TOWNSEND, FRANCIS WAYNE
Remains Returned 07/13/99
Name: Francis Wayne Townsend
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 14th TRS
Date of Birth: 24 April 1948
Home City of Record: Rusk TX
Date of Loss: 13 August 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165835N 1965910E (YD135778)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
Other Personnel in Incident: William A. Gauntt (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of
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.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
Capt. William A. Gauntt was the pilot and 1Lt. Francis W. Townsend his
systems officer on the reconnaissance version of the Phantom, the RF4. On
August 13, 1972, Gauntt and Townsend were sent on a mission which would take
them to the area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). As they were over the DMZ,
about 10 miles southwest of Vinh Linh in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam,
the RF4 was shot down.
Military officials at the time were uncertain as to the fate of Gauntt and
Townsend. However, on March 27, 1973, William A. Gauntt was among 591
Americans released from POW camps in Vietnam. Francis W. Townsend was not.
Officials at the time were heartened to learn that Gauntt had been captured
and released, but horrified that hundreds of others who had been thought to
be captured were not.
Evidently Gauntt gave the U.S. information that Townsend had also been
captured, for in 1973, Townsend was classified as a Prisoner of War. The
Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded this classification to include
an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge"
and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with
individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost
in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be
known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed
but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by
elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source
intelligence. The fact that Townsend was never classified Category 1
indicates that the information relating to his possible capture was probably
Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, nearly 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing, prisoner or otherwise unaccounted for in
Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials who
have examined this largely classified information have reluctantly concluded
that many Americans are still alive in captivity today.
Whether Francis W. Townsend survived to be captured, was executed, or is
among those thought to be still alive is unknown. What is certain, however,
is that as long as there is even one American held against his will, we owe
him our very best efforts to bring him to freedom.
Francis W. Townsend graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970.
December 2, 2002
VIETNAM WAR MIA IDENTIFIED
The remains of an Air Force servicemen previously unaccounted
for from the war in Vietnam have been identified and are to be
buried today in Rusk, Texas.
He is Capt. Francis W. Townsend, of Rusk.
On August 13, 1972, Townsend and his pilot were flying their RF-4C
Phantom on a photo-reconnaissance mission over Quang Tri Province, North
Vietnam. The aircraft was struck by enemy fire, and the pilot was unable to
maintain control. He ordered Townsend to eject. Seconds later, the pilot
ejected from the burning aircraft and was able to establish radio contact
with rescue forces. Unfortunately, he was captured before a rescue could be
Following the release of U.S. POWs in 1973, the pilot stated he
learned in captivity that Capt. Townsend had perished in the crash though he
initially believed he had ejected.
Between 1999 and 1997, joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams, led by the
Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, conducted four investigations in the area
where Townsend's plane had crashed. They interviewed dozens of villagers,
including one who claimed to have buried some remains near a flooded crash
crater in the area. He also stated that he had found two military ID tags
at the crash site. During one of the investigations, the team members were
shown the tag of Capt. Townsend by a local national.
In July 1998 and May 1999, two full-scale excavations were carried
out in Quang Tri Province, where team members of the U.S. Army Central
Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) recovered aircraft wreckage,
personal crew member artifacts, and human remains. Mitochondrial DNA was
extracted from one of the fragments, and was found by CILHI to match the DNA
of two of Capt. Townsend's maternal relatives.
Approximately 1,900 American servicemen remain missing in action
from the Vietnam War, while the remains of nearly 700 have been located,
identified and returned to their families since the end of the war.