OWENS, JOY LEONARD
Name: Joy Leonard Owens
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: Udorn, Thailand
Date of Birth: 06 July 1929 (WI)
Home City of Record: Seattle WA
Date of Loss: 07 June 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 192000N 1033300E (YG479381)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Harold R. Sale (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.
REMARKS: RADIO CONTACT LOST
SYNOPSIS: In violation of, yet somewhat protected by, the neutrality of Laos
accorded at Geneva in a 14-nation protocol conference July 23, 1962, the
North Vietnamese and supporting communist insurgent group, the Pathet Lao,
lost no time in building strategic strongholds of defense in Northern Laos
and establishing a steady flow of manpower and material to their
revolutionary forces in South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh Trail on the
eastern border of the Laotian panhandle.
As a result, the Royal Lao sought help from the U.S. in stopping both
initiatives. It was strategically important to do so, although every
initiative had to be cleared through the U.S. Ambassador at Vientiane, so
that the delicate balance of "look-the-other-way-neutrality" engaged in by
the nations involved (including China) could be preserved.
Defense of non-communist activity in Laos generally fell into three
categories: 1) U.S. Army and CIA's bolstering of the Meo (Hmong) army led by
General Vang Pao; 2) Strategic U.S. Air Force bombing initiatives on the Ho
Chi Minh Trail (Operations Commando Hunt, Steel Tiger, etc.); 3) U.S. Air
Force bombing initiatives in northern Laos (Operation Barrel Roll, etc.)
both against communist strongholds there (i.e. the Plain of Jars region),
and in support of the Royal Lao and Gen. Vang Pao's army.
On June 7, 1967, Maj. Joy L. Owens was the pilot of an F4 Phantom
fighter/bomber assigned a reconnaissance mission over the Plain of Jars
region of Laos. His bombardier/navigator on the mission was 1Lt. Harold R.
Sale, Jr. When the aircraft was about 10 miles east of the city of
Xiangkhoang, it was shot down. Radio contact was lost with the aircraft, and
Owens and Sale were not heard from again.
In the early 1970's the Pathet Lao stated on a number of occasions that they
held "tens of tens" of American prisoners and that those captured in Laos
would also be released from Laos. Unfortunately, that release never
occurred, because the U.S. did not include Laos in the negotiations which
brought American involvement in the war to an end. The country of Laos was
bombed by U.S. forces for several months following the Peace Accords in
January 1973, and Laos steadfastly refused to talk about releasing our POWs
until we discontinued bombing in their country.
Consequently, no American held in Laos was ever returned. By 1989, these
"tens of tens" apparently have been forgotten. The U.S. has negotiated with
the same government entity which declared it held American POWs and has
agreed to build clinics and help improve relations with Laos. If, as
thousands of reports indicate, Americans are still alive in Indochina as
captives, then the U.S. is collaborating in signing their death warrants.
Joy L. Owens was born in Wisconsin and moved to Seattle at age 13. There, he
graduated high school in 1947 and worked three years before enrolling in Air
Force Officers Training School in San Angelo, Texas. He was commissioned
Second Lieutenant in 1951 and went on to bomber training in Texas. He was
assigned to Okinawa, where he flew B-29s for several months over Korea.
Owens was then stationed at Walker AFB, New Mexico. In 1962, he served three
years in England, returning to finish university education at Oklahoma State
University. He was stationed at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho before being sent
to Udorn, Thailand in 1967. He was on his 34th reconnaissance mission when
he was shot down. Owens was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the
period he was Missing in Action.
Harold R. Sale, Jr. was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he
was maintained Missing in Action.