THOMPSON, WILLIAM JAMES
Name: William James Thompson
Rank/Branch: Colonel USAF
Unit: 399th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 19 February 1933
Home City of Record: Houston TX
Loss Date: 01 August 1968
Loss Coordinates: 172235N 1061310E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D (pilot)
Source: Compiled 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 in 2020.
Other Personnel in Incident: Joseph S. Ross (missing)
SYNOPSIS: Col. William Thompson and Capt. Joseph Ross comprised the crew of
the lead aircraft in a flight of two F4-D's which departed Da Nang Air Base,
Republic of Vietnam on August 1, 1968, on a night armed reconnaissance
mission over North Vietnam. Enroute, the flight was diverted to look for
truck traffic in the vicinity of their original target. Locating the
traffic, Thompson dropped several sets of flares and illuminated a group of
trucks. He told his wingman to circle the area while he made a bombing pass
on the trucks. As the wingman circled, he noted a large explosion within
several hundred feet of the target area, and immediately attempted to
contact Thompson, but with no success. The explosion occurred about 3:10
a.m. The wingman saw no parachutes and heard no beepers.
About daybreak, search planes heard an emergency electronic signal which
seemed to come from the area where Thompson and Ross were lost. Searchers
were unable to get any response to calls over the emergency frequency, and
terminated the search around noon. Flare chutes were found near the truck
target, but no wreckage of the F4 was found.
The area in which Col. Thompson and Capt. Ross went down is very near the
Ban Karai Pass on the Laos/Vietnam border. It is mountainous with peaks
ranging from 3500-4000 feet and deep valleys dense with multiple canopy
jungle. One searcher described the mountains "of sharp pointed grey rock
karsts in great frequency closely jammed up like the stalactites of a sound
suppression cham- ber".
Thompson and Ross were lost in harsh, largely unpopulated terrain, and
without access to the area, it cannot be known with any certainty what
happened to them. There have been thousands of reports, however, of
Americans who remain in captivity years after the war's end. Two of them
could be Thompson and Ross. Their families will not know until those live
prisoners are brought home.