Name: George Nau Rank/Branch: Civilian Unit: Flying Tigers Airline, Los Angeles, CA Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Pacoima CA Date of Loss: 16 March 1962 Country of Loss: South Pacific Loss Coordinates: (none) Status (in 1973): (none) Category: (none) Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Lockheed Super Constellation Refno: ---
Other Personnel in Incident: Civilian air crew; 93 U.S. Army personnel; 3 ARVN Rangers (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 2003.
Additional details and crew/passenger list: http://www.geocities.com/nau6/contents.html
SYNOPSIS: U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia was still very limited in 1962. Many Americans were unaware of hostilities there, but already nearly two dozen Americans had been captured or reported missing. The U.S. supplied military advisors to both the Royal Lao and the South Vietnamese in efforts to help them fight the insurgent communist North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao guerrillas, and maintained limited military personnel in Saigon.
On March 16, 1972, a Lockheed Super Constellation owned by the Flying Tigers line at Los Angeles International Airport, disappeared between Guam and the Philippines in the South Pacific.
The Flying Tigers contracted with the military to transport troops and supplies to Saigon, and this flight had been a transport of U.S. Army personnel. Besides the flight crew, there were 93 Americans onboard from the U.S. Army and three Rangers from the Army of the Republic of Vietnam.
Crew members on a Standard Oil of California supertanker saw a flash in the sky roughly the same time and place the Constellation disappeared. The Civil Aeronautics Board thus believed the aircraft was destroyed in flight.
Others view the accident differently. John Dewey, then the Flying Tigers' lead investigator on the aircraft's disappearance and quality control director, said that the Constellation had an excellent safety record, and the only cargo listed on the manifest was passenger luggage. A security check had been conducted during passenger loading. Additionally, the flight was made early in the war, before American aircraft came under attack.
John Dewey was also concerned that there was not a scrap of aircraft wreckage to be found. The aircraft had floating seat cushions, 150 life jackets, eleven life rafts (four of which were loaded into the wings to inflate automatically). Surely all this could not have been completely destroyed.
Subsequently, the 144,000-square-mile search included the island of Mindanao, where ocean currents seemed to deposit much flotsam. No trace of the aircraft was found.
Hijacking and covert activity were not ruled out. During a stop on Guam, the aircraft had been left unattended in an accessible, dimly lighted area of the airfield. Dewey reported that there was even some speculation that the aircraft had been hijacked to China. Dewey further asserts that he would know if the airline had been involved in covert activity, and he ruled out this possibility as highly improbable.
Despite extensive searches, no trace of the aircraft or its crew and passengers were ever found. All aboard were simply missing -- not casualties of war, but merely missing. Even the ARVN who were returning to their own war.
One crewman aboard the aircraft, the flight engineer, was George Nau. Nau worked for the Flying Tigers to support his wife and four small children. The frustration and difficulty of her husband's disappearance proved to be too much for Nau's wife, who was committed to a California mental institution. The four children were parceled out to foster homes, where they grew up more or less painfully, haunted by their young, blond and rakishly handsome father's disappearance and their mother's illness.
In the late-sixties, Catherine Nau Ortiz, nine years old when her father disappeared, found a POW/MIA advocacy group called VIVA who distributed bracelets with the names of prisoners of war and missing in action. VIVA refused to make a bracelet for George Nau. He was not part of the war; he was not on official government lists.
The Nau children have never stopped looking for answers. Once, a long-lost cousin who supposedly researched military records, called to say she had found evidence that George Nau was still alive. But after this one mysterious phone call, no one in the family has heard from the cousin again.
There are, in the spring of 1990, 2403 Americans still officially unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Plus George Nau. Plus his air crew. Plus 93 U.S. Army personnel lost on his aircraft. Plus how many others whose names remain unknown because they were outside the official "war zone?"
In the late 1980's a group of names were added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial who had been killed outside the combat zone of Vietnam. But few remember men like George Nau. If, by some remote chance, this aircraft was hijacked to China, no one will be looking for him. He's not even official.