CORNELIUS, SAMUEL BLACKMAR
Name: Samuel Blackmar Cornelius
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 02 April 1943
Home City of Record: Lubbock TX
Loss Date: 16 June 1973
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 133500N 1063700E (XA736029)
Status (in 1973): None
Other Personnel In Incident: John J. Smallwood (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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 2020.
REMARKS: SURVIVAL UNLIKELY PER AAR
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 very 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"
CAPT Samuel B. Cornelius was the pilot of an F4E Phantom assigned a strike
mission in Cambodia on June 16, 1973. His electronic weapons officer on the
flight was CAPT John J. Smallwood. Over the target area, the F4 was hit by
hostile fire and crashed. No parachutes were seen, and no emergency beeper
signals were heard indicating that the crew ejected safely. The official
word was that their survival was unlikely.
Few American planes were shot down in Cambodia during this time period.
Peace documents had been signed in Paris ending hostilities in Vietnam in
January of that year, but strikes in Cambodia continued. Another F-4 piloted
by Douglas Martin and with backseater Samuel L. James had been shot down
April 18. One of the crew of an HH53C helicopter, MSGT David V. McLeod, Jr.,
went missing on June 14, 1973. These were the only Americans missing during
the spring and summer of 1973 in Cambodia.
In July 1973, a South Vietnamese agent reported talking to a refugee who had
seen three Americans dressed in flight uniforms in captivity near Kompong
Barey Hamlet in Prey Veng Province. (Note that all events described are
occurring AFTER the war with Vietnam "ended" and 591 American POWs were
released from Vietnam.) The agent was able to make contact with a Communist
cadre who said the three were airmen who had been downed in July 1973. The
cadre went on to say that they were being taken to Loc Ninh (South Vietnam)
to be held for exchange at a later date. No exchange ever occurred. It is
assumed, since these three aircraft are the only ones missing in Cambodia,
that this report pertains to three of the five Americans involved. Nothing
has been heard of the five since.
The United States did not bargain or negotiate with Cambodia for any
prisoners held there. U.S. bombing of Cambodia continued until August 1973.
Any who were lucky enough to return had earlier been moved from the border
areas of Cambodia into Vietnam and released from Vietnam. Evidence points to
many Americans being moved to Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia and held beyond
the end of the war.
Because of the genocide perpetrated upon Cambodia by Pol Pot in the
mid-70's, the chances of survival are decreased significantly for anyone
still held prisoner of war in Cambodia. However, we owe our best efforts to
those men lost in Cambodia, and in all of Southeast Asia to seek their
release if alive, and determine their fates if deceased.