Name: Paul Lloyd Milius
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Observation Squadron 67, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand
Date of Birth: 11 February 1928
Home City of Record: Waverly IA
Date of Loss: 27 February 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 170500N 1060300E (XD116889)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OP2E
Refno: 1062
Other Personnel in Incident: John F. Hartzheim (rmains returned 03/17/99)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project October 15, 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 1999.
SYNOPSIS: The Lockheed P2 "Neptune" was originally designed for submarine
searching, using magnetic detection gear or acoustic buoys. Besides flying
maritime reconnaissance, the aircraft served as an experimental night attack
craft in the attempt to interdict the movement of enemy truck convoys.
Another model, the OP2E, dropped electronic sensors to detect truck
movements along the supply route through Laos known as the "Ho Chi Minh
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Vietnamese for transporting
weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were shot down
trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search
and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful and the recovery rate
was high.
Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains
between Laos and Vietnam. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact
with search and rescue and other planes; some were known to have been
captured. Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke
of American prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated,
Laos was not included, and not a single American was released that had been
held in Laos.
On February 27, 1968, Navy Capt. Paul L. Milius departed his base at Nakhon
Phanom, Thailand (NKP) in an OP2E Neptune on an armed reconnaissance mission
over Laos. Aboard were eight crew members assigned to Observation Squadron
67, plus Milius, the pilot.
The Neptune had precise navigational equipment and accurate optical
bombsight. Radar was housed in a well on the nose underside of the aircraft,
and radar technicians felt especially vulnerable working in this "glass
bubble" nosed aircraft. It was believed that the aircraft could place the
seismic or acoustic device within a few yards of the desired point, but to
do this, the OP2E had to fly low and level, making it an easy target for the
enemy's anti-aircraft guns that were increasing in number along the Trail.
Milius was over his assigned target in Khammouane Province, Laos, about 15
miles southwest of the Ban Karai Pass, and was delivering ordnance on the
target when the aircraft was struck by suspected anti-aircraft artillery. A
projectile struck the underside of the aircraft and exploded in the radar
well. Petty Officer John F. Hartzheim, an Avionics Technician assigned to
the aircraft, was struck by fragments of the projectile and began bleeding
profusely. The radar well burst into flames, filling the flight deck area of
the aircraft with dense, acrid smoke.
The aircraft commander ordered the crew to bail out. Hartzheim was carried
to the after station by the Tactical Coordinator. Upon arriving in the after
station, Hartzheim stated that he could not go any farther, and collapsed.
Other crew members later stated they believed Hartzheim died at this time,
as his eyes were wide open and rolled to an upwards position and there was
no movement. Milius was at this time still seated at the controls of the
Seven crewmembers safely exited the aircraft, and were subsequently rescued
by Search and Rescue forces. The area of the crashed aircraft was observed,
and it was felt that no identifiable remains would be found. Hartzheim was
not believed to exit the aircraft, and was believed to be dead. He was
listed Killed, Body Not Recovered. It cannot be determined whether the enemy
had knowledge of his ultimate fate.
The pilot, Paul Milius was not rescued. The Bombardier/Third Pilot, who was
rescued, indicated that Milius was sitting at the after-station hatch and
bailed out just prior to his own departure to the aircraft, but SAR efforts
had failed to located and rescue him. Milius was listed Missing in Action.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Milius' classification to
include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect
knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been lost in areas or under
conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy.
The family of John Hartzheim has little doubt that he died the day his
aircraft went down. They can take pride in his service, although they have
to grave to visit. For the Milius family, as well as thousands of others,
however, solutions are not so easy. Were it not for the thousands of reports
concerning Americans still held captive in Southeast Asia, these families
might be able to close this tragic chapter of their lives. But as long as
Americans are alive, being held captive, one of them could be Paul Milius.
It's time we brought these men home.