HARRIS, STEPHEN WARREN Remains returned and identified September 1995.
Name: Stephen Warren Harris Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airbase, Thailand Date of Birth: 25 July 1949 Home City of Record: Springfield MO Date of Loss: 22 April 1970 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 154400N 1065100E (XC990410) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A Refno: 1600
Source: Compiled 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 in 1998.
Other Personnel in Incident: Ronnie Hensley; Robert Ireland; Thomas Adachi; Donald Lint; William Brooks; Charles B.Davis; Donald G. Fisher; John C. Towle; Charles Rowley (all missing); Eugene L. Fields (rescued).
SYNOPSIS: In the early hours of April 22, 1970, an AC130 gunship flown by veteran pilot Major William Brooks departed Ubon Airbase with a crew of ten for a Commando Hunt mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. The aircraft, code named "Ad Lib", was joined near its destination by two jet escort fighter bombers, code named "Killer 1" and "Killer 2", and immediately began air strikes against enemy traffic below. The crew of the aircraft included Brooks, the pilot; SSgt. Thomas Y. Adachi, the aerial gunner; LtCol. Charlie B. Davis, a navigator; Maj. Donald G. Fisher, a navigator; SSgt. Stephen W. Harris; SSgt. Ronnie L. Hensley; Master Sgt. Robert N. Ireland; Airman Donald M. Lint; LtCol. Charles S. Rowley; and 1Lt. John C. Towle.
During its fourth strike, the gunship was hit by anti-aircraft fire and began burning. Brooks radioed, "I've been hit, babe". Fisher, the navigator, reported that his position was OK. Fields and Hensley, battling the blaze in the rear of the aircraft, lost contact with each other in the smoke. Fields inched his way to Adachi's position, and found Adachi gone and the left scanner window open. Fields used an auxiliary parachute to abandon the aircraft.
Killer 1 reported seeing no parachutes, although Killer 2 reported the crew was bailing out. Just before Killer 1 departed the area for refueling, it received one emergency beeper signal from the ground. Killer 2 established voice contact with a member of the crew identifying himself as Ad-Lib 12 (Fisher), who reported that he had burns on his face and hands. Killer 2 also left for refueling, while other aircraft monitored the downed craft and waited for morning to attempt rescue of the survivors.
The following morning, Ad-Lib 11 (Fields) was rescued, but due to hostile ground forces, no ground search or photographs were made at the time. The Air Force assumed at the time that Fields had incorrectly identified himself, and announced that 6 of the crew had been killed and four were missing.
The rest of the story is confusing. The family of one of the crew was told that a ground crew had been inserted and that partial remains of one crew member had been recovered. Another family was advised that photographs of the crashsite existed. A photograph of a captive airman having burn bandages on his hands was identified as being Fisher by his family. Rowley's family was informed of a secret intelligence report indicating that 8 of the crew had been captured, and that a controlled American source had witnessed them being tortured to death for their "crimes".
A returned POW reported seeing Rowley in a propaganda film. Another returned POW stated that Fisher had been a POW. Although the Air Force would not allow family members to contact the only survivor, Fields, Fisher's son located him after 18 years. Fisher denied ever being in contact with any of the Killer jet escorts. It was not he who identified himself by radio to rescue forces.
Apparently, at least some of the crew of Ad Lib survived to be captured in Laos, often called the "Black Hole" of the POW issue because of nearly 600 lost there, not a SINGLE man was released that had been held in Laos. The Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held prisoners, yet we never negotiated their freedom, and reports continue to be received that some of these men are still alive. The surviving crew members lost that day were abandoned by the country for which they bravely fought.
[up1003b.95 10/09/95] UPn 10/03 1995 Vet finds solace in MIA return By WILLIAM D. MURRAY
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- For the last 25 years, Gene Fields has pondered the fate of his crew mates aboard a AC-130A that plummeted from the skies in flames over Laos in 1970.....
ROWLEY-HALLMAN PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS:
PRESS RELEASE -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 31, 1995 CONTACT: PATRICIA ROWLEY HALLMAN (804) 758-2555
FAMILIES OF A-130 CREW DEMANDS HALT TO PLANNED "DEATH BY ASSOCIATION" REMAINS BURIAL AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY.
THE FAMILIES OF CREWMEN LOST APRIL 22ND, 1970 OVER LAOS DEMAND A HALT TO THE PLANNED GROUP BURIAL, SCHEDULED NOVEMBER 8TH, AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY. THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE PLANS TO BURY 1550 BONE FRAGMENTS (THE LARGEST 1/3 OF A RIB) AND 5 TEETH AS THE MORTAL REMAINS OF TEN MEN, OUR HUSBANDS, FATHERS, BROTHERS AND SONS. ACCORDING TO A GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVE, NONE OF THE REMAINS WERE IDENTIFIABLE, INDIVIDUALLY. WHEN THE ROWLEY FAMILY SUGGESTED THE USE OF DNA TESTING (WHICH CAN BE DONE ON REMAIN S AS SMALL AS A TOOTH) TO IDENTIFY THE CREW INDIVIDUALLY, THEY WERE TOLD DNA TESTING WOULD NOT BE USED IN THIS CASE. THE REASON, IT WOULD BE TO COSTLY.
THE FAILURE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, TO EMPLOY COMMON DNA FORENSIC TESTING, TO IDENTIFY, INDIVIDUALLY, THE REMAINS OF OUR LOVED ONES, IS UNCONSCIONABLE. INSTEAD THEY CHOOSE TO DECLARE EVERY CREWMEN ON THIS FLIGHT DEAD. THIS DECLARATION OF DEATH IS BASED ON AN ASSOCIATION TO UNIDENTIFIABLE REMAINS RATHER THAN ON HARD EVIDENCE. THE GOVERNMENT HAS NOT PROVEN THE DEATH OF TEN CREWMEN. THEY HAVE NOT PROVEN THE DEATH OF 1 MAN. THEY ONLY OFFER EVIDENCE TO THE FAMILIES, THAT SOMEONE DIED IN THAT PLANE.
THE INITIAL INCIDENT WAS SURVIVABLE. ONE CREWMAN, EUGENE FIELDS, BAILED OUT AND WAS RESCUED. INFORMATION, DISCOUNTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE IN THEIR RUSH TO JUDGMENT, INDICATED THAT AT LEAST COL. CHARLES ROWLEY, THOMAS ADACHI AND DONALD FISHER EXITED THE AIRCRAFT.
EUGENE FIELDS REPORTED THAT ON EXITING THE AIRCRAFT HE PASSED THOMAS ADACHI'S AIRCRAFT STATION. ADACHI WAS GONE. AIRCRAFT IN THE AREA PICKED UP VOICE TRANSMISSION FROM A CREWMEN IDENTIFYING HIMSELF WITH THE AIRCRAFT CALL SIGN AD-LIB AND IS CREW NUMBER 12. AD-LIB 12 IS IDENTIFIED IN RECORDS AS DONALD FISHER. EUGENE FIELDS CONFIRMED THAT HE WAS NEVER IN VOICE CONTACT WITH ANY AIRCRAFT. ADDITIONALLY A RETURNED POW IDENTIFIED DONALD FISHER AS POW. HIS FAMILY ALSO IDENTIFIED A PHOTO OF A CAPTURED AMERICAN AS DONALD FISHER.
A POW, RETURNED IN 1973, IDENTIFIED A PHOTO OF COL. ROWLEY. THE RETURNED POW STATED HE HAD SEEN COL. ROWLEY IN A NORTH VIETNAMESE PROPAGANDA FILM. THE ROWLEY FAMILY WAS TOLD THAT INTELLIGENCE INDICATED 8 CREWMEN WERE CAPTURED. THE AIR FORCE IN 1970 CARRIED THE CREW AS 6 KILLED, 4 MISSING.
THE TEN CREWMEN, OUR LOVED ONES ARE: COL. CHARLIE B DAVIS JR., COL. CHARLES S. ROWLEY, COL. WILLIAM BROOKS, SGT. THOMAS ADACHI, CAPT. JOHN C. TOWEL, CHIEF MASTER SGT. ROBERT N. IRELAND, CHIEF MASTER SGT. RONNIE L. HENSLEY, SENIOR MASTER SGT. DONALD M. LINT, MAJ. DONALD FISHER AND TECHNICAL SGT. STEPHEN W. HARRIS.
THESE MEN AND OUR FAMILIES DESERVE A BETTER FATE THAN A DECLARATION OF "DEATH BY ASSOCIATION."
PATRICIA ROLLWEY HALLMAN, DAUGHTER GINGER DAVIS, WIFE COL. CHARLES ROWLEY COL. CHARLES DAVIS
KAREN BROOKS FOLGER, DAUGHTER JOE HENSLEY, JR., FATHER COL. WILLIAM BROOKS SGT. RONNIE HENSLEY
National Alliance of Families
How widespread is the practice of identifying men without remains. Here is our short and definitely incomplete list. Please let us know who we missed, and we will publish an updated list in a future edition of "Bits." Note: this list does not include men with suspect identifications based on a tooth. Nor does it include men from the "Specter 17" loss whose identifications are highly suspect (in two of those cases the identifications were rescinded.)
Thomas Adachi Gerald Ayers Dale Brandenburg William Brooks Richard M. Cole Charlie B. Davis Donald G. Fisher Stephen Harris Ronnie Hensley Robert Ireland Gary LaBohn Donald Lint Peter R. Matthes Jacob Mercer Joseph Matejov Todd Melton Richard Nyhof Charles S. Rowley John C. Towle Robert Wilson