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
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 2020.
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
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.]