Remains ID not announced.
Listed on DPAA website 03/2017, noting remains were identified on 08/29/2016

Name: William Edward Campbell
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 10 May 1931
Home City of Record: McAllen TX
Date of Loss: 29 January 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 173230N 1054500E (WE807399)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1368
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert E. Holton (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.
NETWORK 2001 with information from Bob Hipps. Updated 2017.


SYNOPSIS: The F4 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"
planes around.

Major William E. Campbell was a Phantom pilot assigned a combat mission over
Laos on January 29, 1969. His bombardier/navigator on the mission was Capt.
Robert E. Holton. Their mission would take them to the Mu Gia Pass area of

The Mu Gia Pass was 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 system heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and
personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos,
coursing into Laos through the Mu Gia Pass and traveling south. 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.

During the mission, Campbell's aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed.
Both Campbell and Holton were listed Missing in Action since the distinct
possibility existed that they both survived to be captured.

Campbell and Holton are among nearly 600 Americans who are missing in Laos.
The prisoners held by the Lao were not dealt for in the peace agreements
that ended American involvement in Southeast Asia. When 591 American
prisoners were released from Vietnam in 1973, no Lao-held American prisoners
were among them. Even though the Lao publicly referred to the prisoners they
held, no agreement has ever been made for their release.

Since the end of the war, over 10,000 reports of Americans alive and held in
captivity have been received by our government. The evidence suggests that
hundreds are still waiting to come home. Detractors say that the U.S. is
ignoring good information on POWs for political expediency; the U.S.
Government says that actionable evidence is not available.

There are nearly 2500 Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Unlike "MIAs"
from other wars, most of these men and women can be accounted for. The
overwhelming priority, however, must be for those who are alive. Every
effort must be made to free them and bring them home.

William E. Campbell, who graduated from Texas A & M in 1952, was promoted to
the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.


Updated 03/09/97 by the P.O.W. NETWORK with the following provided by Cathy
Campbell, RN, MN of Georgia.

I am the oldest of four children in an Air Force family. I was born in 1951
the year before my Dad graduated from Texas A & M. He went directly into the
military choosing the Air Force as his career. My Dad had just graduated
from the Air Force Institute with a Master's degree in Logistics, and we
were on our way to Tucson, Arizona, where he would receive his F-4 fighter
pilot training. He had volunteered for a tour of duty in Vietnam, and on
Memorial weekend of 1968, he left for Ubon, Thailand. He was 38 years old.
Mom and we children moved to Independence, Kansas, to  be closer to her

Dad's squadron was called the "Nite Owls" because they flew their missions
at night. Flying over Laos they bombed in North Vietnam. His tour was to be
at least 6 months long during which he had to accomplish 100 missions. In
order for a mission to be a "counter", their ordinance (weapons) had to
destroy a military target in enemy territory; otherwise, the mission was
considered a "freebie." Daddy's plan was to finish his tour by Christmas,
and then our next assignment was a Logistics position for him in Hawaii.

President Johnson called a bombing halt in October 1968, and this put a
serious delay in my Dad's plan to get his 100 missions completed by
Christmas. He did, however, travel to Kansas on leave to spend Christmas
with us. I remember sitting in church for a midnight Christmas Eve service
studying my Dad's eyes. I wondered what was really going on over there. He
said one thing, but I felt his eyes had something else to say.

He returned to Thailand, and on January 29, 1969, his plane was shot down.
The following facts were painful for me: he wrote in a letter the day before
that he had a cold and was feeling a little "under the weather"; the mission
was flown during the day rather than his customary night routine (which my
Dad did not like for the obvious high visibility reasons); and his regular
co-pilot was not with him. What influence did any of these things have on
that day? Who knows?

The plane was hit by a ground-to-air missile in the Mu Gia Pass area of
Laos. Although the other planes in the mission did not see any parachutes
nor did they hear any beeper distress signals, they did see my Dad's plane
hit the ground and explode as they circled back. Because of the uncertainty,
however, and given the fact his plane went down in inaccessible enemy
territory the military carried my Dad and his co-pilot as MIA.

Needless to say, this was a tremendously hard time for the rest of my family
and me. We were told not to discuss the situation, and "don't cry he just
might be alive!"

What has happened since 1969? In February and March of 1973, about 591
Prisoners of War (POW) were released during Operation Homecoming (Leonard,
1993). According to a newspaper interview with my Mom in 1993, this was the
"hardest of times" when her husband was not among those prisoners. "'I think
he did live, but now he is probably dead,' Campbell said" (Rodgers, 1993).

In June 1978 the government reviewed their records and decided to change my
Dad's status from MIA to KIA (killed in action). The Air Force held a
Memorial service in Las Vegas where my Mom had relocated with my two younger
brothers. The service included a 21-gun salute and a "missing man" flyover
of four F-4 planes. I personally found the service very difficult and
frustrating, and I did not cry.

Over ten years later in 1989, a Lao village person went to a military base
and offered to sell my Dad's 1952 Texas A & M class ring for information.
The government and my Mom endured many negotiations of red tape, and
eventually the ring was returned to us in 1991. I finally sat on the kitchen
floor and had a heart wrenching cry as my 11-year-daughter hugged me. My
sister has the ring now, and we siblings plan to donate his ring to Texas A
& M's "Rings with a History'' Museum.

In 1993 we received photographs of my Dad's Smith & Wesson service revolver
that had been displayed in Hanoi's Air Defense Museum The pistol bears the
serial number of the one issued to my Dad. Mom's reaction was "I want my
husband's gun!" (Rodgers, 1993). My honest reaction was I wish they would
leave us alone. Exactly who "they" were I did not know, but I personally
found the new information painful.

The story is not done yet. In September 1994 we received an unclassified
report which stated "approximately 46 human bone fragments and two human
teeth (one with a restoration)" had been recovered in the area where my
Dad's plane went down. The recovered remains  were sent to Hawaii for
extensive testing. A month later we were sent another unclassified report
claiming "Upon further analysis by the USA Central Identification Lab, these
remains were  determined to be inconsistent with records for the individuals
unaccounted for in REFNO 1368." The REFNO 1368 refers to my Dad's F-4 crash
site. I realize the government is under enormous pressure to account for as
many MlAs as possible, but I found the new unclassified reports very
difficult to handle. It hurts so much and has for a long time.

In the early 1980's people who fled in boats from war-torn Vietnam gave
accounts of four Caucasians living in a cave in nearby Laos. Where the cave
is located, however, had been bombed during the war. In her 1993 interview,
my Mom stated she "hopes a secret, U.S. government team, known as Stoney
Beach, based in Honolulu, will search the cave when the monsoon season
subsides. She said the team intends to excavate the cave to uncover teeth or
bone fragments of anyone who died there" (Rodgers, 1993). My Mom died
unexpectedly in  her sleep at age 64 in 1995. She never remarried. As she
had requested, Mom was cremated and we children placed her urn in Arlington
Cemetery at a special ceremony the Air Force Mortuary Services arranged for
our family. She wanted the remains of my Dad to be buried in Arlington
Cemetery. None of us thought Mom would get there first. Unofficially Air
Force personnel have told me any recovered remains  of my Dad could be
placed in a full-size burial plot in Arlington Cemetery, and Mom's urn could
be added to the plot as well. This would give me an immense peace of mind,
but I realize it may never happen.

I choose to believe my Dad died in the plane crash, but there are some
disturbing doubts which I find very painful. How did the ring and pistol
survive the crash? It has been very hard for me to grieve.  I have lived
with a denial and dread of the intense grief.


Family seeks closure in return of A&M class ring

October 5, 2002
Eagle Staff Writer

"It is with deep personal concern that I officially inform you that your
husband, Major William E. Campbell , is missing in action in Southeast

 Craig Kapitan's e-mail address is

posted 03/17/2017 from DPAA PMSEA




UPDATE: April 1, 2017

AMERICANS RECENTLY ACCOUNTED FOR: On March 28th, DPAA Statistics listed three USMC personnel as recently accounted for: Captain John A. House of NY, Cpl Glyn L. Runnels, Jr., of AL, and LCpl John D. Killen, II, of IA. All were listed as KIABNR on June 30, 1967, in South Vietnam. Their remains were recovered in June, 2012, and identification was authorized on December 22, 2015. DPAA has not yet published the formal announcement with interment plans. On March 7th, DPAA released an announcement that Captain Daniel W. Thomas, USAFR, listed as MIA on July 6, 1971 in South Vietnam, had been accounted for. Remains were recovered by a Vietnamese Unilateral Recovery Team (URT) in August, 2014, and identified in August, 2015, as those of Major Donald G. Carr, USA, the other person in the OV-10A piloted by Capt Thomas. Subsequent recovery efforts by the URT and repatriation of additional remains and material in April, 2016, brought the more recent ID of Capt Thomas. DPAA also listed on its website, under Statistics, the accounting for Colonel William E. Campbell, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos January 29, 1969. His remains were recovered April 17, 2014, identified August 29, 2016, and his name was placed on the DPAA website as accounted for on March 3rd. On February 22nd, DPAA announced the ID of Capt Robert R. Barnett, USAF, listed as KIA/BNR on April 7, 1966 while piloting a B-57B over Laos. His remains were recovered June 18, 2015 and identified August 16, 2016. Earlier this year, a Marine Corps Reserve officer, 1st Lt William C. Ryan, was the first person since June of 2016 announced as accounted for from the Vietnam War. 1st Lt Ryan was listed KIA/BNR in Laos on May 11, 1969. His remains were recovered January 27, 2016, and identified December 7, 2016.


From: Duus, Kristen L SSG USARMY DPAA EC (US) []
Sent: 13 April, 2017 12:33
Subject: Airman Missing From Vietnam War Identified (Campbell)

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

Air Force Col. William E. Campbell has now been accounted for.

Campbell, of the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was reported missing in
action Jan. 29, 1969 in Laos.

The support from the government of Laos was vital to the success of this

Interment services are pending.

For more information on DPAA please visit our website at, find
us on social media at or call 703-699-1420.

~Fulfilling Our Nation's Promise~

On their website, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency stated, “Campbell was cleared to engage a target, and his ordnance was seen impacting ...


Subject: Major/Colonel William E. Campbell & Capt. Robert Holton
Date: Mon, 29 May 2017 14:57:58 -0500
From: jim henderson <>

                Today 5/29/2017 . I was made aware that Bill Campbell’s remains were found and identified. 
I am amazed at the commentary and conclusions that have been published. 

My name is James Henderson and I witnessed the direct hit and airborne explosion (disintegration) of his F-4. 
First of all, it was a two-ship formation and Colonel Virgil K. Meroney and myself were the only eye-witnesses. 
We were in the lead acft and had completed our dive bomb pass when the tragic event occurred.  There were
no other aircraft as reported.  Colonel Meroney has passed away since this happened. 

If you would , please forward my e-mail address to Colonel Campbell’s family, I would be happy to answer
any questions that I am able to.  I am not interested in correcting the official record, only in giving the truth to
his family (along with photos they can enjoy ).

I have always considered you as a humanitarian organization so please pass this on to his children so I may
answer their questions and ease any pain that remains.



... family -- his Aggie ring from the Class of 1952 was given to the Department of Defense POW/MIA team in Bangkok by an anonymous Thai citizen.





Return to Service Member Profiles

On May 11, 2017, the Defense POW/MIA Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Colonel William Edward Campbell, missing from the Vietnam War.

Colonel Campbell, who joined the U.S. Air Force from Texas, served with the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron. On January 29, 1969, he was the aircraft commander aboard an F-4D Phantom (tail number 66-7474, call sign Bennett 02) that took off with carrying Col Campbell and a pilot on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. After reaching the target, Col Campbell's aircraft received permission to make a bomb run on the target. After the bomb run, another aircrew on the mission saw a large fireball on the ground in the vicinity of the target. Attempts to contact Col Campbell following the incident were unsuccessful, and since the crash occurred in enemy territory, immediate searches for the crew or their remains could not be conducted. In 2014, residents of Ban Phanop Village in the Boualapha District contacted their government and turned over human remains, which were given to DPAA. Scientists at DPAA's laboratory identified Colonel Campbell's remains through DNA analysis. 

Colonel Campbell is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.