PHELPS, WILLIAM Name: William Phelps Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang AB, South Vietnam Date of Birth: 27 December 1947 Home City of Record: Cortland NY Date of Loss: 23 November 1971 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 153500N 1065300E (YC058250) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 3 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E Refno: 1779 Other Personnel in Incident: Robert W. Altus (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 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 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. 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. Robert W. Altus was the pilot and 1Lt. William Phelps his weapons/systems operator which departed Da Nang Airbase as part of a multi-aircraft flight on an operational mission over Laos on November 23, 1971. When the flight was about 20 miles northwest of Chavane in Saravane Province, Laos, a large explosion on the ground was seen by flight members. Efforts to raise Altus and Phelps by radio failed. No parachutes were seen, and no emergency radio beeper signals heard. Both Althus and Phelps were classified Missing in Action. Altus and Phelps are among nearly 600 Americans lost in the "secret war" in Laos. During the war, the communist 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 agreed to build medical clinics and help improve relations with the communist government of Laos, yet has yet to negotiate for the living American POWs the communist government admitted holding. If, as intelligence seems to indicate, there are hundreds of Americans still alive in Indochina as captives, then the U.S. is collaborating in signing their death warrants. Altus and Phelps could be among those said to be still alive. If so, what must they think of us?