ADAMS, STEVEN HAROLD
Name: Steven Harold Adams
Unit: 33rd Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron
Date of Birth: 25 September 1944
Home City of Record: Spencer IA
Date of Loss: 18 October 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam (Tonkin Gulf)
Loss Coordinates: 175500N 1070900E (YE278821)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Inzar W. Rackley; John H.S. Long; Robert
L.Hill; John R.Shoneck; 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. 2020
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
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
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.