SHONECK, JOHN REGINALD
Name: John Reginald Shoneck Rank/Branch: E5/USAF Unit: 38th Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron Date of Birth: 27 July 1932 Home City of Record: Meriden CT Date of Loss: 18 October 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam (Tonkin Gulf) Loss Coordinates: 175500N 1070900E (YE278821) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: HU16 Refno: 0496
Other Personnel In Incident: Inzar W. Rackley; John H.S. Long; Robert L.Hill; Steven H. Adams; Lawrence Clark; Ralph H. Angstadt (all 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: At 11:01 a.m. on October 18, 1966, a HU16 Albatross (serial #51-7145) departed Da Nang Airbase, Republic of Vietnam, to rescue a downed pilot in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of North Vietnam.
The crew of the aircraft consisted of Maj. Ralph H. Angstadt, rescue commander and pilot; 1Lt. John H.S. Long, co-pilot; SSgt. John R. Shoneck and TSgt. Robert L. Hill, flight mechanics; SSgt. Lawrence Clark, radio operator; and Capt. Inzar W. Rackley, Jr., navigator. Also onboard the aircraft was A2C Steven H. Adams, a parajumper/frogman and a member of an elite pararescue team ("PJs").
The aircraft headed to the pilot's location, which was approximately 80 miles off the China coast in the northern sector of the Gulf of Tonkin. Two A1E Skyhawks escorting the rescue aircraft remained on station until the mission was completed, then the Skyhawks returned to the base. The last contact with the HU16 was at 5:45 p.m., and at that time, there was no indication of any trouble. The Albatross was returning to base, and last contact was in the vicinity of coordinates YE278821, approximately 35 miles off the coast of North Vietnam.
All contact was lost with the amphibious aircraft in marginal weather conditions, and although an extensive search for the aircraft was conducted, there were no sightings of the crew or the aircraft. Even though the HU16 was believed lost over water, the men on board were not declared killed, but Missing In Action. The possibility exists that they were captured by one of the numerous enemy vessels that were present offshore from North Vietnam.
Curiously, the DIA enemy knowledge categories assigned to the men onboard the Albatross are not the same. Five of them were assigned Category 4 which indicates "unknown knowledge" and includes individuals whose time and place of loss incident are unknown. Angstadt was assigned Category 3 which indicates "doubtful knowledge" and includes personnel whose loss incident is such that it is doubtful that the enemy would have knowledge. Clark was assigned Category 2 which indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy. No reason for the different categories can be determined.
About one year after the incident, Adams' family received a call from an International Red Cross representative who had just come from a "closed door" meeting during which Steven Adams was discussed. She stated that Steve was "alive, well and presumed to be in a hospital in Southeast Asia," and that "upon exiting the aircraft, his left side had been severely injured." A family friend and member of the intelligence community located the Red Cross worker and confirmed the information.
Shortly after the call, two Air Force casualty officers cautioned the family strongly "not to listen to outsiders" and that only "government sources" could be trusted.
In August 1987, a Department of Defense official was contacted by a U.S. citizen who said he was relaying information from a man in London. According to the American, 17 U.S. prisoners of war could be released through the office of a Western European embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. The POWs would be released C.O.D. upon the delivery of seven U.S. passports and a million dollars. If the money were placed at the Embassy, an unidentified Vietnamese general would take the 17 Americans to the Philippines for release, and provide information on how to secure the release of over 1,400 other Americans upon payment of another million dollars. Steve Adams was mentioned as one of the 17 POWs.
U.S. government officials refused to place the money at the Embassy. They said they had investigated the offer and that it was "a clumsy, amateur attempt to extort money and arms from the U.S. Government."
Although the U.S. Government called the offer a "scam," they refused to give the Adams family the names of those involved, citing "national security" as the reason.
Steve's brother, Bruce, was outraged. A non-government offered POW reward fund had been established for just such a offer and the government was aware of it, yet did not inform Bruce of the COD offer for several months. By that time, it was too late to do anything about it from the private sector.
"This was a pay on delivery offer, not extortion," said Adams. "It would have cost the Government nothing to comply. If the general did not appear with 17 American POWs the money would still be intact, in neutral hands. But to deny me the opportunity to enact the privately offered reward is inexcusable."
Bruce Adams says the evidence is clear that there ARE Americans still held captive in Southeast Asia. "I really don't know if Steve is one of them, but SOMEONE'S brother is. We as a nation owe those men our best efforts to secure their release and return. I could not face myself if I did not do everything in my power to help bring them home."
The crew of the UH16 received promotions during the period they were maintained Missing in Action: Angstadt and Rackley were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel; Long to the rank of Captain; Clark and Hill to the rank of Chief Master Sergeant; Shoneck to the rank of Senior Master Sergeant; and Adams to the rank of Master Sergeant.
There is no available information on the downed crewman the Albatross was sent to rescue.
On May 7, 2000, John's mother celebrated her 101st birthday. She still waits for answers.