Name: George Nau
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)
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Lockheed Super Constellation
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.
Additional details and crew/passenger list:
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
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
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.