, 61 crewmembers onboard ten B52 aircraft were shot down and
were captured or declared missing. (The B52 carried a crew of six men;
however, one B52 lost carried an extra crewman.) Of these 61, 33 men were
released in 1973. The others remained missing at the end of the war. Over
half of these survived to eject safely.

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received relating to
Americans missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. The crew
of the B52 shot down on December 22 was lucky to have survived and only have
a few weeks imprisonment. Many authorities are now convinced that many
Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia. It's time we found them
and brought them home.


SOURCE: WE CAME HOME  copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret),
Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
spelling errors).


WILLIAM  W. CONLEE
Lieutenant Colonel  - United States Air Force
Shot down:  December 22, 1972
Released: March 29, 1973
                      
Many  people have asked me "Why  do all POW speeches sound alike?"  At first I
was taken aback by this but perhaps they are right. One comes to cherish
freedom when it is taken away and I guess we all realize how lucky we are to
be Americans and live in a country where each citizen has basic rights.

It was wonderful to feel the warmth of our welcome home and to realize how
much everyone did care.

The bravery and courage displayed by my wife and family while I was MIA and
POW will always be an inspiration to me. The courage and fortitude of the
other POWs surely strengthened me and made my relatively short period of
confinement much more bearable The United States is truly the land of the free
and the home of the brave.

-------------------------

William Conlee retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He and
his wife Mary Beth reside in California.

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