POLSTER, HARMON Name: Harmon Polster Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron Date of Birth: 14 November 1943 Home City of Record: Cleveland OH Date of Loss: 15 July 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 152500N 1072100E (YC633018) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1467 Other Personnel in Incident: Michael S. Walker (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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 1998. REMARKS: 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. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. 1Lt. Harmon Polster was a pilot and Capt. Michael S. Walker the bombardier/navigator of an F4E attached to the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat Airbase in South Vietnam. On July 15, 1969, the two were assigned a night operational mission which took them over Chavane Province, Laos. When the aircraft was about 15 miles northeast of the city of Chavane, Polster failed to make contact with his wingman after making the first pass over the target. A fire on the ground was observed and presumed to be Polster's aircraft. No voice contact was received and no parachutes had been seen. There was the chance the two ejected unseen, and they were classified Missing in Action. Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the Vietnam war. Although the numbers actually termed "prisoner of war" are quite low, this can be explained by the blanket of security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the ruse that we "were not in Laos," details of many loss incidents were "rearranged" to show a loss or casualty in South Vietnam. Only a handful of publicly-exposed cases were ever acknowledged POW, even though scores of pilots and ground personnel were known to have been alive and well at last contact, thus increasing the chance they were captured alive. The Lao communist faction, the Pathet Lao, stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but the Pathet Lao were not included in the Paris Peace agreements ending American involvement in the war. As a consequence, no American POWs held in Laos were negotiated for. Not one American held in Laos has ever been released. They were abandoned to the enemy. Reports continue to be received that Americans are alive today, being held captive. Whether Walker and Polster are among them is not known. What is certain, however, is that they deserve than the abandonment they received by the country they proudly served. Harmon Polster was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was maintained missing.