PHELPS, WILLIAM

Name: William Phelps
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang AB, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 27 December 1947
Home City of Record: Cortland NY
Date of Loss: 23 November 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 153500N 1065300E (YC058250)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E
Refno: 1779

Other Personnel in Incident: Robert W. Altus (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 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. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
            
REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
planes around.

Capt. Robert W. Altus was the pilot and 1Lt. William Phelps his
weapons/systems operator which departed Da Nang Airbase as part of a
multi-aircraft flight on an operational mission over Laos on November 23,
1971. When the flight was about 20 miles northwest of Chavane in Saravane
Province, Laos, a large explosion on the ground was seen by flight members.
Efforts to raise Altus and Phelps by radio failed. No parachutes were seen,
and no emergency radio beeper signals heard. Both Althus and Phelps were
classified Missing in Action.

Altus and Phelps are among nearly 600 Americans lost in the "secret war" in
Laos. During the war, the communist 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 agreed to build
medical clinics and help improve relations with the communist government of
Laos, yet has yet to negotiate for the living American POWs the communist
government admitted holding. If, as intelligence seems to indicate, there
are hundreds of Americans still alive in Indochina as captives, then the
U.S. is collaborating in signing their death warrants. Altus and Phelps
could be among those said to be still alive. If so, what must they think of
us?