McELHANON, MICHAEL OWENS
Name: Michael Owens McElhanon
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Phu Cat, SV
Date of Birth: 06 January 1934
Home City of Record: Ft. Worth TX
Date of Loss: 16 August 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173100N 1065000E (XE590445)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Others In Incident: John F. Overlock (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 April 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.
SYNOPSIS: All tactical strike aircraft operating in Southeast Asia had to be
under the control of a Forward Air Control (FAC), who was familiar with the
locale and the tactical situation. The FAC would find the target, order up
U.S. fighter/bombers from an airborne command and control center or ground
based station, mark the target, and control the operation throughout the
time the planes remained on station. After the fighters had departed, the
FAC stayed over the target to make a bomb damage assessment (BDA). The
traditional FAC needed a fighter pilot's mentality, but was obliged to fly
slow and low in such unarmed and vulnerable aircraft as the Cessna O1 Bird
Dog, and the Cessna O2.
Another type forward air control was called the "Misty" FAC. Misty
operations were flown high and fast in such aircraft as the F100, able to
cover a larger area than the small, traditional aircraft flown by the
"hands-on" FACs. Their role, although not usually directly in the arena of
ground fire, was hazardous. The enemy had weapons to reach them, even at
their greater altitude.
The North American F100 "Super Sabre" first saw action in Southeast Asia in
northwest Laos in May 1962. F100 operations in Vietnam began in 1965, and
took part in Operation Flaming Dart, the first U.S. Air Force strike against
North Vietnam in February of that year. Further deployments of the aircraft
to the area left just five F100 squadrons in the United States. Various
modifications were made to the aircraft affectionately called "Hun" or "Lead
Sled" by its pilots and mechanics over the early years, gradually improving
night bombing capability, firing systems and target-marking systems.
Maj. Michael O. McElhanon and Maj. John F. Overlock were pilots assigned to
the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat, South Vietnam. The missions
they generally flew were Misty FAC operations over North Vietnam. McElhanon
was rated as a pilot and Overlock as a co-pilot.
On August 16, 1968, McElhanon and Overlock were on an early mission and had
already refueled once (the maximum range for the F100 is nearly 1500 miles),
and had radioed the Airborne Control that they were enroute to rendezvous
with a tanker over the Gulf of Tonkin for the second refueling. That was the
last contact Airborne Control had with Overlock and McElhanon. They were not
missed until some fifty minutes later, when a flight of fighter aircraft
tried to locate them to get a fix on their target. The plane is assumed to
have gone down somewhere near the city of Dong Hoi in North Vietnam's Quang
No one knows for sure what happened to Overlock and McElhanon. If they went
down close to the city, they could have been captured. If they went down
over the Gulf, they may never be found.
For the next 5 years, their families waited to see if McElhanon and Overlock
had been captured. When 591 prisoners were released in the spring of 1973,
the two were not among them. Experts said that there were hundreds who were
expected to be released and who were not. Finally, in late 1975, the U.S.
Government declared the men dead, based on no specific information that they
Were it not for the thousands of reports received that Americans are still
held captive, the McElhanon and Overlock families might be able to assume
they died and go on with their lives. But as long as men are alive, Overlock
and McElhanon could be among them. It's time we brought our men home.
Michael O. McElhanon was promoted to the rank of Colonel and John F.
Overlock was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period
they were maintained missing.