GELONECK, TERRY MERCER
Name: Terry Mercer Geloneck
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, pilot
Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Anderson Air Base, GUAM
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Decatur AL
Date of Loss: 20 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210500N 1054000E (WJ692313)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel In Incident: William Y. Arcuri; Roy Madden Jr.; Michael R.
Martini (all released POWs); Craig A. Paul; Warren R. Spencer (both remains
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, including
"Linebacker" by Karl J. Eschmann. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2020.
REMARKS: 730219 RELSD BY DRV - INJ
SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war, known as Linebacker II, in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs
were dropped, primarily over military targets in the area between Hanoi and
Haiphong. White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing
would end only when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally
recognized cease-fire was in force.
The Christmas Bombings were of the most precise the world had seen. Pilots
involved in the immense series of strikes generally agree that the strikes
against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was so successful that the U.S.
"could have taken the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy
Scout troop in Hanoi and marching it southward."
The operation had its costs, however, in loss of aircraft and personnel.
During the month of December 1972, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft were shot
down and captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were released in
1973. The remains of roughly a dozen more have been returned over the years,
and the rest are still missing. At least 10 those missing survived to eject
safely. Yet they did not return at the end of the war.
On December 20, 1972, three B52 aircraft -- Quilt Cell -- departed Anderson
Air Base, Guam for a bombing mission over Hanoi. One of the aircraft was
flown by Capt. Terry M. Geloneck. The crew consisted of 1Lt. William Y.
Arcuri, co-pilot; Capt. Craig A. Paul, Electronic Warfare Officer; Capt.
Warren R. Spencer, the radar navigator; 1LT Michael R. Martini, navigator;
and SSgt. Roy Madden, the gunner.
Approaching the initial point where the bombing run was to begin, the EWO
(Paul) reported SAM signals. The aircraft instituted evasive maneuvers while
calmly running through their checklist in preparation of releasing the
twenty-seven 750-pound bomb load.
About 30 seconds to target, three or four SAMs were sighted. The crew could
do nothing but watch their progress until the "bombs away" was called and
evasive action could be taken. After releasing the bomb load, the aircraft
had been in a hard turn about 10 seconds when the loud metallic bank of an
exploding SAM hit them, accompanied by a bright white flash. The aircraft
was still airborne and in its post-target turn.
Martini reported that he, Arcuri and Spencer were okay, but that they had
sustained a fuel leak in the left main fuel tank, and that cabin
pressurization was lost. Paul had been hit and was bleeding heavily. There
were four six-inch holes in the fuselage next to Madden, and his leg was
As the aircraft began losing altitude, the crew prepared for bailout.
Geloneck, Arcuri, Martini and Madden successfully ejected from the aircraft
and were captured immediately. It is not known whether Spencer and Paul
When they were released in mid-February, 1973, Madden, Martini, Arcuri and
Geloneck were all injured; Madden's leg was still in dangerous condition,
and he was brought home on a litter. The leg was later amputated. The
Vietnamese returned the remains of Paul and Spencer on September 30, 1977,
despite earlier protestations that they knew nothing about the two.
One thing that amazed analysts about the B52 bombers that were shot down
over Hanoi during this period was the high survival rate of the crewmembers.
Many more were returned as POWs than was expected. The B52s that were shot
down were downed in extremely hostile territory with little or no chance of
rescue. However, they were fortunate to be captured during a period in which
little or no harassment and torture was being experienced by American POWs.
In fact, the Vietnamese were "fattening them up" for their imminent release.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that all the prisoners were returned in
1973 at the end of the war. Since the end of the war, thousands of reports
have been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans still alive
in captivity. U.S. experts have stated they believe Americans are still
being held prisoner in Southeast Asia. The question is no longer whether any
are alive, but who are they, and how can we bring them home?
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
TERRY M. GELONECK
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 20, 1972
Released: February 12, 1973
My name is Terry Mercer Geloneck and I was a prisoner of the North
Vietnamese for 53 days, from 20 December 1972 to 12 February 1973. My Air
Force career began following graduation from the University of Alabama in
January 1967. I attended Officers Training School and became a munitions
officer for two years prior to earning my pilot's wings at Williams Air
Force Base in May 1970.
My first flying assignment was in the B-52 Strategic Bomber at Beale Air
Force Base in northern California. I flew as a copilot and had one tour in
Southeast Asia flying 61 combat missions from Utapao Air Base in Thailand.
Following this tour I upgraded to Aircraft Commander in June of 1972 and
took over my first crew in August at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. From
there I flew 30 combat missions to Indochina prior to President Nixon's
order to strategically bomb the heart of North Vietnam.
We flew our first mission to Hanoi on the third day of the so-called "eleven
day war" - 20 December 1972. Our aircraft was struck by two surface-to-air
missiles just after dropping our bombs on target. Myself, along with three
other crewmembers, ejected safely and were taken prisoner almost
immediately. Two others of my crew are still listed as Missing in Action.
I evaded capture for about thirty minutes, but civilians eventually captured
me. I was receiving fairly harsh treatment when the militia arrived and took
me into custody. Moved throughout the night, I entered the "Hanoi Hilton"
the next morning. My copilot and gunner were on the same vehicle when we
finally arrived in Hanoi, whereupon I was separated from them and placed in
solitary confinement. I dislocated and fractured my right shoulder upon
ejection so I was in quite a bit of pain until it was set some two weeks
later. I was alone for the first seven days of my captivity before being
placed with six other B-52 crewmembers. Christmas in solitary confinement
was indeed bleak and lonely, and it was during these most difficult, most
painful, and darkest hours that God and thoughts of my wife and young son
enabled me to get through.
After about two weeks things began to definitely improve for me. First of
all, I was taken to a medical facility where my shoulder was set and put
into a cast, and from then on it got a little better every day. The cast
remained on until two weeks prior to my release.
During captivity I was moved about five times and lived in one other
detention camp than the "Hilton." I lived with my navigator for about one
week in this other camp, and was extremely relieved to know he was alive and
well. Two weeks of my captivity (the last two) I was fortunate enough to be
placed in with men who had been POWs five to seven years. These men were
absolutely fantastic, I think, to have endured such an ordeal and been in
the condition they were. I will never forget my association with them and
their abiding faith in each other, in God, and in the people of this
Due to my injury I was repatriated with the first group of POWs. I came home
to the most amazing and wonderful reception by the American people and just
in time for the birth of our second son! More than ever before, this made me
proud to be an American and proud to serve this great country. I plan to
stay in the Air Force and continue flying. I feel I have been indeed
fortunate to have been endowed with a wonderful gift-the realization that I
can be deprived of all that I hold precious, including life itself, and then
the opportunity - a second chance, one might say-to fully enjoy what I came
so close to losing.
Terry Geloncek retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He
and his wife Jane reside in Alabama.
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