REILLY, LAVERN GEORGE Remains Returned 12/13/99 (SEE BELOW)
Name: Lavern George Reilly Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 4th Air Commando Squadron, DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam Date of Birth: 05 December 1926 Home City of Record: St. Paul MN Date of Loss: 15 May 1966 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 165800N 1060400E Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47 Refno: 0339
Source: Compiled 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 in 1998.
Other Personnel In Incident: William L. Madison; Kenneth D. McKenney; James A. Preston; George W. Jensen; Marshall L. Tapp; George W. Thompson; James E. Williams (all missing)
REMARKS: NO RAD CNTCT - POS DED FBIS - J
SYNOPSIS: Maj. George W. Jensen was the pilot of an AC47 aircraft which departed Ubon Air Base, Thailand on an armed visual reconnaissance mission over Laos on May 15, 1966. His crew that day consisted of Maj. Lavern G. Reilly, spare pilot; Capt. Marshall L. Tapp, co-pilot; 1Lt. George W. Thompson, navigator; SSgt. James A. Preston, load master; Sgt. James E. Williams, flight engineer; Airman 1st Class Kenneth D. McKenney and Sgt. William L. Madison, gunners.
At 1745 hours, Jensen radioed his position, and again at 2100 hours, Jensen radioed situation normal, with no position given, nor was the target area specified. The aircraft's last location was over the Laotian panhandle about 15 miles due east of the city of Ban Muong Sen in Savannakhet Province.
When the aircraft failed to return to the base as scheduled, an aerial search was conducted during the daylight hours of May 16, with negative results. The aircraft was not found, and no evidence of the crew surfaced.
The crew of the AC47 is among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos during the war with Vietnam. Although the numbers of men actually termed "prisoner of war" are quite low, this can be explained in understanding the blanket of security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the public perception 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. As thousands of reports continue to flow in regarding Americans still captive in Southeast Asia, the fates of the crew of the AC47 become more intriguing. It is entirely possible, with no evidence to the contrary, that they survived to be captured. Whether they survived or not, they were abandoned to the enemy.
------------------------------ No. 190-M MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS December 13, 1999
The remains of eleven American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tim L. Walters, South Bend, Ind.; U.S. Army 1st Lt. James R. McQuade, Hoquiam, Wash.; U.S. Army Spc. James E. Hackett, Bradenton, Fla.; U.S. Air Force Col. George W. Jensen, Seattle, Wash.; U.S. Air Force Col. Marshall L. Tapp, Los Angeles, Calif.; U.S. Air Force Col. Lavern G. Reilly, St. Paul, Minn.; U.S. Air Force Maj. George W. Thompson, Beckley, W.Va.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James A. Preston, Bowden, Ga.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James E. Williams, Oxford, Miss.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William L. Madison, Lexington, Ky.; and U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth D. McKenney, Auburn, Mass.
On March 9, 1969, Walters was aboard a 0-2A Super Skymaster flying a forward air control mission over Laos. The aircraft crashed, due to an unknown cause. Other aircrews in the area reported seeing the aircraft shortly after impact. A ground party went to the site shortly after the crash and determined that both crewmembers were dead, but they could not recover the remains due to heavy enemy activity in the area.
Joint U.S.-Lao investigators visited several alleged crash sites in 1993, 1994 and 1998, and an excavation was conducted in January, February and March 1999, where a team recovered human remains, personal effects and crew-related items.
Hackett and McQuade were attempting to rescue the crew of a downed aircraft when their own OH-6A helicopter exploded in mid-air over South Vietnam on June 11, 1972. In 1993 and 1994, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams conducted investigations and an excavation where they recovered numerous human remains, pilot-related gear and personal effects.
On May 15, 1966, Jensen was piloting an AC-47D gunship on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. Also aboard the aircraft were Tapp, Thompson, Preston, Madison, McKenney, Williams, and Reilly. That evening, Jensen radioed to his airborne control aircraft that everything was normal on the mission, but the aircraft never returned to its home base. Joint U.S.-Lao investigative teams visited several sites in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1997 and conducted excavations where they recovered human remains an d crew-related items.
With the accounting of these servicemen, 2,032 are missing in action from the Vietnam War. Another 551 have been identified and returned to their families since the end of the war. Analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii confirmed the identification of these servicemen.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority.
------------------------------ December 15, 1999
Bittersweet news from military about loved one lost over Laos
Sharon Schmickle and Bill McAuliffe / Star Tribune
For 33 years, the Minnesota relatives of Air Force Col. Lavern G. Reilly have hoped -- first for good news, and later for at least closure -- after the St. Paul man's gunship crashed during a mission over Laos in 1966.....
========================= Associated Press Newswires Monday, May 15, 2000
34-year wait for missing husband ends for Panhandle woman
DESTIN, Fla. (AP) - Jeanne Riley waited 34 years for her Air Force husband to return after his plane went down over Laos only three weeks after he had gone off to the war in Vietnam......
==================== WCCO.COM Channel 4000
FAMILY QUESTIONS ID OF VET'S REMAINS Former St. Paul Resident Went Down in 1966
ST. PAUL, Updated 12:5 a.m CST December 16, 1999
The family of a St. Paul man killed in Vietnam questions the Pentagon's identification of his remains.
Col. Lavern G. Reilly, a former St. Paul resident, was 39 when the Ac-47 gunship he was aboard went down on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos in 1966.....