ROTH, BILLIE LEROY "SAM"
Name: Billie Leroy "Sam" Roth
Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force
Unit: 37th Consolodated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Date of Birth: 22 June 1934
Home City of Record: Lacon IL
Date of Loss: 27 June 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Status (in 1973): Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered
Loss Coordinates noted by the USG at time of loss: 101307N 1064405E (XT990095)
Loss Coordinates suspected by JTF-FA in 1998: 48P YT 02830 04566, near the
village of Xom Long Dinh
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: C123 [vehicle number not listed in USG downed aircraft
Other Personnel In Incident: Carl E. Jackson, missing, 14 Chinese
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 with material provided by
Alan Jackson, Carl Jackson's son, in 1998. 2020
REMARKS: MID-AIR EXPLODE NE SAIGON-J [Jackson family conversations with
former CIA personnel contradict this USG statement]
SYNOPSIS: The Fairchild C123 "Provider" was a night attack system/transport
aircraft based on an all-metal glider designed by Chase Aircraft. The
airplane's C123B prototype first flew on September 1, 1954. The C123B, in
the hands of a group of airmen who called themselves "The Mule Train" became
the first transport to see Vietnam service. The C123B transports were soon
joined by UC123Bs of the now-controversial Project Ranch Hand which sprayed
pesticides and herbicides over Vietnam, including Agent Orange.
The Provider, particularly in camouflage paint with mottled topside and
light bottomside, resembled an arched-back whale suspended from the bottom
midpoint of huge dorsal wings. Like other transports, the Provider proved
its versatility during the Vietnam war. The C123 also dispensed flares to
illuminate targets for fighters or tactical bombers, and were dubbed
"Candlestick" when they served in this capacity.
The MACV-SOG personnel in this incident were commanded directly out of the
Pentagon by JCS. One was not just assigned to this detachment, but rather
interviewed for it at the Pentagon, so the work was extraordinary even
applying Air Commando standards.
The aircraft had no standard markings on it, but were painted with a unique
camo pattern of low-reflectivity black, green and brown paint. The aircraft
was rigged with pylons on it. Runways were often replaced by landing on very
wide roads. The 1131st flew only at night. They operated in a shroud of
secrecy, no reports, no tail numbers due to MACV-SOG. All aircraft were
sanitized as well as the nationality and individuality of those on board.
The idea was "just make it happen."
Capt. Carl E. Jackson enlisted in the Air Force in 1957 for two years. He
re-enlisted in the Air Force Reserve, active duty in 1960. He was one of
the elite chosen to work with MACV-SOG (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam
Studies and Observation Group). MACV-SOG was a joint service high command
unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations
throughout Southeast Asia.
Capt. Jackson flew the C123 Provider in Vietnam. SSgt. Billie L. "Sam" Roth
was on stand-by as a C123 cargo master, the night he was assigned to fly
with Jackson. Jackson, Roth, and 14 "Chinese Nationalists" were on board the
night the flight was reported downed. The co-pilot as well was Chinese. DoD
de-classified this information in the mid '90s.
The family of Captain Jackson was told that on Sunday evening, word had it
that Nha Trang was about to be under rocket and mortor attack. Jackson and
his commanding officer headed for the jeep. Jackson dropped off his C/O at
one aircraft and drove to his own. Apparently, the destination was Ton Son
Nhut air base.
June 27, 1965, while on final approach, Jackson's C123 started receiving
ground-fire and subsequently crashed. Rescue crews arrived at the scene and
found that there were no survivors. The FBI was brought in to fingerprint
all on board however, and none of the bodies could be identified as Capt.
Carl E. Jackson, USAF.
Throughout the years, the U.S. government has still not positively located
his crash site. There have been at least two sites that correlated with his
flight. Further investigation of both sites proved negative results. It has
been rumored that his aircraft was flying somewhere near North Vietnam and
that his C123 did take ground fire and crash. No one knew for sure whether
or not anyone survived. The aircraft supposedly crashed north of "Thud
Over the years, the Jackson family and the Roth family have personally
met to discuss the events. They have shared personal information with each
other as well. They still await answers to the mystery that changed their
lives the night of June 27, 1965.