THOMAS, LEO TARLTON JR.
Remains Identified 06/27/95
T371.jpg (12266 bytes)
Name: Leo Tarlton Thomas Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit:
Date of Birth: 24 December 1940
Home City of Record: Georgetown KY
Date of Loss: 19 December 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 193106N 1031738E (UG176587)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1786

Other Personnel in Incident: Daniel R. Poynor (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1995 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:

SYNOPSIS: Throughout the Vietnam War, the Plain of Jars region of Laos was a
contested area between Lao tribesmen and Vietnam's communist allies, the
Pathet Lao. The area was long controlled by the Pathet Lao and a continual
effort had been made by the secret CIA-directed force of some 30,000
indigenous tribesmen to strengthen anti-communist strongholds there. The
U.S. committed hundreds of millions of dollars to the war effort in Laos.
Details of this secret operation were not released until August 1971.

Capt. Leo  T. Thomas Jr. was an F4 Phantom pilot sent on a mission over the
Plain of Jars in Laos on December 19, 1971. His bombardier/navigator on the
flight was 1LT Daniel R. Poynor. At a point about five miles north of the
city of Ban Na Mai, Thomas' aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. It
was not believed that either crewmember survived. Both were listed
Killed/Body Not Recovered. However, it was believed that the enemy could
probably provide further information about the two.

Because Laos was "neutral," and because the U.S. continued to state they
were not at war with Laos (although we were regularly bombing North
Vietnamese traffic along the border and conducted assaults against communist
strongholds thoughout the country at the behest of the anti-communist
government of Laos), and did not recognize the Pathet Lao as a government
entity, not one of the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos was ever released.

The Pathet Lao stated that they would release the "tens of tens" of American
prisoners they held only from Laos. At war's end, no American held in Laos
was released - or negotiated for.

The U.S. Government labels the return of an increasing number of American
remains as progress towards "high levels of cooperation" on the POW/MIA
issue. Although over 10,000 reports regarding Americans in captivity in
Southeast Asia have been received, convincing many experts that hundreds
remain alive there, the U.S. is content to gauge success on the return of
remains. How many will die waiting for the country they proudly served to
come to their defense?


Leo T. Thomas Jr. graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1963.



NOTE: From Coshocton Tribune, Ohio, 06/30/95

Kay McKinney's husband was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War. Now,
23 years later, his remains finally are back on American soil.

The remains of Air Force Capt. Leo Thomas Jr, who was shot down on Dec. 19,
1971, arrived Wednesday night at Travis Air Force Base in California. Thomas
and his navigator will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on July 19.....