Remains Returned 770930

Name: Samuel Fantle III
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 357th Tactical fighter Squadron, Takhli
Date of Birth: 19 November 1939
Home City of Record: Sioux Falls SD
Date of Loss: 05 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213300N 1060327E (XJ061841)
Status (in 1973): Killed in Captivity
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105F
Refno: 0969

Other Personnel in Incident: James C. Hartney (remains returned)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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 F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more
missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also
suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was
constantly under revision. Between 1965 and 1971, the aircraft was equipped
with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved pilot
ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing
capability and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a
single-place aircraft, the F model carried a second crewman which made it
well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam's missile defenses.

Eighty-six F-105Ds fitted with radar homing and warning gear formed the
backbone of the Wild Weasel program, initiated in 1965 to improve the Air
Force's electronic warfare capability. Upon pinpointing the radar at a
missile site, the Wild Weasel attacked with Shrike missiles that homed on
radar emissions. The versatile aircraft was also credited with downing 25
Russian MiGs. Thirteen of these modified F's were sent to Southeast Asia in

Major James C. Hartney, pilot, and Capt. Samuel Fantle III, co-pilot, were
dispatched in their F105F on a combat mission over North Vietnam on January
5, 1968. They were the lead plane in a flight of four, and their mission
took them over the Hanoi region.

At a point about 35 miles northeast of Hanoi, near the Kep Airfield, (at
about the border of Lang Son, Ha Bac and Vinh Phu Provinces), Maj. Hartney's
aircraft was struck in the left wing by hostile fire from a MiG17, causing
the plane to go out of control and forcing the crew to eject. Aircrew in the
area picked up the beeper signals from two emergency radios. (Note: Some
accounts say that only one beeper was heard.) The wingman saw Fantle landing
on the ground, and Hartney about to land, but no voice contact was made with
them. Intense hostilities prevented rescue.

In July 1969, Sam Fantle's parents requested George McGovern meet with North
Vietnam's Xuan Oanlt in Paris. Word came back to them from the Vietnamese
that Sam had hit a rock on bailout, but no word was given on Jim Hartney,
who had landed right beside Jim. The North Vietnamese gave Sam's parents the
aircraft ID number, Jim's serial number, and the time and date of shootdown.

Samuel Fantle, the first to eject from the aircraft, was classified Prisoner
of War, then later Killed in Captivity. Hartney, for unknown reasons, was
not declared prisoner of war, but Missing in Action. It cannot be determined
why two individuals landing side by side were not classified the same.

When the war ended, neither Fantle nor Hartney were released as prisoners.
It was over four years later when the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of
Samuel Fantle III and returned them to U.S. control. It was at this time
that U.S. agencies initiated a "Special Change" notation on Hartney's
records with no further explanation. (NOTE: As most POW/MIA cases contain
classified portions or are entirely classified, and ALL are unavailable to
the public in any detail, it cannot be determined what the "Special Change"
notation means in this incident.)

Since the war ended, reports continued to mount related to Americans
prisoner, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. By 1989,
nearly 10,000 reports had accumulated, convincing many authorities that
hundreds of Americans were still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.

Eleven years after his backseater's remains were returned, Hartney's remains
also were returned by the Vietnamese. On November 20, 1989, the U.S.
announced that a positive identification had been made of these remains. At
last Hartney's family could begin their grieving process, no longer were
tortured by the thought that he could be among those thought to be still

For thousands of other families, however, the wait continues. It's long past
time we brought all our men home from Vietnam.