Name: Joseph Thomas Kearns Jr.
Branch/Rank: United States Air Force/O3
Date of Birth: 26 August 1936
Home City of Record: SEA CLIFF NY [see below note]
Date of Loss: 03 June 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 174000 North 1062000 East
Status (in 1973): Presumptive Finding of Death [see below note]
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: B57B #3862
Other Personnel in Incident: Theodore Springston PFOD
Refno: 0721

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Updated 2020.


CACCF/CHNGE 6/89 to home of record SEA GIRT NEW JERSEY


No further information available at this time.


From: "Sr. Mary Jo Kearns, R.S.M."
To: <>
Subject: corrections
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 15:31:07 -0400

Dear Friends,

Thank you for hosting this web site! I wanted to let you know a couple of
corrections regarding my brother.

Home city of Record: Sea Girt, New Jersey (not Sea Cliff, NY) This info is
also incorrect in Washington, DC.

He was declared "killed" by the government - possibly in 1988 - only for the
sake of settling his finances. His remains were never found, so he is really
still MIA.

Thank you again!


Mary Jo Kearns, RSM

Mount St Mary House of Prayer, Watchung, NJ


Dear Chuck and Mary,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply!

Joe left a journal of his tour in Vietnam. Below are a few entries for your
inspiration! A woman who still wears Joe's bracelet (Nan Slonacker) typed
this for me/us. She said she felt as if Joe were present, looking over her
shoulder as she typed.

God's blessings on your wonderful work!

Sincerely, Sr. Mary Jo Kearns, RSM

December 24, 1966
Phan Rang AB, Vietnam

            Christmas Eve in Vietnam. An unusual quiet covers the country.
            The roar of jets, the blast of bombs, the thud of mortars, and
            the crackle of machine guns- all are silenced as men the world
            over pay tribute to the child who transformed the face of our
            earth. But not all the sounds of war are halted. The padding of
            feet along jungle trails, the splash of sampans in the rivers,
            the rumble of trucks and wagons on dirt roads beneath the roof
            of trees: these too are the sounds of war, and this is the war
            whose hushed violence is the background of Christmas, 1966. How
            many of our men will die, how many of our planes will fall to
            earth, struck down by the very guns that found their way into
            Communist hands on this Christian feast day?

December 28, 1966

            Cardinal Spellman visited us yesterday. Seventy-seven years of
            age, unable to climb the steps to the altar unassisted, barely
            able to get in and out of his car, and scarcely able to
            genuflect during Mass- our bishop traversed half the globe to
            spend Christmas with his parishioners, dust-covered G.I.s, in
            this sun-baked, wind-beaten, war-torn land. And he thanked us
            for coming: us, who with the energy of youth walked or drove a
            few blocks; and he told us we were an inspiration to him!

            It was not the powerful leader of New York's great archdiocese
            who came to visit; nor was it the brilliant scholar and
            influential politician; rather it was a shepherd, a humble and
            dedicated servant. No one could fail to know and understand that
            this aged man of God was not here of external necessity, but
            only of that self-generated need that exists because there is
            still some good in the world to be done, and because he still
            has left a few breaths and a little energy with which to do
            good. I'm sure I was not the only one to see, in the host he
            held high, the thousands of hosts and thousands of Masses he has
            offered since his ordination more than half a century ago; I
            know that everyone saw, in the hand raised in blessing, the same
            hand which has blessed soldiers and sailors, airmen and marines,
            in every part of the world at Christmastime, every year of the
            last twenty-seven- since before many of those who now received
            his blessing were born.

December 29, 1966

            Perhaps now I've been here long enough to be able to describe
            Phan Rang and my reactions to it.

            We have no sewerage, and have to use out-houses. We wash and
            shave outdoors, with cold water in a dishpan. Our shower is a
            large, public, plywood affair, equipped with warm water about
            half the time. We live seven and eight to a room, in one-room
            cabins called "hootches". The flight line is several miles from
            our quarters, and we make the trip in the back of a pick-up
            truck. Our operations building is an undersized quonset hut
            powered by a kerosene generator which roars all the time, even
            louder than the MD-3 power carts which used to shatter my nerves
            at Griffiss. Most of the roads on base are unpaved and bumpy.
            The dust blows so thick in the air that we chew it, breathe it,
            comb it out of our hair and blow it out of our noses. In short,
            I love it!

            That's right, I think this place is great! I don't know why, but
            I enjoy it here. Maybe it's because we have a job to do and
            we're doing it. Perhaps it's because shaving with cold water and
            chewing dust are not really so bad as I would have expected.
            Maybe the reason is that life is rather simple here, without the
            traffic jams, petty regulations, requirements, obligations, and
            other ulcer-makers of our complex civilized life. Now I'm not
            implying that this is how I'd spend my whole life! The point is
            that it's really not bad here, and it's good to get away from
            the neuroses of civilization for a while.





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On June 3, 1967, a B-57 Canberra (tail number 53-3862, call sign "Tanner") with two crew members embarked on a solo armed road reconnaissance mission over enemy targets in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The pilot made radio contact to request permission to enter North Vietnamese airspace, but never made contact again. The aircraft failed to return to base following the mission and was declared missing. There was no information available regarding the aircraft's possible location, preventing effective searches for a crash site, and further attempts to locate the aircraft or crew were unsuccessful. 

Captain Joseph Thomas Kearns Jr., who joined the U.S. Air Force from New Jersey, served with the 13th Bomb Squadron. He was the navigator/bombardier aboard the Canberra when it disappeared, and his remains have not been recovered. After the incident, the Air Force promoted Capt Kearns to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Today, Lieutenant Colonel Kearns 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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