CONAWAY, LAWRENCE YERGES Name: Lawrence Yerges Conaway Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon Airbase, Thailand Date of Birth: 16 October 1930 Home City of Record: Columbus OH Date of Loss: 03 May 1970 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 193358N 1034859E (UG759674) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1611 Other Personnel in Incident: Carl R. Churchill (missing) Source: Compiled 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 in 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: In violation of, yet somewhat protected by the neutrality of Laos accorded at Geneva in a 14-nation protocol conference July 23, 1962, the North Vietnamese and supporting communist insurgent group, the Pathet Lao, lost no time in building strategic strongholds of defense in Northern Laos and establishing a steady flow of manpower and material to their revolutionary forces in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the eastern border of the Laotian panhandle. As a result, the Royal Lao sought help from the U.S. in stopping both initiatives. It was strategically important to do so, although every initiative had to be cleared through the U.S. Ambassador at Vientiane, so that the delicate balance of "look-the-other-way-neutrality" engaged in by the nations involved (including China) could be preserved. Defense of non-communist activity in Laos generally fell into three categories: 1) U.S. Army and CIA's bolstering of the Meo (Hmong) army led by General Vang Pao; 2) Strategic U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Operations Commando Hunt, Steel Tiger, etc.); 3) U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives in northern Laos (Operation Barrell Roll, etc.) both against communist strongholds there, and in support of the Royal Lao and Gen. Vang Pao's army. On May 3, 1970, LtCol. Lawrence Y. Conaway, pilot, and Capt. Carl R. Churchill, systems operator, departed Ubon Airbase in southeast Thailand on an operational mission over Laos. When they were about half way between the cities of Ban Ban and Nong Het in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos, their aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed in a river. Conaway and Churchill were northeast of the heavily contested Plaine des Jarres region of Laos. Just short of a year following the aircraft crash, a determination of death was made that both crew members died in the crash of their aircraft. However, the fact remained that there was every reason to believe the Pathet Lao or Vietnamese know the precise fates of Conaway and Churchill. During the course of the war, the Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but that they would be released only from Laos. They wished to negotiate the end of the massive bombing of their country before releasing American POWs. The U.S. did not officially recognize the communist government of Laos, and therefore, never negotiated with the Pathet Lao. As a result, not one of the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos was ever released. Since the end of the war, nearly 10,000 reports have been received concerning Americans missing in Southeast Asia, convincing many authorities that hundreds remain alive. Whether Churchill and Conaway are among those said to be still alive is not known. What is certain, however, is that as long as even one American is held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home.