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):
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


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.