PIRRUCCELLO, JOSEPH SAMUEL
Name: Joseph Samuel Pirruccello
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 21 August 1941
Home City of Record: Peterson AFB OH
Date of Loss: 08 December 1969 - noted on alpaha/chrono lists with this
January 28, 2004
Thanks for your site and your work. My dad, Capt.
Joseph S. Pirruccello jr. died on December 8th 1968
not 1969 as you have listed. Thought you might want
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 203259N 1033857E (UH593727)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 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.
SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable,
propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or
utility aircraft. The E model generally carried two crewmen. The A1 was
first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air Command to equip the first
Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency operations in South Vietnam,
and later used in a variety of roles, ranging from multi-seat electronic
intelligence gathering to Navy antisubmarine warfare and rescue missions.
The general procedure for a rescue escort entailed two A1 aircraft flying
directly to the search area to look for sign of the downed crewmen while two
other A1s escorted the rescue helicopter to the area. If it was necessary,
the A1s would attack enemy in the area with bombs, rockets and cannon fire
so that the helicopter could land.
Capt. Joseph S. Pirruccello was a Spad pilot in Vietnam. On December 8,
1969, he was sent on a mission near Muong Song in Sam Neua Province, Laos.
During the flight, his A1E aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. It
was not believed at the time that Pirruccello survived. He was listed as
killed, body not recovered, but there was ample evidence that the enemy
could give more information as to his fate.
[NOTE: Although the A1E generally carried two crewmembers, Pirruccello is
the only man missing at this location on December 8. Possibly, if there was
a second crewman, he was rescued.)
Throughout the rest of the war, families of the men missing in Laos were
assured that "every effort" was being made to find them and return them
home. Unlike POWs in Vietnam, men whom the Pathet Lao held captive were not
allowed to write letters home. They were closely guarded and only a handful
were known to the U.S. by name.
Ironically, Sam Neua Province, where Pirruccello's aircraft went down, was
the location of a huge cave complex where many Americans were known to be
held, out of sight from aircraft searching overhead. The caves were huge,
and extensive. There was reportedly even a bakery exclusively for Americans
to relieve them of a constant rice diet.
When the war ended, and 591 Americans were released from Hanoi in 1973,
military officials were dismayed that hundreds known or suspected to be held
prisoner were not released. There were nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos,
but not one Americans held by the Lao was released at the end of the war or
since that time.
Since the war ended in Vietnam, refugees have flooded the world, bringing
with them stories of American soldiers still held prisoner in their
homeland. Many authorities now believe that hundreds were left behind as
All information seems to indicate that Pirruccello died when his Spad
crashed on December 8, 1969. For his family, life can go on. His family has
accepted that he is dead. They no longer expect him to come home someday.
But hundreds of families wait expectantly and in the special agony only
uncertainty can bring. Hundreds of men wait in caves, cages and prisons. How
much longer will we allow the abandonment of our best men? It's time we
brought them home.
Joseph S. Pirruccello graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1963.