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.
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.