Name: Joseph Clair Austin
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 30 June 1929
Home City of Record: Moundsville WV
Date of Loss: 19 March 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 174200N 1055000E (WE813606)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Refno: 0626
Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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


SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief (or "Thud") performed yoeman service on many
diversified missions in Southeast Asia. F105s flew more combat missions over
North Vietnam than any other USAF aircraft and consequently suffered the
heaviest losses in action. They dropped bombs by day and occasionally by
night from high or low altitude and some later versions (F105D in Wild
Weasel guise) attacked SAM sites with their radar tracking air-to-ground
missiles. This versatile aircraft was also credited with downing 25 Russian

LtCol. Joseph C. Austin was an F105 pilot assigned a mission over North
Vietnam on March 19, 1967. Departing from his base (probably in Thailand),
Austin proceeded to his mission area. When Austin's aircraft was just east
of the Ban Karai Pass, it was hit by enemy fire and crashed.

The Ban Karai Pass is one of several passageways through the mountainous
border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from Thailand to
missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and many aircraft
were lost. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a
road heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and
personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos.
The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that
of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by
the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely
rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery.

It was not known if Austin safely ejected from his aircraft, but not thought
likely that he survived. However, because the opportunity existed for him to
eject safely, Austin was declared Missing in Action rather than presumed

When 591 Americans were released in Operation Homecoming in 1973, Austin was
not among them. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of him, although it was
their guns that downed him and it is unlikely that the crashing aircraft
escaped their attention. The U.S. believes the Vietnamese can account for
Austin, alive or dead.

Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, over 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in
Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having
examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded
that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago

The United States Government, although involved in talks with the Vietnamese
since the end of the war, has been unable to bring home a single live
prisoner. The Vietnamese, on the other hand, refuse to let the issue die,
with the ultimate hope of normalizing relations with the west.

The Americans who are still captive have been reduced to bargaining pawns
between two nations. For their sakes, everything possible must be done to
bring them home. The sacrifice of tens of thousands of America's young men
is mocked by the abandonment of their comrades. For the sake of our future
fighting men and those who have given their lives in the defense of their
country, we must see to it that we never again abandon our soldiers to enemy

Joseph C. Austin graduated from West Point in 1952. He was promoted to the
rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.





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Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Clair Austin, who joined the U.S. Air Force from West Virginia, was a member of the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron. On March 19, 1967, he took off from Korat Air Base, Thailand, in a single-seat F-105D Thunderchief (tail number 61-0123, call sign Warhawk 1) as the flight leader of a four-plane strike mission over enemy targets at Ban Karai Pass, North Vietnam. Witnesses in other aircraft reported that Lt Col Austin's aircraft crashed at (GC) 48Q WE 813 606 after making a pass over the target, likely due to damage caused by enemy fire. Lt Col Austin was not seen to bail out of the aircraft before it went down, and he was not seen or heard from again following the incident. Enemy presence in the area prevented visits and ground inspections of the crash site, and further attempts to locate his remains have been unsuccessful. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in a missing in action status, the U.S. Air Force promoted Lieutenant Colonel Austin to the rank of Colonel (Col).  Today, Colonel Austin is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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