TOWNSEND, FRANCIS WAYNE Remains Returned 07/13/99 ID 06/13/2002
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 Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
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 2002.
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" planes around.
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 not conclusive.
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.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 2, 2002 (703)428-0711(public/industry)
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 made.
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.