CHRISTENSEN, WILLIAM MURREY
Name: William Murrey Christensen
Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 143, USS RANGER (CVA-61)
Date of Birth: 19 August 1940
Home City of Record: Great Falls MT
Loss Date: 01 March 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 200700N 1062500E (XH480248)
Status (in 1973): Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: William D. Frawley (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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"
LT. William D. Frawley was a pilot assigned to Fighter Squadron 143 onboard
the aircraft carrier USS RANGER. On March 1, 1966, he launched in his F4B
Phantom with his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LTJG William M. Christensen.
Along with two other F4 aircraft, they were assigned an armed coastal
After routine aerial refueling, they began their mission into what was
deteriorating weather conditions. While just off the coast of North Vietnam
and at extremely low level, all three aircraft began a coordinated low-level
turn through inclement weather. Midway through the turn, the lead aircraft
lost contact with Frawley's plane.
The flight leader radioed Frawley to see if he held the flight leader
visually. Frawley responded that he did not. The flight leader then joined
up on the third F4, but neither were able to contact or get a visual on
Frawley's aircraft. The flight leader contacted a rescue destroyer and gave
the shop the last known position of frawley's aircraft.
Limited search efforts were begun by the USS BERKELEY, USS ISBELL and HU-16
and A-1H aircraft, covering an area from the shoreline out to 10 miles. No
visual or electronic signals were made of the two crewmembers. The other two
F4s returned safely to the RANGER without further incident.
It was learned later that during the course of events, the crew of the
second aircraft did near a surface-to-air missile (SAM) alert warning on UHF
radio, but no missiles were seen or reported fire. Circumstances strongly
suggest collision with the water, however enemy action was not ruled out.
Their last known location was approximately 50 miles southwest of Haiphong,
and about 10 miles south of the city of Hoanh Dong, North Vietnam. Both men
were declared Missing in Action, but because it was suspected they crashed
in the Gulf of Tonkin, it is not believed their remains, if killed, are
The following day, evidence of an aircraft crash was located just off the
shoreline which was believed to increase the chance that the plane was shot
down by enemy fire. No trace was ever found of Frawley of Christensen, and
the decision to keep them in Missing in Action status rather than Killed
status was made. This status was maintained for the next 7 years.
In 1973, 591 Americans were released from prisons in Vietnam. A list of
those who died in captivity was provided, and some of their remains were
repatriated. Some remains have been repatriated since. There were many men
who were known to have survived their loss incident who did not return. The
Vietnamese deny any knowledge of these men, even though some were
photographed as their captives.
Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of the over 2300 remaining missing in
Southeast could be accounted for. Because of this, and because the U.S. has
received thousands of reports indicating hundreds of Americans are still
held captive in Southeast Asia, we cannot close this chapter of the Vietnam
Perhaps Frawley and Christenson perished. Perhaps in their story, they have
another mission to fly -- that of telling us never to quit, never to give up
until ALL Americans are home, especially those who are still alive, captive
and fighting the war that claimed America's best sons -- like Bill
Christensen and Bill Frawley.