GELONECK, TERRY MERCER
Name: Terry Mercer Geloneck Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, pilot Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Anderson Air Base, GUAM Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Decatur AL Date of Loss: 20 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 210500N 1054000E (WJ692313) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52G Missions: 91
Other Personnel In Incident: William Y. Arcuri; Roy Madden Jr.; Michael R. Martini (all released POWs); Craig A. Paul; Warren R. Spencer (both remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, including "Linebacker" by Karl J. Eschmann. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
REMARKS: 730219 RELSD BY DRV - INJ
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 military targets in 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.
The Christmas Bombings 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. "could have taken the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching it southward."
The operation had its costs, however, in loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of December 1972, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft were shot down and captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were released in 1973. The remains of roughly a dozen more have been returned over the years, and the rest are still missing. At least 10 those missing survived to eject safely. Yet they did not return at the end of the war.
On December 20, 1972, three B52 aircraft -- Quilt Cell -- departed Anderson Air Base, Guam for a bombing mission over Hanoi. One of the aircraft was flown by Capt. Terry M. Geloneck. The crew consisted of 1Lt. William Y. Arcuri, co-pilot; Capt. Craig A. Paul, Electronic Warfare Officer; Capt. Warren R. Spencer, the radar navigator; 1LT Michael R. Martini, navigator; and SSgt. Roy Madden, the gunner.
Approaching the initial point where the bombing run was to begin, the EWO (Paul) reported SAM signals. The aircraft instituted evasive maneuvers while calmly running through their checklist in preparation of releasing the twenty-seven 750-pound bomb load.
About 30 seconds to target, three or four SAMs were sighted. The crew could do nothing but watch their progress until the "bombs away" was called and evasive action could be taken. After releasing the bomb load, the aircraft had been in a hard turn about 10 seconds when the loud metallic bank of an exploding SAM hit them, accompanied by a bright white flash. The aircraft was still airborne and in its post-target turn.
Martini reported that he, Arcuri and Spencer were okay, but that they had sustained a fuel leak in the left main fuel tank, and that cabin pressurization was lost. Paul had been hit and was bleeding heavily. There were four six-inch holes in the fuselage next to Madden, and his leg was shattered.
As the aircraft began losing altitude, the crew prepared for bailout. Geloneck, Arcuri, Martini and Madden successfully ejected from the aircraft and were captured immediately. It is not known whether Spencer and Paul ejected.
When they were released in mid-February, 1973, Madden, Martini, Arcuri and Geloneck were all injured; Madden's leg was still in dangerous condition, and he was brought home on a litter. The leg was later amputated. The Vietnamese returned the remains of Paul and Spencer on September 30, 1977, despite earlier protestations that they knew nothing about the two.
One thing that amazed analysts about the B52 bombers that were shot down over Hanoi during this period was the high survival rate of the crewmembers. Many more were returned as POWs than was expected. The B52s that were shot down were downed in extremely hostile territory with little or no chance of rescue. However, they were fortunate to be captured during a period in which little or no harassment and torture was being experienced by American POWs. In fact, the Vietnamese were "fattening them up" for their imminent release.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that all the prisoners were returned in 1973 at the end of the war. Since the end of the war, thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans still alive in captivity. U.S. experts have stated they believe Americans are still being held prisoner in Southeast Asia. The question is no longer whether any are alive, but who are they, and how can we bring 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). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
TERRY M. GELONECK Captain - United States Air Force Shot Down: December 20, 1972 Released: February 12, 1973
My name is Terry Mercer Geloneck and I was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese for 53 days, from 20 December 1972 to 12 February 1973. My Air Force career began following graduation from the University of Alabama in January 1967. I attended Officers Training School and became a munitions officer for two years prior to earning my pilot's wings at Williams Air Force Base in May 1970.
My first flying assignment was in the B-52 Strategic Bomber at Beale Air Force Base in northern California. I flew as a copilot and had one tour in Southeast Asia flying 61 combat missions from Utapao Air Base in Thailand. Following this tour I upgraded to Aircraft Commander in June of 1972 and took over my first crew in August at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. From there I flew 30 combat missions to Indochina prior to President Nixon's order to strategically bomb the heart of North Vietnam.
We flew our first mission to Hanoi on the third day of the so-called "eleven day war" - 20 December 1972. Our aircraft was struck by two surface-to-air missiles just after dropping our bombs on target. Myself, along with three other crewmembers, ejected safely and were taken prisoner almost immediately. Two others of my crew are still listed as Missing in Action.
I evaded capture for about thirty minutes, but civilians eventually captured me. I was receiving fairly harsh treatment when the militia arrived and took me into custody. Moved throughout the night, I entered the "Hanoi Hilton" the next morning. My copilot and gunner were on the same vehicle when we finally arrived in Hanoi, whereupon I was separated from them and placed in solitary confinement. I dislocated and fractured my right shoulder upon ejection so I was in quite a bit of pain until it was set some two weeks later. I was alone for the first seven days of my captivity before being placed with six other B-52 crewmembers. Christmas in solitary confinement was indeed bleak and lonely, and it was during these most difficult, most painful, and darkest hours that God and thoughts of my wife and young son enabled me to get through.
After about two weeks things began to definitely improve for me. First of all, I was taken to a medical facility where my shoulder was set and put into a cast, and from then on it got a little better every day. The cast remained on until two weeks prior to my release.
During captivity I was moved about five times and lived in one other detention camp than the "Hilton." I lived with my navigator for about one week in this other camp, and was extremely relieved to know he was alive and well. Two weeks of my captivity (the last two) I was fortunate enough to be placed in with men who had been POWs five to seven years. These men were absolutely fantastic, I think, to have endured such an ordeal and been in the condition they were. I will never forget my association with them and their abiding faith in each other, in God, and in the people of this country.
Due to my injury I was repatriated with the first group of POWs. I came home to the most amazing and wonderful reception by the American people and just in time for the birth of our second son! More than ever before, this made me proud to be an American and proud to serve this great country. I plan to stay in the Air Force and continue flying. I feel I have been indeed fortunate to have been endowed with a wonderful gift-the realization that I can be deprived of all that I hold precious, including life itself, and then the opportunity - a second chance, one might say-to fully enjoy what I came so close to losing.
Terry Geloncek retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He and his wife Jane reside in Alabama.