STOWERS, AUBREY EUGENE JR.

Name: Aubrey Eugene Stowers, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Force
Unit: 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon AF TH
Date of Birth: 01 October 1941
Home City of Record: Sentinel OK
Loss Date: 21 March 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 164900N 1060500E (XD160590)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1100

Others in Incident: Peter D. Hesford (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 April 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.
NETWORK 2020.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: When the North Vietnamese intensified their attempt to take over
South Vietnam, and the war spread throughout that country, Vietnam's neutral
neighbor, Laos, became a place of sanctuary for the communists, as well as
an almost barrier-free route by which to transfer troops and supplies to the
South. American planes began to reconnoitre and bomb those sanctuaries and
routes used by the Vietnamese communists, the most notable of those routes
being the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

1Lt. Peter D. Hesford was the pilot of an F4D Phantom fighter jet, one of
the most sought after jobs for an Air Force pilot at that time. The Phantom
was used for reconnaissance and air combat missions. The D model of the
aircraft was equipped with high tech equipment allowing the use of Walleye
television-guided missiles and laser-guided bombs. Its central air data
computer automatically determined the weapon release point for all bombing
modes-dive or level, at night or in bad weather, as well as controlled
navigation.

On March 21, 1968, 1Lt. Hesford and his "guy in back", 1Lt. Aubrey E.
Stowers Jr., were called on to fly a combat mission in Laos. Their aircraft
was number two in a flight of two aircraft on the mission. Their aircraft
was struck by enemy fire and crashed on the side of a hill about 20 miles
southwest of the Ban Karai Pass in an area where many pilots went down and
radioed they had safely reached the ground. Although search and rescue teams
were highly successful, Hesford and Stowers were not rescued. No parachutes
had been seen, and no emergency radio beeper signals were detected. Still,
it was thought that Hesford and Stowers might have ejected safely. They were
classified Missing in Action, rather that reported killed.

Americans held prisoner in Laos were not included in the Paris Peace
Agreements which ended American involvement in Southeast Asia. Not one of
them was released in 1973 when 591 lucky Americans were returned home.
Although the Pathet Lao publicly stated that they held many prisoners, the
U.S. has never successfully negotiated their release.

There have been thousands of reports related to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia. Most of the which have been "resolved" or "correlated" have
proven true because they relate to men who have returned. Over 100 cases are
still under review, and in the words of a State Department official
testifying before Congress, "pass the closest scrutiny" the U.S. can give
them.

Whether Hesford and Stowers survived the crash of their aircraft is not
known. Tragically, the evidence indicates that many ARE, and as long as that
is the case, their families must continue to hope and wonder when they will
be brought home.


Peter D. Hesford graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1965. Both
Hesford and Stowers were promoted to the rank of Major during the period
they were maintained missing.

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02/2020

https://dpaa.secure.force.com/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt0000000BTKDEA4

MAJ AUBREY EUGENE STOWERS JR.

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On March 21, 1968, an F-4D Phantom II (serial number 66-8767) with the call sign "Gunfighter Four" departed Da Nang Airbase with one other aircraft for a strike mission over enemy targets in Laos. During the mission, the forward air control (FAC) plane set off flares and illuminated a convoy of trucks on a road below the aircraft. The FAC plane then made two passes at the trucks amid heavy enemy anti-aircraft fire. By this point, the FAC plane had run out of flares, but "Gunfighter Four" was still cleared to make a pass at the target. "Gunfighter Four" then declared it was "rolling in" over the radio but was not seen again. The FAC reported witnessing a large explosion over the target shortly after "Gunfighter Four" moved in, and no parachutes were observed exiting the aircraft. Neither of the two men aboard "Gunfighter Four" were seen again. 

First Lieutenant Aubrey Eugene Stowers Jr. entered the U.S. Air Force from Oklahoma and served in the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He was the pilot of "Gunfighter Four" at the time of its loss on March 21, 1968, and attempts to locate him or his remains following the incident were unsuccessful. Following his loss, the Air Force promoted 1st Lt Stowers to the rank of Major (Maj). Today, Major Stowers is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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