Name: Thomas Eldon Gillen
Rank/Branch: O4/USAF
Unit: 435th TFS 8thTFW
Date of Birth: 08 May 1933
Home City of Record: Kingman KS
Date of Loss: 18 February 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 192900N 1040300E (VG008547)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert S. Dotson (rescued)

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. NETWORK 2020


SYNOPSIS: Thomas Gillen was one of 9 children in a poor Kansas ranch family.
He worked hard for every goal he attained and appreciated the blessings he
had in life because he knew what it was like "to be without." His ideals
were high and his love for his country ran strong and deep.

Tom Gillen's sense of duty to his country and love of flying brought him to
Vietnam. In leaving, he reminded his family of all the blessings they
enjoyed, more than most, and asked them not to be bitter if he failed to

On February 18, 1970, Gillen was on a strike mission against Route 7 over
Eastern Laos when his F4D was lost. Although his bombardier/navigator was
rescued, no parachute was seen for Tom. There has been no word of his fate.

Gillen is one of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos, and one of nearly 2500
in Southeast Asia who never returned. Mounting evidence indicates that some
of them are alive, held prisoner. The United States has never negotiated the
freedom of the prisoners of war held by Laos. Not one prisoner held in Laos
has returned.

Americans like Gillen went to Vietnam prepared to die, even prepared to be
wounded or taken prisoner. They did not go prepared to be abandoned. They
must be brought home.

Thomas E. Gillen was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he
was maintained missing in action.




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On February 18, 1970, an F-4D Phantom II (tail number 66-7526) with a crew of two took part in a four-plane strike mission against targets in eastern Laos. As the Phantom made its pass over the target, it was hit by enemy ground fire. Witnesses in other aircraft reported seeing one ejection from the stricken plane before it crashed in the vicinity of (GC) VG 008 547. Search teams rescued the Phantom’s navigator, the crew member who successfully ejected. Attempts to locate the other crew member were unsuccessful.

Major Thomas Eldon Gillen, who joined the U.S. Air Force from Kansas, served in the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron and was the aircraft commander aboard this Phantom when it went down. He did not bail out of the aircraft and was lost in the incident. Attempts to locate or recover his remains were unsuccessful. While carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Air Force promoted Major Gillen to the rank of Colonel (Col). Today, Colonel Gillen is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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