BACKUS, KENNETH FRANK
Name: Kenneth Frank Backus
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 15 August 1938
Home City of Record: Pyrites NY
Date of Loss: 22 May 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213300N 1063000E (XJ553835)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Elton L. Perrine (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 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.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
1LT Kenneth F. Backus and Capt. Elton L. Perrine were F4 pilots assigned a
combat mission over North Vietnam on May 22, 1967. At a point near the city
of Nam Dinh, their F4C aircraft was struck by enemy fire and crashed.
Because of the probability that both men safely ejected from the crippled
aircraft, they were both classified Missing in Action.
Who was piloting and who was co-pilot remained a mystery until 2005.
Defense Department records indicate that both Backus and Perrine were
pilots. Usually, one is coded as the rearseater and the other is coded as
the pilot. During a conversation in Washington DC in May 2005, former POW
Dave Gray stated Ken Backus was the backseater on this flight.
591 American Prisoners of War were released in Operation Homecoming in the
spring of 1973, but Backus and Perrine were not. Thousands of reports have
been received by the U.S. Government that indicate hundreds of Americans are
still alive and held captive in Southeast Asia, yet the government seems
unable or unwilling to successfully achieve their release. Policy statements
indicate that "conclusive proof" is not available, but when it is, the
government will act. Detractors state that proof is in hand, but the will to
act does not exist.
Henry Kissinger has said that the problem of unrecoverable Prisoners is an
"unfortunate" byproduct of limited political engagements. This does not seem
to be consistent with the high value we, as a nation, place on individual
human lives. Men like Perrine and Backus, who went to Vietnam because their
country asked it of them, are too precious to the future of this nation to
write them off as expendable.
During the period they were maintained missing, Elton L. Perrine was
promoted to the rank of Colonel and Kenneth F. Backus was promoted to the
rank of Captain.