GAUNTT, WILLIAM AARON Name: William Aaron Gauntt Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 14th TRS Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Mt. Pleasant TX Date of Loss: 13 August 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 165835N 1965910E (YD135778) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Missions: 131 Other Personnel in Incident: Francis W. Townsend (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of 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: 730327 RELEASED BY PRG 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. Capt. William A. Gauntt was the pilot and 1Lt. Francis W. Townsend his systems officer on the reconnaissance version of the Phantom, the RF4. On August 13, 1972, Gauntt and Townsend were sent on a mission which would take them to the area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). As they were over the DMZ, about 10 miles southwest of Vinh Linh in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, the RF4 was shot down. Military officials at the time were uncertain as to the fate of Gauntt and Townsend. However, on March 27, 1973, William A. Gauntt was among 591 Americans released from POW camps in Vietnam. Francis W. Townsend was not. Officials at the time were heartened to learn that Gauntt had been captured and released, but horrified that hundreds of others who had been thought to be captured were not. Evidently Gauntt gave the U.S. information that Townsend had also been captured, for in 1973, Townsend was classified as a Prisoner of War. The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded this classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source intelligence. The fact that Townsend was never classified Category 1 indicates that the information relating to his possible capture was probably not conclusive. Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials who have examined this largely classified information have reluctantly concluded that many Americans are still alive in captivity today. Whether Francis W. Townsend survived to be captured, was executed, or is among those thought to be still alive is unknown. What is certain, however, is that as long as there is even one American held against his will, we owe him our very best efforts to bring him to freedom. Francis W. Townsend graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970.
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). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO WILLIAM A. GAUNTT Captain - United States Air Force Shot Down: August 13, 1972 Released: March 27, 1973 My hometown is Mt. Pleasant, Texas, and I graduated from high school in 1963. My wife, Margaret, is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where we met while I was at the Air Force Academy. My military service career began at the Air Force Academy in 1964. I graduated in 1968 and entered pilot training at Reese AFB in Texas. Following a year's tour (1969-71) at Tyndall AFB, Florida as an instructor pilot in the T-33, I flew the RF-4C at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. I began flying in Southeast Asia at Udorn RTAFB in Thailand in October 1971. My tour was almost over when I was downed by AAA on August 13, 1972. My imprisonment was relatively short compared to those men who spent several years of their lives in captivity. My faith in my family and my country was greatly enhanced by my association with these men of strong determination and will the spirit of men such as these has helped to mold our country and sustain her during times of strife. My future plans include a return to flying the RF-4C. I feel the trust fund for scholarships for children of those men who made the greatest sacrifice, their life, is only a small part of what we owe them. I certainly hope we have learned a great lesson from this war and that we will not soon forget its cost, both at home and abroad.