WILLIAMSON, DON IRA Remains Returned - ID Announced August 1989 Name: Don Ira Williamson Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Unknown (per USAF) Date of Birth: 01 December 1930 Home City of Record: Louisville KY Date of Loss: 07 July 1965 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 182910N 1054602E (WF930390) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) Refno: 0107 Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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: POSS DEAD - HANOI PRESS & PHOTOS SYNOPSIS: Capt. Don I. Williamson was the pilot of an F105D fighter jet in Vietnam. 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. 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. On July 7, 1965, Williamson was sent on a mission which took him to Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam. About 15 miles southeast of the city of Vinh, Capt. Williamson's aircraft was shot down. Williamson was seen to eject and land safely, and electronic contact was made with him on the ground. A search was initiated and terminated on July 8 when efforts to locate him failed. Later, Hanoi press featured a story and photos of the incident which led U.S. intelligence analysts to fear that Capt. Williamson was dead. Clearly, however, the Vietnamese did know the fate of Capt. Don I. Williamson. Some years later, in an attempt to establish a ranking for those cases that could be readily resolved by the Vietnamese should they wish to cooperate, the Defense Intelligence Agency devised "enemy knowledge categories 1-5". Category 1 meant that there was certain enemy knowledge, a category generally reserved for those who were known prisoners of war. Category 5, on the other end of the scale, meant those personnel lost in circumstances where they were killed, and remains were considered nonrecoverable. Inexplicably, Williamson was placed in category 4, despite the Hanoi press and the fact that he was alive and well on the ground after shoot-down. For nearly 25 years, the Vietnamese stated they had no knowledge of Capt. Williamson, who had by that time been promoted to Colonel. Then on June 23, 1989, the Vietnamamese "discovered" Williamson's remains and returned in a new "spirit of cooperation" on the POW/MIA issue. Williamson's family no longer endures the torture of wondering whether he is dead or is among the hundreds said to be still alive. However, they may never learn how - or when Don I. Williamson died. He was a prisoner of war - living or dead - for nearly 25 years.