OLSON, GERALD EVERETT
Name: Gerald Everett Olson Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 4th Air Commando Squadron, Da Nang AB, South Vietnam Date of Birth: 29 January 1937 Home City of Record: Winter Haven FL Date of Loss: 13 March 1966 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 154000N 1073000E (YC550450) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 4 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47D Refno: 0271
Other Personnel in Incident: Dean A. Duvall; Howard W. Henninger; Edwin E. Morgan; Gene E. Davis; Robert E. Pasekoff; Marshall I. Pauley (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 01 January 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.
REMARKS: NO RAD CNTCT - SRCH NEG - J
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Howard W. Henninger was the pilot of an AC47D "Spooky" gunship. The Spooky had evolved from the famed "Puff the Magic Dragon" versions of the Douglas C47.
Puff introduced a new principle to air attack in Vietnam. Troubled by difficulties in conducting nighttime defense, Capt. Ronald Terry of the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division remembered reading about flying missionaries in Latin America who lowered baskets of supplies on a rope from a tightly circling airplane. Throughout the series of pylon turns, the basket remained suspended over a selected point on the ground. Could this principle be applied to fire from automatic weapons? Tests proved it could, and could be extremely successful.
Puff's "flare kicker" illuminated the target, then the pilot used a mark on the window to his left as a gun sight and circled slowly as three multibarrel 7-62mm machine guns fired 18,000 rounds per minute from the door and two windows in the port side of the passenger compartment. The aircraft was called "Puff" after a popular song of the day, and because it resembled a dragon overhead with flames billowing from its guns. Men on the ground welcomed the presence of Puff and the later Spooky version, which was essentially the same as the Puff, because of its ability to concentrate a heavy dose of defensive fire in a surgically determined area.
Capt. Henninger's Spooky was assigned a mission which took it over Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam on March 13, 1966. His crew that day included Capt. Gerald E. Olson, Capt. Robert E. Pasekoff, Sgt. Dean A. Duvall, SSgt. Gene E. Davis, SSgt. Marshall I. Pauley, and TSgt. Edwin E. Morgan. Duvall and Pauley were aerial gunners on the aircraft.
Shortly after takeoff from Da Nang, the aircraft was contacted by radio, and this was the last contact had with Capt. Henninger's aircraft. The area of loss is indicated as being about 10 miles from the border of Laos in Quang Nam Province. All crew members aboard were declared Missing in Action. There is no way to determine whether the enemy knows the fates of these men because the U.S. Air Force is unsure of its area of loss.
Da Nang Regional Intelligence received a rallier's report in 1969 which described a POW camp near Hue. The report included a very detailed description of the camp and two lists of Americans held there. The lists were compiled by the source viewing photographs of missing Americans, and were classified "possible" and "positive". The source selected Gerald E. Olson's photograph as possibly being a man held at the camp near Hue. This report was obtained from the U.S. government in the mid-1980's by an interested citizen through the Freedom of Information Act.
Although this report was later debunked by U.S. intelligence analysts, and not distributed to the families of the men named on the lists, at least one former POW who was held at this camp was shown the report and he confirmed some of the names on the list and verified the accuracy of the camp description.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. related to Americans still missing in Southeast Asia. Some are as detailed as the one received at Da Nang in 1969, and relate to many individuals. Although most have been proven accurate, the public attitude in the U.S. intelligence circles is that the reports are meaningless. Yet, many of these reports remain classified.
Was Gerald E. Olson captured? What of the rest of the crew members? While the Vietnamese may have the answers to these questions, we may never know the extent of the knowledge of our own government so long as information regarding these men is allowed to remain classified.
Tragically, many who have seen this classified information believe there are hundreds of Americans still alive in captivity. Any of the men aboard the Spooky lost on March 13, 1966 could be among them. It's time we brought our men home. It's time we knew the truth.
[Please see biography of Col. Julius Jayroe, USAF RET.]