Name: William Lee Nellans
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 29 December 1936
Home City of Record: Warsaw IN
Date of Loss: 17 September 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 170200N 1063900E (XD755875)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
Refno: 0838

Other Personnel In Incident: Peter A. Grubb (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 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 2020.


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

1Lt. Peter A. Grubb and Capt. William L. Nellans comprised the crew of an
RF4C sent on a combat mission over North Vietnam on September 17, 1967.
During the mission, as the aircraft was over Quang Binh Province about 5
miles north of the Demilitarized Zone, it was hit by enemy fire and crashed.
No word has surfaced of the fates of Grubb and Nellans.

Less than one month later, in "the World", 50,000 war protesters marched on
the Pentagon.

At the war's end, Vietnam pledged to return all Prisoners of War and make a
full accounting of the missing, but failed to do so. Known prisoners of war
did not return. Precise locations of crash sites were known in many cases,
but access to them was denied.

Grubb and Nellans are among nearly 2500 Americans who were lost in Southeast
Asia and never returned. Reports continue to mount that some of them are
alive, being held prisoner. Contrary to policy statements, the return of
these men does not seem to be a high priority of the U.S. Government.

Americans like Grubb and Nellans went to Vietnam prepared to be wounded or
taken prisoner, even prepared to die. They did not go prepared to be
abandoned. They must be brought home.

Peter A. Grubb was promoted to the rank of Captain and William L. Nellans to
the rank of Major during the period they were maintained missing.




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On September 17, 1967, an RF-4C Phantom II (tail number 64-1037) carrying two crew members departed Tan Son Nhut airbase on a night photo reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. During the mission, the aircraft disappeared from friendly radar tracking. This did not cause alarm, as radar contact was often lost on low-level flights in the target area. When the aircraft failed to return to base, a search of its flight path was initiated; however, no sign of the aircraft or its crew could be located.

Captain William Lee Nellans, who joined the U.S. Air Force from Indiana, was a member of the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. He was the aircraft commander of this Phantom when it went missing, and he was lost with the aircraft. He remains unaccounted for. After the incident, the Air Force promoted Capt Nellans to the rank of Major (Maj). Today, Major Nellans is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.  

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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