LUKER, RUSSELL BURT
Name: Russell Burt Luker Rank/Branch: E6/US Marine Corps Unit: VMGR 152, 1st Marine Air Wing Date of Birth: 17 February 1933 Home City of Record: Lancaster OH Date of Loss: 01 February 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 172038N 1072217E (YE520190) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 5 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: KC130F Refno: 0246
Other Personnel In Incident: Peter Vlahakos; Albert M. Prevost; Richard A. Alm; Galen F. Humphrey; Donald L. Coates (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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.
SYNOPSIS: The Lockheed C130 Hercules was one of the most important aircraft used in Vietnam. It served many purposes, among them transport, tanker, gunship, drone controller, airborne battlefield command and control center, weather reconnaissance craft, electronic reconnaissance platform, search, rescue and recovery.
The U.S. Marines employed the KC130F version which served primarily as a probe-and-drogue refueling plane, although when the rubber fuel bladders were removed from the cargo compartment, the plane also served as a transport. The KC130F was capable of refueling two aircraft simultaneously.
On February 1, 1966, a U.S. Marine Hercules tanker was operating in the Gulf of Tonkin near the coast of North Vietnam, about 10 miles north of the island of Hon Co. During a refueling operation, the tanker was hit by ground fire and crashed into the ocean. All crew onboard the aircraft were considered to have died in the crash of the plane.
The pilot of the aircraft was 1LT Albert M. Prevost; crew chief SSGT Peter G. Vlahakos; other crew members included Maj. Richard A. Alm; SSGT Donald L. Coates; GYSGT Galen F. Humphrey, navigator; and SSGT Russell B. Luker. All were declared Killed in Action, Bodies Not Recovered.
According to family members of the crew, however, it was reported that there was not a single piece of wreckage to be found. This seems improbable for an aircraft weighing in excess of 60,000 pounds involved in a crash - especially one carrying a jet fuel cargo. Some family members are suspicious of the reported circumstances of the crash and believe it may have occurred elsewhere, thus explaining the lack of wreckage found.
Regardless, if the Marine Corps crash site location is accurate, there can be no question someone was aiming the gun that shot the aircraft down. Someone knows the fate of the aircraft and crew. Beyond those on the ground, the shoreline of Vietnam was heavily trafficked by fishermen and patrol boats. There is no doubt that the Vietnamese could account for the men onboard the KC130 lost near Ho Co Island on February 1, 1966.
Since American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia ended, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing, or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities, having reviewed this largely-classified information have concluded that hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity today.
Perhaps the entire crew of seven perished on February 1, 1966. But, perhaps they are among those experts believe are still alive, still held prisoner. We cannot forget a single man, lest he be left behind. They must all be brought home.