TATUM, LAWRENCE BYRON
Name: Lawrence Byron Tatum
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 1st Air Commando Squadron
Date of Birth: 29 April 1930
Home City of Record: Chatanooga TN
Date of Loss: 10 September 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165800N 1065000E (XD952766)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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.
SYNOPSIS: Lawrence B. Tatum graduated from the United States Military
Academy (later Westpoint) in 1953. Following his graduation, he received his
Ph.D. at Syracuse University. By 1962, Tatum was a Captain in the U.S. Air
Force and an instructor of Political Science at the United States Air Force
1966 found Tatum assigned to the 1st Air Commando Squadron in Vietnam. He
had been promoted to the rank of Major, and was pilot of a Douglas A1E
Skyraider ("Spad"). The Spad, a highly maneuverable, propeller driven
aircraft, was designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or utility aircraft.
The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air Command to equip
the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency operations in
South Vietnam, The E model generally carried two crewmen.
On September 10, 1966, Tatum was on a strafing mission just north of the
Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) when his aircraft was struck by hostile fire. Tatum
was seen to bail out and his descent was followed to the ground where he
landed in a tree. People were seen in the area and shortly thereafter, Tatum
and his parachute disappeared. Intense ground fire prevented search and
rescue. No mention of a second crewman is given in Air Force accounts of
Tatum was classified Missing in Action since there was the clear possibility
that he had been captured. However, when 591 Americans were released from
Vietnam in 1973, he was not among them. Over the years, Tatum was
procedurally promoted until his current rank of Colonel. Ten years after he
was shot down, Tatum was declared dead, based on the lack of definitive
proof that he was still alive.
When the last American troops left Southeast Asia in 1975, some 2500
Americans were unaccounted for. Reports received by the U.S. Government
since that time build a strong case for belief that hundreds of these
"unaccounted for" Americans are still alive and in captivity.
"Unaccounted for" is a term that should apply to numbers, not men. We, as a
nation, owe these men our best effort to find them and bring them home.
Until the fates of men like Tatum are known, their families will wonder if
they are dead or alive - and why they were deserted.
SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAME: TATUM, Lawrence B., Major, USAF
OFFICIAL STATUS: MISSING
CASE SUMMARY: SEE ATTACHED
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: Major Tatum successfully ejected from his aircraft
and was observed to land in some trees. His radio beeper signal was heard
after his landing, and his parachute was pulled out of the trees, leading
witnesses to believe he may have been captured. There are no reports of his
REFNO: 0453 19 Apr 76
(U) CASE SUMMARY
1. On 16 September 1966 Maj. Lawrence B. Tatum was the pilot of the lead
AlE aircraft, (#52-132675, call sign HOBO 27), in a flight of two on a
combat mission over North Vietnam. Maj. Tatum made two rocket attacks
against his target, but on the third pass his aircraft was hit,, causing a
fire at the aircraft centerline. The Forward Air Controller (FAC) of the
mission radioed Maj. Tatum of the fire and advised him to jettison his
belly fuel tank. After the tank was dropped, the fire went out briefly, but
then reignited. The FAC then saw Maj. Tatum eject from the burning aircraft
and descend with a good parachute to land in a wooded area in the vicinity
of grid coordinates XD 961 776, about five meters from a trail, The wingman
of the flight did not see any of this sequence of events but did report
having heard a beeper signal about two minutes after Maj. Tatum, reportedly
was on the ground. The FAC reported that he could not see Maj. Tatum on the
ground, but could see his parachute in the trees. He reported that there
were many people in the area and that intense ground fire was encountered.
A few minutes later the parachute was pulled down from the trees. The FAC
stated that he attempted to keep the Vietnamese on the ground away from,
that area by firing at them with his M16 rifle. During this time a napalm
strike was also put into the area in an effort to keep the enemy away. The
FAC reported that Maj. Tatum appeared to have been captured soon after his
parachute landing. (Ref 1)
2. During the existence of JCRC, the hostile threat in the area precluded
any visits to or ground inspections of the site involved in this case. Maj.
Tatum's name and identifying data were turned over to the Four-Party Joint
Military Team with a request for any information available. No response was
forthcoming. Maj. Tatum is currently carried in the status of Missing.
1. RPT (U), 633CSG (BDPMP) AF Form, 484 w/statements 13 Sep 66.
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