The symbol on the Wall next to Wayne's name was changed from a cross (MIA)
to a Star (KIA) April 30, 1994. Remains were identified 02 JULY 1993.
Name: Wayne Edward Pearson
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 04 November 1939
Home City of Record: Western Springs IL
Date of Loss: 22 February 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 192200N 1031100E (UG982422)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1391
Other Personnel in Incident: (see text)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 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. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2007.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
planes around.
Capt. Wayne E. Pearson was a pilot assigned to an F4D. U.S. Government raw
data codes him as a "back-seater" responsible for such things as operation
of the weapons systems, navigation, and other highly technical equipment
used aboard the aircraft. On February 22, 1969, Pearson was on an
operational mission over the Plain of Jars in Xiangkhoang Province, Laos.
At a point about 10 miles southeast of the city of Ban Na Mai, Pearson's
aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. While public military record
does not indicate the name of Pearson's pilot, the following account was
found in Christopher Robbin's "The Ravens" which may correlate to Pearson's
incident if he was incorrectly coded as a backseater. If the account does
not correlate to Pearson, it does give one an excellent idea of the
mechanics involved in the crash of a Phantom and subsequent rescue efforts:
In early 1969, a set of Phantom F4s arrived on station on the rim of the
Plain of Jars in Laos--a location where U.S. fighter/bombers flew attack
missions as a daily routine. They arrived to hit a target marked by a Raven
FAC (Forward Air Control) aircraft.
FAC in Laos was conducted by RAVENS, who were volunteers clandestinely
stationed in Laos to support anti-communist efforts in that country. These
unconventional pilots were among the best the Air Force had to offer, and
saw more combat flying during a tour than any other single group. FACs had
to be intimately familiar with the terrain and populous of their regions,
and have an excellent handle on enemy activity as well.
"The Raven watched the first fighter enter its run and saw the bombs drop,
but just as the Phantom was beginning to pull off it started to come apart.
It was incomprehensible. There had been no ground fire, or even reports of
antiaircraft guns capable of taking a jet out of the sky at 3,500 feet, but
the plane had turned into a ball of smoke.
"...Mike Heenan, the co-pilot, got on the stick the moment he sensed
something was wrong. He heard the pilot grunt, as if he were also fighting
to get the aircraft under control. They were diving fast, but an aerodynamic
nose rise made it seem as if the plane might be recovering. Not until they
were very low did it become apparent that the F04 was going to dive straight
into the ground.
"[The pilot cried for Heenan to eject and] the split second between
hearing his colleague call to him and being blown out of the plane, Heenan
accepted his death. 'I knew I was going to die...' ...Heenan blacked out on
ejection, and when he came around he was hanging from his parachute, which
had caught on a tree. He had smashed through its branches and slammed into
the trunk and was bleeding profusely. As small, sharp branch stuck through
one of his hands like a dagger, and his helmet had been ripped off, laying
bare a part of his skull, but he felt no pain. ...'I could not believe I was
"...[Heenan] fired his flares and began to shout for help into the hand-held
survival radio. [A FAC] came up on the radio and told him to keep calm--and
to get to the ground. Heenan unbuckled himself from the parachute and
allowed himself to fall, hitting the ground hard...and spraining his
Heenan spent the next 45 minutes in relative quiet, but then the North
Vietnamese spotted his parachute and shots began to be fired. The Raven FAC,
according to procedure, was forced to wait to rescue the downed airman, even
though helicopters were on the ready, until aircraft could arrive from
Thailand to suppress enemy fire and action surrounding the downed man.
The fighters arrived, but the enemy had been closing in. Had the Raven FAC
been unencumbered by regulations, Heenan might have already been rescued.
The best he could do was try to direct Heenan to a safer pick-up zone. By
the time Heenan had been on the ground nearly two hours, he was bleeding
continuously and feeling very weak. Still, enemy action had prevented his
rescue. The operation was not going smoothly, and the Raven FAC resumed
command of the operation and led a Jolly Green to the ground to pick Heenan
Ravens were known to be unconventional, and had this Raven not been so,
Heenan would not have survived. As Heenan was being hoisted in the waiting
Jolly Green, the airman clasping him tight was aiming an M-16 at the enemy
who had come running from the cover of nearby bushes. The other member of
Heenan's flight team apparently was never rescued.
Pearson is one of nearly 600 Americans who remain Missing, Prisoner, or
otherwise unaccounted for in Laos. Because the war in Laos was secret, the
fates of Americans lost there are difficult to determine. Many who were
known to have been alive when last seen simply disappeared. A handful who
were confirmed prisoners were never returned, although reports continue to
be received on some of them to this day.
The Pathet Lao stated publicly during the war that they held "tens of tens"
of American prisoners, yet the U.S. did not negotiate for their freedom in
the peace agreements that ended U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. There
has been no treaty to date that would bring these men to freedom.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities
have reluctantly concluded that there are hundreds of them who remain alive
today, held captive by a long-ago enemy.
Whether Wayne E. Pearson is among those thought to be still alive is not
known. What is clear, however, is that we owe these men our very best
efforts to bring them home. What must they be thinking of the country they
proudly served?
To: <>
Subject: re PEARSON, WAYNE EDWARD bio P026
Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007 22:53:08 -0800
I ran across Capt. Pearson's bio on your web site.  As to the confusion
regarding his role in the F4, I'm confident that Capt. Pearson was the
pilot.  The "co-pilot" mentioned, Capt. Michael E. Heenan, was his WSO, or
"backseater" in the Phantom.  Capt. Heenan was later assigned to the 58th
TFTW @ Luke AFB, AZ and related the story some of us who worked for him in
the base information office.  Interestingly enough, during his rescue the
"Jolly Green" who picked him up happened to have a motion picture photog
riding along, so he had a film that he showed us of his rescue.
San Diego, CA.