GAUNTT, WILLIAM AARON
Name: William Aaron Gauntt
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 14th TRS
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Mt. Pleasant TX
Date of Loss: 13 August 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165835N 1965910E (YD135778)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Francis W. Townsend (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of
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. 2022
REMARKS: 730327 RELEASED BY PRG
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 also extremely 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. William A. Gauntt was the pilot and 1Lt. Francis W. Townsend his
systems officer on the reconnaissance version of the Phantom, the RF4. On
August 13, 1972, Gauntt and Townsend were sent on a mission which would take
them to the area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). As they were over the DMZ,
about 10 miles southwest of Vinh Linh in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam,
the RF4 was shot down.
Military officials at the time were uncertain as to the fate of Gauntt and
Townsend. However, on March 27, 1973, William A. Gauntt was among 591
Americans released from POW camps in Vietnam. Francis W. Townsend was not.
Officials at the time were heartened to learn that Gauntt had been captured
and released, but horrified that hundreds of others who had been thought to
be captured were not.
Evidently Gauntt gave the U.S. information that Townsend had also been
captured, for in 1973, Townsend was classified as a Prisoner of War. The
Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded this classification to include
an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge"
and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with
individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost
in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be
known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed
but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by
elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source
intelligence. The fact that Townsend was never classified Category 1
indicates that the information relating to his possible capture was probably
Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, nearly 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing, prisoner or otherwise unaccounted for in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials who
have examined this largely classified information have reluctantly concluded
that many Americans are still alive in captivity today.
Whether Francis W. Townsend survived to be captured, was executed, or is
among those thought to be still alive is unknown. What is certain, however,
is that as long as there is even one American held against his will, we owe
him our very best efforts to bring him to freedom.
Francis W. Townsend graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
WILLIAM A. GAUNTT
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: August 13, 1972
Released: March 27, 1973
My hometown is Mt. Pleasant, Texas, and I graduated from high school in
1963. My wife, Margaret, is from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where we met
while I was at the Air Force Academy.
My military service career began at the Air Force Academy in 1964. I
graduated in 1968 and entered pilot training at Reese AFB in Texas.
Following a year's tour (1969-71) at Tyndall AFB, Florida as an instructor
pilot in the T-33, I flew the RF-4C at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. I began
flying in Southeast Asia at Udorn RTAFB in Thailand in October 1971. My tour
was almost over when I was downed by AAA on August 13, 1972.
My imprisonment was relatively short compared to those men who spent several
years of their lives in captivity. My faith in my family and my country was
greatly enhanced by my association with these men of strong determination
and will the spirit of men such as these has helped to mold our country and
sustain her during times of strife.
My future plans include a return to flying the RF-4C.
I feel the trust fund for scholarships for children of those men who made
the greatest sacrifice, their life, is only a small part of what we owe
them. I certainly hope we have learned a great lesson from this war and
that we will not soon forget its cost, both at home and abroad.
Mark Alexander: Farewell, Lt. Col. Bill Gauntt (USAF, Ret.), POW | The Patriot Post
The Patriot Post
February 24, 2022
Farewell, Lt. Col. Bill Gauntt (USAF, Ret.), POW
Blue skies and tailwinds, my friend.
We lost a fellow Patriot and longtime friend this morning, former Vietnam POW Lt. Col. Bill Gauntt (USAF, Ret.).
I profiled Bill’s return to Vietnam in 2018, “Miraculously, We Found Bill’s Crash Site.” In 2015, he provide care and fellowship for a fellow fighter pilot, my own father, in his final months of life.
Bill’s friend and former Air Force Academy ‘68 classmate, Lt. Gen. Charlie Coolidge Jr. (USAF, Ret.), offered: “Bill was a friend to all — a great American Patriot and hero! He was a superb Airman and a brave Vietnam POW, a humble giant of a man and a God-fearing Christian. We will miss him mightily!”
Gen. B.B. Bell (USA, Ret.), chairman of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center Advisory Board on which Bill served, added: “We’ve lost the very best of the best. He was a fearless pilot with three Distinguished Flying Crosses, 130 combat missions against a determined enemy, and a survivor of brutal enemy prisoner of war treatment. Bill Gauntt was the epitome of an American Combat Warrior. I thank God for this man and pray our LORD will bless and keep his family.”
Please join us lifting his wife Nancy and family, up high in prayer.
Farewell, “Atlanta 10.” Blue skies and tailwinds, my friend.
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