Remains returned 06/20/95, ID 04/28/03
Name: Harding Eugene Smith, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force
Unit: 4th Air Commando Squadron, Ubon AF TH
Date of Birth: 11 March 1918
Home City of Record: Los Gatos CA
Date of Loss: 03 June 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 170400N 1055900E (XD054858)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: AC47
Refno: 0354
Other Personnel in Incident: Russell D. Martin; Harold E. Mullins; Luther L.
Rose; Theodore E. Kryszak; Ervin Warren (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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 11/2004.2014.
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Theodore E. Kryszak was the pilot of an AC47 gunship
assigned to the 4th Air Commando Squadron at Ubon Airfield, Thailand. The
aircraft, dubbed "Puff the Magic Dragon" had evolved from earlier versions
of the Douglas C47.
Puff introduced a new principle to air attack in Vietnam. Troubled by
difficulties in conducting nighttime defense, Capt. Ronald Terry of the U.S.
Air Force Aeronautical Systems Division remembered reading about flying
missionaries in Latin America who lowered baskets of supplies on a rope from
a tightly circling airplane. Throughout the series of pylon turns, the
basket remained suspended over a selected point on the ground. Could this
principle be applied to fire from automatic weapons? Tests proved it could,
and could be extremely successful.
Puff's "flare kicker" illuminated the target, then the pilot used a mark on
the window to his left as a gun sight and circled slowly as three
multibarrel 7-62mm machine guns fired 18,000 rounds per minute from the door
and two windows in the port side of the passenger compartment. The aircraft
was called "Puff" after a popular song of the day, and because it resembled
a dragon overhead with flames billowing from its guns. Men on the ground
welcomed the presence of Puff and the later Spooky version, which was
essentially the same as the Puff, because of its ability to concentrate a
heavy dose of defensive fire in a surgically determined area.
Capt. Kryszak's Puff was assigned a mission which took it over Khammouane
Province, Laos on June 3, 1966. His crew that day included 1Lt. Russell D.
Martin; Col. Harding E. Smith; TSgt. Harold E. Mullins; TSgt. Luther L.
Rose; and SSgt. Ervin Warren. On such a crew, it was common for the officers
to be the flight crew, while the sergeants acted as aerial gunners. On this
crew, Mullins was the flight engineer.
At a point about 10 miles east of Ban Pha Philang near the borders of
Savannakhet and Khammouane Provinces, Capt. Kryszak's aircraft was shot
down. The Puff was seen to crash by another aircraft in the area. No
parachutes were seen and no emergency radio beeper signals were heard, yet
at least one of the men onboard the aircraft was known to have survived.
(Col. Harding E. Smith, according to a list compiled by the National League
of Families of POW/MIA in Southeast Asia survived this incident.)
The belief that Smith survived the crash may have been prompted by a 
statement by Soth Pethrasi on September 13, 1968.
Corrected 07/16/2014 based on actual 1969 document:
A September 13, 1968, statement by Lao leader Soth Pethrasi COMMENTING ON 
mentioned "Smith, Christiano, Jeffords, and Mauterer" as being part of
"several dozen captured American airmen" whom the Pathet Lao were "treating
correctly and who [were] still in Laos." There are only three Smiths listed
missing in Laos prior to September 13, 1968. These are Harding E. Smith,
Jr., Lewis P. Smith and Warren P. Smith.
According to the Air Force, subsequent searches for the aircraft revealed
the wreckage of the aircraft, but the crew could not be located. All
personnel aboard were declared Missing in Action.
The crew of the Puff lost on June 3, 1966 are among nearly 600 Americans
lost in Laos during the Vietnam War. Even though the Pathet Lao stated
publicly that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one
American held in Laos was ever released -- or negotiated for.
Since American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia ended, nearly 10,000
reports have been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans
missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities have reluctantly concluded that
there are hundreds left alive in captivity today.
When the United States left Southeast Asia, what was termed "peace with
honor" was in reality an abandonment -- of the freedom-loving peoples of
Vietnam and Laos, and of America's best men. It's time we brought our men
                                                [ssrep7.txt 02/09/93]
                   SMITH 324 COMPELLING CASES
Laos                   Theodore E. Kryszak
                        Russell D. Martin
                        Harding E. Smith
                        Harold E. Mullins
                          Ervin Warren
                         Luther L. Rose
On June 19, 1968, an AC-47 aircraft departed Ubon Air Base,
Thailand, on an armed reconnaissance mission over South Laos.  At
2125 hours the crew reported their aircraft was on fire and a fire
could be seen in the right wing root.  Fire soon engulfed the
entire right side of the aircraft and burning pieces began to fall
away from it.  The order was given to bail out and that was the
last transmission from the aircraft's crew.
The aircraft, still on fire, continued in a straight level flight
for approximately 5-10 seconds before turning nose over and
crashing in a high angle dive, impacting 30 miles northeast of
Tchepone.  There was no hostile ground fire observed at the time. 
There were no parachutes observed and no emergency beepers.  An
airborne search and rescue force located the tail assembly of the
aircraft but no evidence of the crew or that any survived.  The
crew was declared missing in action.
On September 13, 1968, the Pathet Lao news service reporting that
Harding Eugene Smith was shot down on June 3, 1968 when his
aircraft was bombing a Pathet Lao controller area of Laos.
The crew was not accounted for by the Pathet Lao during Operation
Homecoming and returning U.S. POWs has no knowledge of their
eventual fate.  The crew members were declared dead/body not
recovered, based on a presumptive finding of death on separate
dates between June 1974 and January 1979.
Associated Press Newswires
Sunday, November 7, 2004
Son finally able to bury father shot down in Vietnam war
ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) - Harding E. Smith's son had to wait almost 40 years to
give the former Air Force lieutenant colonel a proper burial. The former Los
Gatos resident had been missing and presumed killed in action after his
AC-47 gunship was shot down over Laos in 1966. The crew's remains were
discovered a decade ago, but his were positively identified only recently......