SMITH, WARREN PARKER JR.
Name: Warren Parker Smith, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 13 December 1929
Home City of Record: Pasadena TX
Date of Loss: 22 June 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 165700N 1055400E (WD983755)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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.
SYNOPSIS: All tactical strike aircraft operating in Southeast Asia had to be
under the control of a Forward Air Control (FAC), who was intimately
familiar with the locale, the populous, and the tactical situation. The FAC
would find the target, order up U.S. fighter/bombers from an airborne
command and control center or ground based station, mark the target
accurately with white phosphorus (Willy Pete) rockets, and control the
operation throughout the time the planes remained on station. After the
fighters had departed, the FAC stayed over the target to make a bomb damage
The FAC also had to ensure that there were no attacks on civilians, a
complex problem in a war where there were no front lines and any hamlet
could suddenly become part of the combat zone. A FAC needed a fighter
pilot's mentality, but but was obliged to fly slow and low in such unarmed
and vulnerable aircraft as the Cessna O1 Bird Dog, and the Cessna O2.
The O1 "Bird Dog" was used extensively in the early years of the war in
Vietnam by forward air controllers and provided low, close visual
reconnaissance and target marking which enabled armed aircraft or ground
troops to close in on a target. The Bird Dog was feared by the enemy,
because he knew that opening fire would expose his location and invite
attack by fighter planes controlled by the slowly circling Bird Dog. The
Vietnamese became bold, however, when they felt their position was
compromised and attacked the little Bird Dog with a vengeance in order to
lessen the accuracy of the impending air strike.
Capt. Warren P. Smith, Jr. was the pilot of an O1F "Bird Dog" on a forward
air control mission in Laos on June 22, 1966. During the mission, the
aircraft was shot down about five miles southeast of the city of Ban Muong
Sen in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Smith was listed Missing in Action.
A September 13, 1968, statement by Lao leader Soth Pethrasi may indicate
that Smith survived to be captured. This statement, monitored from Puerto
Corrected 07/16/2014 based on actual 1969 document:
A September 13, 1968, statement by Lao leader Soth Pethrasi COMMENTING ON
THE LIST PRESENTED BY THE RED CROSS WAS monitored from Puerto Rico AND
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.
Following the signing of the Paris Peace Agreements, 591 American prisoners
were released from North Vietnam. Warren Smith was not one of them. In fact,
not one of the nearly 600 who were lost in Laos was released. Many of them
survived their loss incident and some, like Smith sent emergency signals.
Some were in voice contact and some were even photographed in captivity.
Government officials later expressed their shock that "hundreds" more
Americans that were expected to be released were not. The U.S. Government
has been unable to secure the freedom of any more prisoners held in Vietnam,
even though over 10,000 reports have been received concerning Americans
still alive in Southeast Asia.