KOONCE, TERRY TRELOAR
|Name: Terry Treloar Koonce
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 13 September 1938
Home City of Record: San Antonio TX
Date of Loss: 25 December 1967
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 172000N 1054400E (WD782822)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Refno: 0950 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 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: 15
March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2018.
SYNOPSIS: The North American T28 Nomad was used throughout Southeast Asia
for counterinsurgency missions. The T28's normally flew in two-plane
formations for day strikes against previously selected targets or for armed
escort of A26 or helicopter operations. During daylight the Nomad usually
attacked in a shallow dive, releasing its bombs and recovering at 2,000 feet
to avoid small arms fire, for shock effect on the enemy, as well as to
lighten the aircraft and increase its maneuverability. Night operations
usually consisted of armed reconnaissance by single T28's. At night pilots
could dive below 2,000 feet using darkness for concealment as enemy gunners
in South Vietnam and Laos did not employ radar.
Long after the T28 had proved too vulnerable to survive the enemy's
increasingly accurate antiaircraft fire, T28s served as the principal attack
plane of the Royal Lao Air Force and were sometimes flown by Thai volunteers
as well. Few T28 losses resulted in missing American personnel.
On December 25, 1967, Capt. Terry T. Koonce was the pilot of a T28 on a
mission in Laos. Koonce was a relatively experienced pilot, having graduated
from the Air Force Academy in 1961 and gone into flight training following
graduation. The Christmas Day mission took Koonce over Khammouane Province,
Laos near the Ban Karai pass.
The Ban Karai Pass was one of several passageways through the mountainous
border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from Thailand to
missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and many aircraft
were lost. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a
road heavily travelled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and
personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos.
The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that
of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by
the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely
rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery.
Koonce was at the city of Ban Som Peng when his aircraft was hit by enemy
fire and crashed. Whether Koonce was able to bail out of the aircraft is
unclear, but he was declared Missing in Action. He is one of nearly 600
Americans lost in Laos during the Vietnam war.
In the early 1970's the Pathet Lao stated on a number of occasions that they
held "tens of tens" of American prisoners and that those captured in Laos
would also be released from Laos. Unfortunately, that release never
occurred, because the U.S. did not include Laos in the negotiations which
brought American involvement in the war to an end. The country of Laos was
bombed by U.S. forces for several months following the Peace Accords in
January 1973, and Laos steadfastly refused to talk about releasing our POWs
until we discontinued bombing in their country.
Consequently, no American held in Laos was ever returned. By 1989, these
"tens of tens" apparently have been forgotten. The U.S. has negotiated with
the same government entity which declared it held American POWs and has
agreed to build clinics and help improve relations with Laos. If, as
thousands of reports indicate, Americans are still alive in Indochina as
captives, then the U.S. is collaborating in signing their death warrants.
Terry T. Koonce graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1961.
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