Name: Carter Avery Howell
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 08 April 1947
Home City of Record: Fayetteville NC
Date of Loss: 07 March 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 160100N 1063500E (XC720744)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E
Refno: 1800
Other Personnel In Incident: Stephen A. Rusch (missing)

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 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. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes

1Lt. Carter A. Howell was the pilot and 1Lt. Stephen A. Rusch the co-pilot
of an F4E Phantom from the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang,
Republic of Vietnam. On March 7, 1972, the two were sent on an operational
mission over Laos. During the mission their aircraft was seen to impact the
ground while making a run on a target. No parachutes were seen and no
emergency beepers were heard to indicate the crew was safe. However, the
opportunity existed for the two to safely eject, and they were not declared
dead, but missing in action. The loss occurred about 25 miles east of the
town of Ban Toumlan in Saravane Province, Laos.

When American involvement in Southeast Asia ended with the signing of the
Paris Peace agreements, prisoners of war, it was agreed, would be released.
The country of Laos, meanwhile, not having been included in the peace talks,
announced publicly that prisoners of war held in Laos would be released from
Laos. The U.S. never negotiated for the release of these men. Not one
American serviceman held in Laos was released, although nearly 600 went down
there, and many survived their crashes and were known to have been captured.

Over the years since the war, reports have amassed indicating that many
Americans are still held prisoner. As of July 1987, nearly 6000 such reports
had been received by the U.S. Government, yet the U.S. seems unable to
secure the freedom of those men who were left behind.

Men like Rusch and Howell served in Vietnam because their country asked them
to. They went to war prepared to be injured, killed or even taken prisoner.
They were not prepared to be abandoned. They must be brought home.




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On March 7, 1972, an F-4E Phantom II (tail number 69-7552, call sign "Gunfighter 61") took off as the second of two aircraft on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. During the mission, the flight leader spotted two enemy trucks and cleared "Gunfighter 61" to attack them. The flight leader lost sight of "Gunfighter 61" as the latter began its second pass over the targets. A few moments later, the flight leader saw a large explosion nearby, in the vicinity of (GC) 48Q XC 720 744. He observed no parachutes in the area and "Gunfighter 61" failed to acknowledge radio transmissions. "Gunfighter 61" was not seen again and failed to return from the mission.  SAR forces conducted visual, electronic, and photoreconnaissance search efforts without finding either crewmember.  Later reports indicated there was heavy enemy fire in the area where it went missing. After the war, the remains of the Weapons System Officer were returned to U.S. custody and identified; however, the pilot remains unaccounted for.

First Lieutenant Carter Avery Howell, who joined the U.S. Air Force from North Carolina, was a member of the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, and was the pilot of "Gunfighter 61" when it went missing. He was lost with the aircraft, and his remains have not been recovered. Following the incident, the Air Force promoted 1st Lt Howell to the rank of Captain (Capt). Today, Captain Howell 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.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

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