BALAMONTI, MICHAEL DIMITRI REMAINS RETURNED 11/93 IDENTIFIED 10/95 Name: Michael Dimitri Balamonti Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 41st Tactical Airlift Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand Date of Birth: 30 June 1933 Home City of Record: Glen Falls NY Date of Loss: 24 November 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 154900N 1064600E (YC902495) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: C130A Refno: 1530 Other Personnel in Incident: Earl C. Brown; Rexford J. Dewispelaere; Charles R. Fellenz; Richard O. Ganley; Larry I. Grewell; Peter R. Matthes; Donald L. Wright (all missing) REMARKS: Source: Compiled 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 in 1998. SYNOPSIS: On November 24, 1969, a C130A departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on an operational mission over Laos. The crew aboard the aircraft included Maj. Michael D. Balamonti (the navigator); Capt. Earl C. Brown; Capt. Richard O. Ganley; 1Lt. Peter R. Matthes (the copilot); and Sgts. Donald L. Wright; Larry I. Grewell; Charles R. Fellenz; and Rexford J. DeWispelaere. While on the mission, near Ban Bac, Savannakhet Province, Laos, the C130 was observed to be struck by several rounds of 37mm anti-aircraft fire, burst into flames, crash to the ground, and explode on impact. All the crew was declared Missing in Action, but due to enemy presence in the area, it was strongly felt that the enemy could account for them. It was not determined whether the crew died or survived the crash of the aircraft. The crew of the C130 are among nearly 600 Americans who were lost in Laos. When Dr. Henry Kissinger negotiated President Nixon's Peace Agreements in Paris in 1973, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War, the Americans lost in Laos were forgotten. Kissinger did not negotiate for them, even though several were known to be Prisoners of War, and some 125 of them were known to have survived their loss incidents. Furthermore, the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners. The nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos have never been negotiated for, and not one American held in Laos was released at the end of the war. Since the end of the war, nearly 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities believe that hundreds remain alive today, held captive. Whether the crew of the C130 could be among them is not known, but it seems certain that there are compelling questions that need answers. Among them - why did we abandon the men who served our country? What are we doing to bring them home?