KAY, EMMET JAMES SR.
RIP 1996 Name: Emmet James Kay, Sr. Rank/Branch: Civilian Unit: Air America Date of Birth: 04 March 1927 Home City of Record: Honolulu HI Date of Loss: 07 May 1973 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 191200N 1034000E (UG40000) Status (in 1973): Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Pilatus Porter Other Personnel in Incident: Six Lao military personnel Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, including "Air America" by Christopher Robbins. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK. 2016 REMARKS: 740918 RELSD BY PATHET LAO SYNOPSIS: Emmet Kay began flying for Continental Air Services, a CIA-chartered airline in 1970. During hostilities in Southeast Asia, he operated in Laos carring litter cases, tools, supplies and arms to CIA-directed troops in Laos. On May 7, 1973, Kay was ferrying six Lao military personnel to a government outpost in northwestern Laos near the Pathet Lao headquarters at Sam Neua. The war had ended, and Kay and his passengers felt relatively secure. He was on a recon-and-observation mission and about seven miles from his destination when he saw an abandoned village. Circling the village, Kay saw no signs of life, but when he made another pass, the small aircraft was hit by small arms fire, taking hits in both wings, through the cockpit, and in the turboprop engine. Kay was on the side of a hill at the time and made a 180-degree turn and positioned the aircraft uphill to crash land among trees. The wings folded on impact, saving the lives of Kay and his passengers. They were immediately surrounded by Lao and Chinese troops stationed in the "abandoned" village. Kay and the others were trussed up and moved into a village at nightfall. The following day, he was separated from the Lao and marched for six days through the jungles of Laos. On two occasions the group had to take cover from US Air Force air strikes - still occurring after the Peace Accords had been signed with Vietnam in January of that year. Kay was eventually brought to a camp in the Sam Neua area. The camp was in a vast cave on two levels and contained 288 Lao prisoners, including six women. Here Kay was held 28 days before being transferred to Hanoi by jeep, a journey that took three days. In Hanoi, Kay was treated differently from POWs held during the war. He was given a tour of the city and although he was subjected to some simplistic propaganda, he was treated quite well. But he was soon returned to Laos to the cave prison. Despite humane treatment, Kay's living conditions and diet were far from ideal. His weight dropped by twenty pounds and he suffered from dysentery and other stomach ailments which still persist. But his relationship with his guards improved to the extent that he was given better living conditions. He was allowed to write to Continental Air Services to ask for a volleyball net. He received the net and every other kind of game - cards, checkers, ping-pong, and cartons of cigarettes. During his captivity Kay was allowed to work and carried water for the village and tended a vegetable garden. He was also allowed to write to his wife once a month and received letters and cards from his son and daughter in Hawaii. Five and one-half months after receiving the volleyball net, on September 18, 1974, Kay was released. He had spent 16 1/2 months in captivity - 9 in solitary confinement in a cave. When Kay returned from Laos, he reported that his captors told him that when they found crashed American planes, they buried the bodies of crewmembers at the spot but took no prisoners. He said his captors told him he was the "only American captive" and treated him as a very important political prisoner. The Pathet Lao had repeatedly stated during the war, however, that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners. It was widely reported that Kay said he did not believe other Americans were still held in Laos. Later interviews, however, quote Kay as saying his captors insisted that many, many Americans were still alive and that a large number of them had been moved to Vietnam just before he was captured - at a time when the Vietnamese and the U.S. were claiming that all U.S. prisoners had been released. Kay later stated that he had been ransomed, he believes for $12 million, not simply released. After an intensive debriefing, he left the intelligence community and now lives on a remote Pacific island near Guam. Following the war, the two primary forces in Laos, the Pathet Lao and the U.S.-backed Vientiane government, formed a coalition government and beginning with Kay's release, had agreed to exchange 350 Lao, Vietnamese and Thai prisoners. Families of Americans prisoner and missing in Laos had been told that their men would be included in this exchange, but when it occurred, no other Americans were released. Of the nearly 600 Americans military personnel lost in Laos, not one was ever released. The U.S. has never negotiated for the release of any of the Americans the Pathet Lao stated they held.
Emmet Kay passed away May 2 1996.