ESPENSHIED, JOHN LEE Remains Returned December 1988 Name: John Lee Espenshied Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 17 August 1934 Home City of Record: Delaware OH Date of Loss: 21 October 1969 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 121000N 1084700E (BP588495) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O2A Refno: 1504 Other Personnel in Incident: REMARKS: 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. SYNOPSIS: Major John Espenshied was the observer aboard an O2A Cessna observation aircraft on a flight over South Vietnam on October 21, 1969. Captain Gelnn Cook was the pilot of the aircraft. The O2 was a stopgap replacement aircraft for the O1 "Birddog" until the North American OV10A arrived in Vietnam. The O1, O2 and OV10 served as vehicles for forward air contollers (FAC) in Vietnam, as well as reconnaissance aircraft. The small aircraft would fly in rather low and mark targets for armed aircraft to follow with airstrikes. The O1, O2 and OV10 were a sure signal to the Vietnamese that bombing would follow, and while they were greatly feared for a time, as time passed, the enemy became more and more aggressive in trying to knock the planes out before the impending strikes could be directed. All three aircraft lacked adequate armour to protect its passengers from heavy anti-aircraft fire. At a point where the Provinces of Tuyen Duc, Ninh Thuan and Khanh Hoa meet, the aircraft went down, and they were not found. At the time, the U.S. judged that there could be no way of knowing whether the enemy found the crash, or whether the men had been killed or survived. They were listed as Missing In Action. For four years, Espenshied's family waited to see if he had been captured, and would be released with other American POWs in 1973, but he was not. The Vietnamese, who had pledged earlier that year to release all POWs and account for as many as possible of the missing, denied any knowledge of Espenshied. For the next 15 years, reports flowed in relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. By the end of 1988, over 8,000 of them had been received by the U.S. convincing many authorities that hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity. The Espenshied family did not want to write their man off as dead, but yet the thought that he could be alive and abandoned to the enemy was more than they could bear. In December, 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the body of John Espenshied and returned it to U.S. control. Like nearly 2500 other Americans, alive and dead, he had been a chess piece in a political game for nearly 20 years. For the Espenshied family, life can be resumed without the horror of not knowing. For nearly 2500 other families, however, the agony continues. And for hundreds of abandoned American prisoners, life goes on.