KUHLMANN, CHARLES FREDERIC REMAINS IDENTIFIED 01 SEPT 95
Name: Charles Frederic Kuhlmann Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 602nd Special Operations Squadron, Nakhon Phanom AF TH Date of Birth: 07 February 1930 Home City of Record: New Britain CT Date of Loss: 22 September 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 195500N 1034158E (UH642029) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1H REFNO: 1284 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 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 1998.
Source: Compiled 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.
SYNOPSIS: In violation of, yet somewhat protected by the neutrality of Laos accorded at Geneva in a 14-nation protocol conference July 23, 1962, the North Vietnamese and supporting communist insurgent group, the Pathet Lao, lost no time in building strategic strongholds of defense in Northern Laos and establishing a steady flow of manpower and material to their revolutionary forces in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the eastern border of the Laotian panhandle.
As a result, the Royal Lao sought help from the U.S. in stopping both initiatives. It was strategically important to do so, although every initiative had to be cleared through the U.S. Ambassador at Vientiane, so that the delicate balance of "look-the-other-way-neutrality" engaged in by the nations involved (including China) could be preserved.
Defense of non-communist activity in Laos generally fell into three categories: 1) U.S. Army and CIA's bolstering of the Meo (Hmong) army led by General Vang Pao; 2) Strategic U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives on the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Operations Commando Hunt, Steel Tiger, etc.); 3) U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives in northern Laos (Operation Barrell Roll, etc.) both against communist strongholds there, and in support of the Royal Lao and Gen. Vang Pao's army.
Major Charles F. Kuhlmann was a pilot assigned to the 602nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. He was the pilot of a Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad"). The Spad is a highly maneuverable, propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or utility aircraft variously assigned rescue escort or counterinsurgency operations.
Kuhlmann was assigned a mission over northern Laos on September 22, 1968. His aircraft was struck by hostile fire and seen to crash and explode on impact. It was felt that there was opportunity for Kuhlmann to eject the aircraft, however, and he was placed in missing in action status. His location was in Xiangkhoang Province about 40 miles southwest of the city of Sam Neua. The Sam Neua area was noted for its extensive cave systems, where American prisoners of war were reportedly held in large numbers.
On October 14, 1968, the Department of the Air Force reports that unspecified "evidence of death" was received which indicated that Kuhlmann died at the time his aircraft crashed. His status was changed at that time to killed in action.
Because Laos was "neutral", and because the U.S. continued to state they were not at war with Laos (although we were regularly bombing North Vietnamese traffic along the border and conducted assaults against communist strongholds thoughout the country at the behest of the anti-communist government of Laos), and did not recognize the Pathet Lao as a government entity, the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos were never recovered.
The Pathet Lao stated that they would release the "tens of tens" of American prisoners they held only from Laos. At war's end, no American held in Laos was released - or negotiated for.
Mounting evidence indicates that hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia - Americans who were abandoned by the country they proudly served.