LYON, DONAVAN LOREN
Name: Donavan Loren "Don" Lyon
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 559th TFS
Date of Birth: 01 November 1934
Home City of Record: Hollywood CA
Date of Loss: 22 March 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163904N 1062857E (XD581414)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Theodore W. Guy (released POW), pilot
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes
Col. Theodore W. Guy was the pilot and Maj. Donavan L. Lyon his
weapons/systems officer on an F4C Phantom fighter jet which was sent on a
combat mission over Laos on March 22, 1968. Their mission, meant to knock
out an enemy gun on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, took them near the Aideo Pass
through the mountainous border of South Vietnam and Laos a few miles
southwest of the demilitarized zone.
During the mission, their aircraft was shot down, and Guy and Lyon ejected
to land in rugged terrain. The aircraft either malfunctioned or was hit, and
it blew up and in the process ejected Guy. At the time, he did not believe
Lyon made it out. Guy was subsequently captured by the North Vietnamese,
whose activities in Laos his mission was meant to thwart. However,
information was given the Lyon family that Lyon survived the incident as
well. Although Lyon survived, his fate after landing on the ground is
Guy went on to assume command of the POWs in July 1968. He made tough
standards for the 44 airmen he was held with at "Plantation Gardens" and
expected them to live by them, as he did. Guy, a Korean war veteran,
suffered the same torture and deprivation as pilots captured in the early
years of the war. His hair, normally brown, turned completely white on one
side of his head, but later fell out and returned to its normal color.
Ted Guy was released with 591 Americans in 1973. When Guy was released, he
brought charges against eight fellow POWs whom many considered to be
traitors. The charges, in the wake of the hero's welcome which greeted
returned POWs, were dropped by Guy at the behest of the U.S. Government.
Guy and Lyon's case is not unusual. In several incidents of loss, pilot and
backseater are separated (partly because they eject at separate times, thus
increasing the distance possible between them), not to be reunited. In Laos,
both the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao forces were apt to be on the
scene to apprehend downed pilots, and neither was prone to hand their
capture over to the other force.
The Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of American
captives, but the U.S. did not include them in the agreements that ended the
war in Vietnam. Therefore, these men were not released, and were not
negotiated for. They were abandoned.
If Don Lyon was captured by the Pathet Lao, he could be among the hundreds
that experts believe are alive today. If so, he was betrayed by the country
he so proudly served.