MULLEN, WILLIAM FRANCIS
Name: William Francis Mullen
Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps
Unit: H/HS MWHG1, 1st Marine Air Wing
Date of Birth: 28 March 1935
Home City of Record: Brockton MA
Date of Loss: 29 April 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 170700N 1060600E (XD170926)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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.
SYNOPSIS: The Ban Karai Pass was one of several passageways through the
mountainous border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from
Thailand to missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and
many aircraft were lost. The North Vietnamese fiercely protected these
supply channels. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh
Trail", a series of roads heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving
materiel and personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of
neutral Laos. The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far
lower than that of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both
were shot down by the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to
the extremely rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery.
It is also partly due to the fact that the U.S. never negotiated the freedom
of Americans held by the Lao.
Capt. William F. Mullen was a Marine A4 pilot. The aircraft he flew, the
Douglas Aircraft A4 Skyhawk was a lightweight attack and ground support
aircraft. The design emphasized low-speed control and stability during
take-off and landing as well as strength enough for catapult launch and
carrier landings. The plane was compact, but in spite of its diminutive
size, packed a devastating punch and performed well where speed and
maneuverability were essential.
On April 29, 1966, Capt. Mullen was sent on a combat mission near the Ban
Karai Pass in Laos. When the time arrived that he should have returned, and
he had not, the Marines began to try to find him. Bill Mullen was never
Barbara Mullen received a visit and a telegram from the Marine Corps telling
her that her husband had been shot down, but that "every effort" was being
made to rescue him. Barbara's experiences in trying to find information on
her lost husband led to her later book, "Every Effort."
Barbara spoke with notables from Eugene McCarthy, John Kerry, George
McGovern to Henry Kissinger and Ross Perot. She found interesting
information. Capt. Mullen was identified by other pilots as having been
captured. She learned from an Australian freelance photographer who had been
held for twenty-nine days by Pathet Lao guerrillas that some 200 Americans
were being held in Laos. The guerrillas told him that there was an
underground bakery in Sam Neua which made bread especially for the American
prisoners, who were not used to a rice diet. The underground complex at Sam
Neua was used because of intense U.S. bombing.
During the war years, the Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of
tens" of American prisoners. Yet, when peace agreements were signed in Paris
ending American involvement in the war in Vietnam, the families of the men
lost in Laos were horrified to learn that Kissinger had not included Laos in
the peace agreements.
The years passed, and Barbara raised two children. Bill was promoted to Lt.
Col. while missing. Her book was written to tell others of the heartbreak she
endured as the wife of a missing serviceman.
Today, Barbara and her family do not know if Bill Mullen survived, or if he
was captured. But they have watched as over 10,000 reports relating to
Americans missing in Southeast Asia have poured into the U.S. Government's
intelligence community. They believe that Americans are still alive in
Southeast Asia -- and they believe that the abandonment of these men is one
of our nation's greatest shames.
September 10, 2008
The following information should be included in his file and his personal
website under William F. Mullen:
About six years ago intelligence from former North Vietnam military officers
confirmed to our Defense Department that my husband's parachute had carried
him straight down into a North Vietnam Headquarters on the Ho Chi Minh Trail
in Laos. Since then the Defense Department has located a grave where
eventually the North Vietnamese buried him.
My husband and an estimated 400 plus aviators were shot down, many captured
and later buried by the North Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and
elsewhere in Laos - so many, in fact, that although my husband's grave was
found more than five years ago, the list for returning the remains of these
POWs is so long they will not excavate my husband's grave for at least three
I will appreciate your making these changes as soon as possible...
535 Pierce Street Unit 5313
Albany, CA 94706
510 528 6831