BANNON, PAUL WEDLAKE
Name: Paul Wedlake Bannon
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 15 October 1934
Home City of Record: Hueytown AL
Date of Loss: 12 July 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 180400N 1051300E (WE229974)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Peter X. Pike (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 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: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in
South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for
sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some
years before. The border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was used for
transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were
shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam.
Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful
and the recovery rate was high.
Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains
between Laos and Vietnam. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact
with search and rescue and other planes; some were known to have been
captured. But the fates of the men lost in Laos was complicated by U.S.
policy. In 1969, U.S. Defense policy for response on U.S. operations in Laos
was, "The preferable response to questions about air operations in Laos is
Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke of American
prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated, Laos was not
included, and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos.
1LT Peter X. Pike and MAJ Paul W. Bannon comprised the flight crew of an Air
Force F4D Phantom fighter/bomber sent on a mission over the northernmost Ho
Chi Minh Trail on July 12, 1969. During their flight, the aircraft was hit
by enemy fire and crashed. Because there was the opportunity for Pike (the
pilot) and Bannon (the weapon/systems operator) to safely eject, the two
were classified Missing in Action.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Pike's and Bannon's
classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 4. Category 4
indicates "unknown knowledge" and includes individuals whose time and place
of loss incident are unknown (e.g. aircrew members downed at unknown
locations or ground personnel separated from their unit at an unknown time
or place), and those individuals who do not meet the criteria of Categories
1 and 2 ("confirmed" and "suspect" knowledge).
When the war ended and 591 Americans were released from POW camps in
Southeast Asia, Pike and Bannon were not among them. In fact, no POWs held
by the Lao were released at all.
There have been over 10,000 reports received by the U.S. Government since
the end of the war concerning Americans missing, prisoner and unaccounted
for in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have reviewed this
largely-classified information have concluded that hundreds of them are
still alive in captivity today.
Were it not for reports such as these, the families of the missing might be
able to close this tragic chapter of their lives and go on. But for them,
the agonizing uncertainty continues.
And for Americans who are still in captivity, the abandonment continues. How
much longer must they wait for their country to bring them home?
Peter X. Pike was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was
maintained missing. Paul W. Bannon was promoted to the rank of Colonel.