OWENS, JOY LEONARD Name: Joy Leonard Owens Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Udorn, Thailand Date of Birth: 06 July 1929 (WI) Home City of Record: Seattle WA Date of Loss: 07 June 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 192000N 1033300E (YG479381) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Refno: 0725 Other Personnel in Incident: Harold R. Sale (missing) 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, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: RADIO CONTACT LOST SYNOPSIS: In violation of, yet somewhat protected by, the neutrality of Laos accorded at Geneva in a 14-nation protocol conference July 23, 1962, the North Vietnamese and supporting communist insurgent group, the Pathet Lao, lost no time in building strategic strongholds of defense in Northern Laos and establishing a steady flow of manpower and material to their revolutionary forces in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the eastern border of the Laotian panhandle. As a result, the Royal Lao sought help from the U.S. in stopping both initiatives. It was strategically important to do so, although every initiative had to be cleared through the U.S. Ambassador at Vientiane, so that the delicate balance of "look-the-other-way-neutrality" engaged in by the nations involved (including China) could be preserved. Defense of non-communist activity in Laos generally fell into three categories: 1) U.S. Army and CIA's bolstering of the Meo (Hmong) army led by General Vang Pao; 2) Strategic U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Operations Commando Hunt, Steel Tiger, etc.); 3) U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives in northern Laos (Operation Barrel Roll, etc.) both against communist strongholds there (i.e. the Plain of Jars region), and in support of the Royal Lao and Gen. Vang Pao's army. On June 7, 1967, Maj. Joy L. Owens was the pilot of an F4 Phantom fighter/bomber assigned a reconnaissance mission over the Plain of Jars region of Laos. His bombardier/navigator on the mission was 1Lt. Harold R. Sale, Jr. When the aircraft was about 10 miles east of the city of Xiangkhoang, it was shot down. Radio contact was lost with the aircraft, and Owens and Sale were not heard from again. 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. Joy L. Owens was born in Wisconsin and moved to Seattle at age 13. There, he graduated high school in 1947 and worked three years before enrolling in Air Force Officers Training School in San Angelo, Texas. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1951 and went on to bomber training in Texas. He was assigned to Okinawa, where he flew B-29s for several months over Korea. Owens was then stationed at Walker AFB, New Mexico. In 1962, he served three years in England, returning to finish university education at Oklahoma State University. He was stationed at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho before being sent to Udorn, Thailand in 1967. He was on his 34th reconnaissance mission when he was shot down. Owens was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was Missing in Action. Harold R. Sale, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was maintained Missing in Action.