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 Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D (pilot) Refno: 1243 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 1998. 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.