Name: Park George Bunker
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 432nd Combat Support Group, Udorn AF TH under secret
Assignment to 56th Special Operations Wing, Udorn (RAVENS)
Date of Birth: 10 December 1940
Home City of Record: Homewood IL
Date of Loss: 30 December 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 193100N 1031300E (UG129588)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1F
Refno: 1686
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 with the assistance
of 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 2013.
SYNOPSIS: The Steve Canyon program was a highly classified FAC (forward air
control) operation covering the military regions of Laos. U.S. military
operations in Laos were severely restricted during the Vietnam War era
because Laos had been declared neutral by the Geneva Accords.
The non-communist forces in Laos, however, had a critical need for military
support in order to defend territory used by Lao and North Vietnamese
communist forces. The U.S., in conjunction with non-communist forces in
Laos, devised a system whereby U.S. military personnel could be "in the
black" or "sheep-dipped" (clandestine; mustered out of the military to
perform military duties as a civilian) to operate in Laos under supervision
of the U.S. Ambassador to Laos.
RAVEN was the radio call sign which identified the flyers of the Steve
Canyon Program. Men recruited for the program were rated Air Force officers
with at least six months experience in Vietnam. They tended to be the very
best of pilots, but by definition, this meant that they were also mavericks,
and considered a bit wild by the mainstream military establishment.
The Ravens came under the formal command of CINCPAC and the 7/13th Air Force
56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom, but their pay records were
maintained at Udorn with Detachment 1. Officially, they were on loan to the
U.S. Air Attache at Vientiane. Unofficially, they were sent to outposts like
Long Tieng, where their field commanders were the CIA, the Meo Generals, and
the U.S. Ambassador. Once on duty, they flew FAC missions which controlled
all U.S. air strikes over Laos.
All tactical strike aircraft had to be under the control of a FAC, who was
intimately familiar with the locale, the populous, and the tactical
situation. The FAC would find the target, order up U.S. fighter/bombers from
an airborne command and control center, mark the target accurately with
white phosphorus (Willy Pete) rockets, and control the operation throughout
the time the planes remained on station. After the fighters had departed,
the FAC stayed over the target to make a bomb damage assessment (BDA).
The FAC also had to ensure that there were no attacks on civilians, a
complex problem in a war where there were no front lines and any hamlet
could suddenly become part of the combat zone. A FAC needed a fighter
pilot's mentality, but but was obliged to fly slow and low in such unarmed
and vulnerable aircraft as the Cessna O1 Bird Dog, and the Cessna O2.
Consequently, aircraft used by the Ravens were continually peppered with
ground fire. A strong fabric tape was simply slapped over the bullet holes
until the aircraft could no longer fly.
Ravens were hopelessly overworked by the war. The need for secrecy kept
their numbers low (never more than 22 at one time), and the critical need of
the Meo sometimes demanded each pilot fly 10 and 12 hour days. Some Ravens
completed their tour of approximately 6 months with a total of over 500
combat missions.
The Ravens in at Long Tieng in Military Region II, had, for several years,
the most difficult area in Laos. The base, just on the southern edge of the
Plain of Jars, was also the headquarters for the CIA-funded Meo army
commanded by General Vang Pao. An interesting account of this group can be
read in Christopher Robbins' book, "The Ravens". The following account of
Capt. Park George Bunker, lost on December 30, 1970, is found in this book:
"..Bunker [was] a tall, reserved man who kept his distance. A senior captain
in his early thirties with a receding hairline--and married, with two
children--he was looked upon as ancient by his companions.
"Despite his reserve on the ground, Bunker [seemed indifferent] to enemy
fire and held the current record among his group for the most bullet holes
in his O-1. Just before the new year he flew out to the northern edge of the
Plain of Jars, near Roadrunner Lake, to verify a recorded sighting of enemy
tanks. Sure enough, he spotted the front of a tank protruding from a group
of trees and dropped low for a better look. A rapid-fire 14.5 mm
antiaircraft gun--deadly to a height of 4,500 feet--opened up at close range
and nailed the engine.
"Bunker put out a Mayday call before managing to [maneuver] the O-1 onto a
flat area in the middle of a horseshoe formed by a bend in a small river.
When Bunker climbed out of the cockpit he found himself in open country....
He lowered himself into...a small gully choked with brush.... Unknown to
him, a large group of NVA soldiers were bivouacked along the bank of a
distant treeline that followed the curve in the river. He was surrounded on
three sides.
"Four Ravens heard the distress call and headed toward the downed plane.
Bunker said he was hiding in a gully by the side of the O-1 and was being
shot at from three sides. Gunfire could be heard over the radio. It seemed
to...grow louder until Bunker announced he was going to make a run for it.
"...the Ravens raced toward the crash site, listening helplessly to
[Bunker's} desperate transmissions. When Bunker next came on the radio, he
was out of breath. 'They're all shooting at me! I've been hit! I'm hit! I've
been hit twice--God, I've been shot five times. I'm not going to make it.
I'm as good as dead.'"
When the first Raven arrived on the scene, Bunker could not be found. One of
the Ravens, Chuck Engle, took his plane almost to ground level for a closer
look, braving enemy fire. He did see something under a tree, but his
aircraft was so badly shot up, he had to return to Long Tieng. A Skyraider
pilot volunteered to look, but was met with the same withering fire as Engle
had encountered. He confirmed that there was a body under a tree wearing a
blood-covered survival vest. "The Ravens" continues:
"The description certainly sounded like Bunker, who always flew to war in a
chocolate-colored walking suit and a green survival vest, while most of the
other Ravens draped theirs over their seats. The growing dark made it
impossible to check, and when the Ravens returned the following morning the
body had been removed."
Bunker had only 30 days to run before the end of his tour. Ironically, the
Ravens, wishing to spare his family the grief of uncertainty, declared him
dead. It was a matter of honor with them that they either got their men out
or determined positively they were dead. The Ravens began a ritual after
Bunker died that they continue to this day -- reading a list of those Ravens
who are no longer among them, drinking to their memories, and then
shattering the drink glasses.
Bunker is one of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. His comrades believe he
was dead when last seen. The Pathet Lao, however should be able to provide
information to confirm this, and even produce his body for honorable burial.
Even though the Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of
American prisoners, not one American held in Laos was ever released -- or
negotiated for.
Since U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended, nearly 10,000 reports have
been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia. Many authorities have reluctantly concluded that hundreds
are still alive in captivity today. Bunker and the others were abandoned by
their own country.
Park George Bunker graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1963.
From - Mon Apr 10 13:05:06 2000
From: "Lee, Thomas E. - SAIC" <TLee@NSES.com>
Subject: Information correction
First I would like to establish my credentials with you, before I point
out errors in the descriptive write-ups on approximately 20 entries in
your data base.
I am a retired US Air Force Colonel who served in Laos covertly as part
of DoD Project 404 from June 1968-June 1969. I was the intelligence
officer in Savannakhet operating in "civilian" status working for the US
Embassy. I carried civilian documentation for presentation but also
possessed my military ID card. We wore civilian clothes. One of my roles
was to support the Raven forward air controllers (FAC), the US FACs
operating from "in-country" bases in Laos. See my website at
The following is a paragraph from your description of the "Raven"
Forward Air Controllers operating in Laos.
We lost 21 of them from 1966-1973.
"The non-communist forces in Laos, however, had a critical need for
military support in order to defend territory used by Lao and North
Vietnamese communist forces. The U.S., in conjunction with non-communist
forces in Laos, devised a system whereby U.S. military personnel could
be "in the black" or "sheep-dipped" (clandestine; mustered out of the
military to perform military duties as a civilian) to operate in Laos
under supervision of the U.S. Ambassador to Laos."
An error in the above description is that most of the US military
personnel operating in Laos were NOT "sheep-dipped" as you described. We
were in the "Black" in that we were technically not there, we were
assigned to out of country units and our in-country existence was
generally classified for part of the 1964-1973 period. (The existence of
these operations was revealed during Congressional Hearings in late 1969
or 1970). The Raven Program and the complementary DoD Project 404 both
began in 1966. However, there was no mustering out of the service for
the Ravens or the Project 404 personnel. To my knowledge the only
program that was "sheep dipped" as you described was Project Heavy Green
(the Air Force troops supporting Site 85 and the TACAN site support).
That accounted for under 100 people. (13 were lost) There were military
personnel operating within the Air America and CIA (CAS) operations that
may have operated under different rules.
Critically speaking the US devised the sheep dipping process. It was
used across the US intelligence community.  The non-communist forces had
virtually nothing to do with that process. They did play a role in
accepting the US military members in "civilian" status by accepting our
presence and not "spilling the beans". We were not deceiving the
opposition because they knew we were military. Our deception was aimed
at the World scene and the US population regarding our activities in
contravention of the 1962 Geneva Accords.
This was a very unique period and very misunderstood period in our
military history due to its classified nature. Fortunately, we are able
to tell our story now. Those of us that served in Laos are trying to
correct this mis-information and myth that has grown up around these
activities so they are better understood in their real context.
Tom Lee 
(Thomas E. Lee, Colonel USAF (Ret))
Savannakhet, Laos
Final chapter
After 33 years, Barb Moore can put her brother's memory to rest
Thursday, March 6, 2003
By Scott Richardson
Pantagraph staff
BLOOMINGTON -- The Vietnam War ended Tuesday for Barb Moore of Bloomington
when she opened an envelope from the U.S. Air Force. The letter said an old
man had surfaced in Hanoi a few months earlier to talk with U.S. military
officials investigating the fate of American soldiers in Vietnam. The man
said he was among Communist Vietnamese and Laotian soldiers who buried the
bodies of two American pilots in Laos more than 30 years ago.....
Shock of a lifetime
Bracelet, news article link Streator man, fallen soldier
By Scott Richardson
Pantagraph staff
STREATOR -- Soldiers' paths may cross in eerie ways years after the battles
have ended.Take the experience Jim Hogan had while reading The Pantagraph early
A front-page article gave an update of the search for the body of a pilot
who was shot down in Laos during the Vietnam War. His name was Capt. Parker
George Bunker , the brother of Barb Moore of Bloomington.....
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Shortly after his disappearance on the other side of the world, Virginia Spreen picked up a bracelet bearing his name and loss date at the Veterans Administration building in Anchorage. Now nearly 90 years old, Virginia wore a POW bracelet in Captain ...