STEPHENSON, HOWARD DAVID
group burial scheduled 2008
Group burial scheduled 06/17/2010 Arlington, 3 pm
|Name: Howard David Stephenson
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 06 October 1937
Home City of Record: Bolton MA
Date of Loss: 29 March 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163900N 1060600E (XD165414)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Barclay Young; Henry Brauner; James Caniford;
Curtis Miller; Robert Simmons; Edwin Pearce (all missing); Edward Smith;
Richard Halpin; Irving Ramsower; Richard Castillo; Charles Wanzel; Merlyn
Paulson; William Todd; (remains returned)
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.
REMARKS: NO PARA - NO RAD CNTCT - SAR NEGA
SYNOPSIS: On the night of March 29, 1972, an AC130A Hercules "Spectre"
gunship departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on a night reconnaissance mission
over supply routes used by North Vietnamese forces in Laos. The crew of the
aircraft consisted of pilots Maj. Irving B. Ramsower II and 1Lt. Charles J.
Wanzel III, the navigator, Maj. Henry P. Brauner, and crew members Maj.
Howard D. Stephenson, Capt. Curtis D. Miller, Capt. Barclay B. Young, Capt.
Richard Castillo, Capt. Richard C. Halpin, SSgt. Merlyn L. Paulson, SSgt.
Edwin J. Pearce, SSgt. Edward D. Smith Jr., SSgt. James K. Caniford; and
Airmen First Class William A. Todd and Robert E. Simmons.
As the aircraft was in the jungle foothills 56 miles east of Savannakhet in
southern Laos, it was shot down by a Russian Surface to Air Missile (SAM).
U.S. government sources stated in February 1986 that a fighter escort plane
reported that the aircraft crashed in a fireball, no parachutes were seen,
nor was radio contact made with the AC130 or any of its crew. In 1972,
however, the Pearce family was told that an F4 support plane traveling with
the AC130 heard "so many beepers they couldn't count them" and that the
emergency beeper type carried by the crew could only be activated manually.
The Pearce family took this as strong proof that a number of the crew
survived. The support aircraft plane left the area to refuel. When it
returned, there were no signs of life.
The inscribed wedding band of Curtis Miller was recovered by a reporter and
returned to Miller's family. The existence of the ring suggests to Miller's
mother that the plane did not burn, and gives her hope that he survived.
A May 1985 article appearing in a Thai newspaper stated that the bodies of
Simmons and Wanzel were among 5 bodies brought to the base camp of Lao
Liberation forces. The same article reported a group of 21 Americans still
alive, held prisoner at a camp in Khammouane Province, Laos. At about this
same time, Simmons' dog tag was mailed anonymously to the U.S. Embassy in
Laos. FBI tests failed to show fire residue on the tag, proving to the
Simmons family that Skeeter did not die in the explosion and go down in the
The U.S. and Laos excavated this aircraft's crash site in February 1986. The
teams recovered a limited number of human bone fragments, personal effects
and large pieces of plane wreckage. It was later announced by the U.S.
Government that the remains of Castillo, Halpin, Ramsower, Simmons, Todd,
Paulson, Pearce, Wanzel and Smith had been positively identified from these
In a previous excavation at Pakse, Laos in 1985, remains recovered were
positively identified as the 13 crew members, although independent examiners
later proved that only 2 of those identifications were scientifically
possible. The U.S. Government has acknowledged the errors made in
identification on two of the men, but these two individuals are still
considered "accounted for".
Because of the identification problems of the first excavation, the families
of the Savannakhet AC130 have carefully considered the information given
them about their loved ones. The families of Robert Simmons and Edwin Pearce
have actively resisted the U.S. Government's identification, which is in
both cases based on a single tooth. These families do not know if their men
are alive or dead, but will insist that the books are kept open until proof
dictates that there is no longer any hope for their survival.
In January 1991, a federal judge ruled that when the Simmons family
collected death benefits for Skeeter, they lost the right to question
whether he was dead. They have continued to fight a positive identification
based on a single tooth. The Assistant U.S. Attorney, William H. Pease,
added that the court has no jurisdiction over military identification of
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the Vietnam war, and many were
known to have survived their loss incident. However, the U.S. did not
negotiate with Laos for these men, and consequently, not one American held
in Laos has ever been released.
of C-130 Crew Missing From Vietnam War Recovered
Salem-News.Com - OR,USA
According to the POW Network, the aircraft crashed in the jungle foothills 56 miles east of
Savannakhet in southern Laos, it was shot down by a Russian ...