WOOD, DON CHARLES
Name: Don Charles Wood Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Takhli AB, Thailand Date of Birth: 11 November 1929 Home City of Record: Provo UT Date of Loss: 16 January 1966 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 193210N 1030825E (TG959751) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D 59-1719 Refno: 0233 Blodd Chit # 330095 Call sign: Olds 5 Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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 with information from Bob Jacobs and the Library of Congress.
REMARKS: POSS CAPT - ID IN PL FILM
SYNOPSIS: The Plain of Jars region of Laos was long been controlled by the communist Pathet Lao and a continual effort was 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.
A flight of five F105s departed TAKHLI RTAFB at 1516 hours on 16 January 1966. Their target was automated AAA gun positions in the Plain of Jars, Laos. Don C. Wood's RF105D fighter aircraft was flying as the number five aircraft equipped with two, 70mm camera pods. His mission was to photograph the damage inflicted by the strike for damage assessment. He followed every run in, not necessarily in formation to get photos. They made 1 bomb run, 1 rocket run and 2 strafe passes. During the third strafe pass #4 thought his gun blew up. At the same time #1 called and asked who headed north and did a 360 degree roll. Lead had seen an F105 cross about 5000 feet in front of him on a northerly heading in a 20 degree climb. That was Don Wood's RF105D. Confusion ensued as #3 checked #4 for damage. Radio contact could not be established with Olds 5 on the tactical channel or on guard channel. Olds 5 was not seen to crash; but was believed to have crashed 8 to 15 miles north of the target. Olds 1 and 2 searched the area north and east for wreckage while #3 and #4 refueled by air tanker. Then Olds 3 and 4 took up the search until dark. All four F105s had to land at Udorn due to minimum fuel. Records indicate he was downed by AAA. He did not return to friendly control, and was declared Missing in Action. Captain Wood was the first USAF loss of 1966. His wife and six children were told that there was the possibility that he had been taken prisoner as he had been identified from a Pathet Lao film of American prisoners of war.
Wood is among nearly 600 Americans who were lost in Laos. 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, the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos were never recovered.
The Pathet Lao stated that they held and 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.
Alarmingly, evidence continues to mount that Americans were left as priosoners in Southeast Asia and continue to be held today. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of the nearly 2500 men and women who remain missing in Southeast Asia can be accounted for. If even one was left alive (and many authorities estimate the numbers to be in the hundreds), we have failed as a nation until and unless we do everything possible to secure his freedom.
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SMITH 324 COMPELLING CASES
Laos Don C. Wood (0233)
On January 16, 1966, Captain Wood was one of a flight of five F-105 aircraft on a mission over Xieng Khouang Province, Laos. Captain wood was the pilot of an F-105D on a photo reconnaissance mission. While over the target and with flight members receiving 37mm antiaircraft fire on their passes over the target, Captain Wood's flight leader determined Captain Wood was not present with the remainder of the flight. The flight members searched a thirty mile radius from their target and were unable to locate either him or his crash site. Searches for him continued for the next three months and were unsuccessful. He was initially declared missing in action.
On January 18, 1966, Radio Beijing announced that a U.S. aircraft was shot down over Laos on January 16, 1966. A Pathet Lao radio broadcast also mentioned the shoot down of an aircraft and reported an airmen was seen parachuting down.
A Pathet Lao source interrogated in Laos in 1974 described the recovery of a U.S. airman who fell from an aircraft hit by antiaircraft fire from the area from the area of the Pathet Lao Regional Headquarters at Phou Kout. The airman reportedly died shortly after capture. This incident was placed in Captain Wood's file as possibly correlating to him due to the loss location. A Lao propaganda film obtained in January 1977 showed the identity card of Captain Wood together with blood chits, revolvers, helmets and other items which appeared undamaged.
In March 1980, Captain Wood was declared dead/body not recovered. His remains have not been repatriated. He was never reported by returning U.S. POWs to be alive in the Lao or Vietnamese prison system.
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Bob Smith New Hampshire United States Senate Washington, D.C. 20510
U.S. POW/MIAs WHO MAY HAVE SURVIVED IN CAPTIVITY
Prepared by the Office of Senator Bob Smith Vice-Chairman, Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
December 1, 1992
Wood, Don C. USAF -Laos, identified in Pathet Lao film, possibly captured. (DIA, 1979) -believed to have successfully got out of his aircraft and was alive on the ground. Last known alive (DoD April 1991 list)
------------------------------------ Records from the Library of Congress reveal the following details:
Radio Lao Kingdom reported the "capture of on US POW on the evening of 16 JAN 66 at 2100 hours.
20 JAN 66 Radio Peking announced an aircraft shot down and the capture of the pilot in Phou Ken Khout area on Jan 16 by the Pathet Lao.
The initial telegram said "missing over hostile territory in SVN."
A follow-up letter on 19 JAN 66 defined a bombing mission, with him missing "in Southeast Asia." The note is signed by Col. William H. Nelson, destined to become another POW/MIA of the Vietnam War on July 20, 1966.
On March 16th, parents advised "There is a possible indication that Don may be all right." The note is signed by the 354th TFS Commander.
The 355 TFW, Thailand (Wood's wing) contacted HQ 7th AF at Tan Son Nhut, requesting info on Don, seems 355th refers to him as WIA and wants to know his status --- date appears to be 04 MAY 66.
The family learns Don was downed over Laos.
26 JUL 68 "Mr and Mrs Wood have studied Photo # 25, as have several disinterested persons to include a local military photo interpreter, all of whom have seen a very positive resemblance. Particularly the hairline, nose and cheek profile, neck and shape of head."
17 FEB 77 Don Woods ID card clearly identifiable in one of 20 propaganda films which came out of Laos. Soundtracks were in Lao.
01 NOV 79 CIA Info officer, Robert E Owen, denies Mrs Wood's request for CIA docs.
23 USAF Cols assigned to final review board by a 2 star USAF
Mrs Wood objected to the hearing and expressed the opinion, "all status review hearings were a travesty of justice because they have all reached the same outcome."
Deborah Wood (daughter) objected, expressing " that the hearing was to proceed without the US Government having made efforts to determine from the Laotian Government how they came to possess Col. Wood's ID card."
TTY 14 MAR 80 to various USAF bases and Terminating MIA status to KIA. Presumptive date 03 MAR 80.
A July 1987 DIA evaluation concludes "...it is highly likely that the Lao refugee xxxxx observed USAF Capt. Don C. Wood...."
28 MAR 90 Report by analyst (name expunged) no agency affilition revealed. Radio Lao broadcast a reported downing and capture on 16 Jan 66 near Phou Khout.
2 Pathet Lao defector reports of an F105 downed, pilot ejected but no chute. One says downed near Phou Keng. Pilot a captain, buried in cemetery just off rte 7, north of Khang Khay. Other PL said was still alive but died shortly -- buried north of Khang Khay.
Quote the analyst: "... believe Capt Wood's aircraft was hit by AAA near Phou Khout, forcing him to eject. After ejecting, his paracute either suffered a total malfunction or streamered. Capt Wood may have initially survived the jump, but probably died shortly after ... Capt Wood was probably buried in the cemetery just north of Khang Khay..."
24 APR 90 from DIA Wash DC -- one recipient was US Embassy Vientiene. Same PL reports, mention of film with ID card. adds in 1985 a source claimed to have seen an American in captivity near BAN XEIN in Jan 66. "Description similar to Wood" Report comes to same conclusion as the previous analysist -- word for word. Recommends DIA take action to confirm existence of KHANG KHAI Cemetery Then propose to Lao government a small team gravesite excavation. This was transmitted SECURE.
A single page - no date -- refers to films. "These films provide prima facie evidence that the Lao possess information concerning US personnel unaccounted for in Laos."
INTEL Report - no date or source, signed by Lewis R. Cardwell -- no title or rank.
"The report also states that an American Pilot was at the headquarters in Ban Nakay Noun about 16 JAN 66 as a captive of the North Vietnamese and being taken to North Vietnam. The informer heard that this pilot was the pilot of the plane they had been searching for from 11-16 JAN 66. He was described as being tall, light complexioned and had brown hair" He comments: description resembles Wood's med records 6' 2", brown hair. "... it is possible that the captured pilot observed was Captain Wood on his way to North Vietnam."
An analyst notes discrepencies in last known location for some air losses. Because of lack of observation, the last known location is on the runway, before takeoff roll! [does not appear to apply to Wood] Appears to have handwritten "genius" at end.
Have a page seems to be an address header for a message from USDAO LAOS, date appears to be 07 NOV 74. Many recipients, of note AIR INTEL GROUP, FT BELVOIR, DIR NSA FT Meade MD, CIA.
Much of this material has COL DON C. WOOD, [expunged], MIA. There is something about his title or skills that is still sanitized.