MEYER ALTON BENNO
Name: Alton Benno Meyer Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Fredericksburg TX Date of Loss: 26 April 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 213500N 1051600E (WJ448773) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105F
Other Personnel in Incident: John F. Dudash (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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 2002.
REMARKS: 730304 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was constantly under revision. Between 1965 and 1971, the aircraft was equipped with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved pilot ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing capability and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a single-place aircraft, the F model carried a second crewman which made it well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam's missile defenses.
Eighty-six F-105Ds fitted with radar homing and warning gear formed the backbone of the Wild Weasel program, initiated in 1965 to improve the Air Force's electronic warfare capability. Upon pinpointing the radar at a missile site, the Wild Weasel attacked with Shrike missiles that homed on radar emissions. The versatile aircraft was also credited with downing 25 Russian MiGs. Thirteen of these modified F's were sent to Southeast Asia in 1966.
Most of the F105s flown by the U.S. Air Force were based in Thailand, their flights into North Vietnam guided by ultra-secret U.S.-operated radar installations in Laos. During the mid-sixties, both Navy and Air Force jets descended on military targets in North Vietnam as part of Operation Rolling Thunder.
At the coastal city of Haiphong, Navy bombers were running successful bombing missions aimed at vital supply stores and storage facilities. One bomber was flown by Michael Estocin, who was shot down on this mission and who was awarded the Navy's only Congressional Medal of Honor for his valor on this mission and those of days previous over Haiphong.
Several F105's were lost northwest of Hanoi on this day. One, an F105F, flown by Capt. John F. Dudash, with Major Alton B. Meyer in the rear seat, was hit by enemy fire in northwest of Hanoi in Vinh Phu Province. Meyer, as the rear-seater, ejected first and was captured immediately. He landed about 45 miles northwest of Hanoi, and the aircraft continued in a southeasterly direction with Dudash still at the controls. While Meyers watched, the plane disintegrated in mid-air. Although the Air Force later located the precise location of the downed aircraft, the fate of Dudash was uncertain. The pieces fell to earth about 5 miles from the ejection coordiates of Meyer and finally crashed. Whether Dudash successfully ejected was doubtful, but he was classified Missing in Action, and it was felt that the Vietnamese could account for him.
[NOTE: Some records indicate that Dudash was aboard an F105E and that Meyer was aboard an F105F. This is probably an error as Dudash and Meyer are definitely on the same aircraft and it is the F model which is a two-seater.)
In the spring of 1973, 591 Americans were released from POW camps and Alton B. Meyer was among them. Dudash's loss occurred in a less populated area, but the fact that his backseater was captured indicated that the enemy was in the area. They would not fail to notice the aircraft crash and investigate, yet the Vietnamese denied any knowledge of Dudash for more than a decade.
Sixteen years later, the Vietnamese "discovered" and returned the remains of John F. Dudash. The U.S. accepted this humanitarian gift without question. Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese "stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous times. Was Dudash waiting, in a casket, for just such a moment?
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did they die?" As long as reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
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).
ALTON B. MEYER Major United States Air Force Shot Down: April 26, 1967 Released: March 4, 1973
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Major Alton B. Meyer was born on January 2, 1938 in Fredericksburg, Texas. He graduated from Fredericksburg High School in 1956 and from Texas A & M University in 1960.
He is married to the former Bobbie Jean Smith. They have two sons, Robert, 11 and Ronny 7.
Major Meyer entered the Air Force in 1960 and is an electronic warfare officer. He has been stationed at Moore Air Base, Texas; Vance AFB, Oklahoma; James Connally AFB, Texas; Mather AFB, California; Biggs AFB, Texas; Duluth International Airport, Minnesota; and Takli, Thailand. He was flying in an F-105F when he was shot down on April 26,1967. On March 4, 1973 he was released.
Presently he is assigned to the Air Force Institute of Technology at Texas A & M University.
EXPERIENCE Less than three months after his arrival in Takli, Thailand, his F-105F was hit by a missile that "just dropped out of the clouds." The ejector from the aircraft left him unconscious; when he awoke he was stripped of his clothes and was aware of a bad cut on his head and a broken leg. En route to Hanoi, as they passed through the little hamlets, the villagers would twist his broken leg, "just to see me squirm and grunt." When he arrived at New Guy Village there were so many prisoners that they did not bother with the torture, but said they would just let him die of his injuries. At Heartbreak Hotel all the prisoners were placed in stocks and slept on concrete bunkers, but being in a cast, they just threw him on the floor and left him there for four days. He received food and water twice a day. "They didn't bother me much while I was there but the mosquitoes almost carried me off." From the Hanoi Hilton he went to a camp named the Zoo, which was an old French movie studio. Then over to a camp near Son Tay and back to the Hanoi Hilton with some 350 prisoners. Here they waited until peace was declared.
Music and propaganda played 24 hours a day on loudspeakers such that the POWs could tell what was happening by the mood of the music. They had about 30 songs that they would play. For instance, patriotic songs (North Vietnamese) were played if something big was about to happen. Even though the men could sometimes deduce what was happening by the mood music, they would occasionally be able to get a guard to give them a clue by the way the POWs would ask a question or make a remark. These were the first hints the POWs had that peace and their return was imminent.
Confirmation that their release was real came when the first group left the camp and the remaining prisoners watched the U.S. transport planes fly over the camp. He describes his departure as "sort of anticlimactic. I was really just numb. It hit me so hard that there was no feeling at all. Of course, the first night I was out I didn't sleep at all."
Reflecting back on his experiences, the thing that helped him through it all was knowing that his family was waiting for him.
PERSONAL MESSAGE "I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to all those who supported the POW-MIA cause." Alton Meyer retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He and his wife Bobbie reside in Texas and were doing well at a reunion in 2002.