Name: Tik, Chui To
Rank/Branch: Thai Civilian
Unit: Air America
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Thailand
Date of Loss: 05 September 1963
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 164245N 1061021E (XD250480)
Status (In 1973): Prisoner Of War
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: C46
Refno: 0018

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: Eugene H. DeBruin (captured); Joseph C. Cheney,
Charles Herrick (killed in crash); 3 other Thai nationals (names unknown)
(all captured)


SYNOPSIS: During the 1950's a deteriorating political situation in Laos had
allowed NVA troops and Pathet Lao guerrillas to seize the Laotian panhandle
from the Royal Lao Army. Prevented by Geneva Accords from having a large
military presence in Laos, the U.S. established a "Program Evaluation
Office" (PEO) in 1958 as a CIA cover for anti-communist covert actions. One
activity, begun in 1958, used Meo tribesmen for a small pilot guerrilla
program, which soon became the largest clandestine army in CIA history. In
the first year, using U.S. Special Forces White Star teams as PEO
"civilians", a few CIA officers and 90 elite Thai Border guards, an army of
9000 Meo was trained for behind-lines guerrilla activity. Within 10 years,
the Meo army grew to over 40,000 guerrillas, becoming the most effective
fighting force in Laos.

The CIA's covert airline, known as "Air America" (AA) supported the Meo as
well as numerous other CIA-backed clandestine guerrilla armies. With the
escalating war, a large US military presence guaranteed that Air America
could operate in relative obscurity. With little fanfare throughout the war,
AA fought in the frontlines of unconventional war. AA pilots flew "black
missions" over China, North Vietnam and the Laotian panhandle. AA flew in
every type of aircraft from 727 jets to small Cessnas and junk aircraft,
transporting everything from combat troops (alive, wounded or dead) to baby
chicks, dropping rice to refugees and specially trained Nung trailwatchers
into denied areas. AA contracted both with the Drug Enforcement Agency (to
track international drug smugglers) and with the Meo (to haul its annual and
valuable opium crop).

As U.S. forces pulled out, AA picked up the slack, straining to maintain the
status quo. The communists drove the Meo from their homelands in the early
1970's, and as the Meo retreated, AA was in the position of hauling (and
feeding) tens of thousands of refugees. There were problems as the CIA fell
under Congressional scrutiny of its world-wide paramilitary activities and
public pressure to divest itself of Air America. South Vietnam's rapid
collapse in 1975 signified the end of the clandestine war that began in
Vietnam thirty years earlier.

On September 5, 1963, an Air America C46 aircraft was hit by ground fire and
crashed about 2 kilometers from Tchepone, Savannakhet Province, Laos. Eugene
DeBruin, Chui To Tik and two Thai nationals parachuted to safety, but were
immediately captured by the Pathet Lao. Two crew members, Joseph C. Cheney
and Charles Herrick, were killed in the crash.

Later, the the Pathet Lao photographed DeBruin and four others prisoners and
published a leaflet naming the five as their prisoners. Several times during
their captivity the entire crew was moved to different locations within
Savannakhet and Khammouane Provinces.

In early July 1966, Eugene and six other prisoners made an escape. However,
only two of the seven, Dieter Dingler and one of the Thai nationals who was
part of Eugene's crew, reached safety. One report stated that DeBruin was
killed in the escape attempt, but the Thai national reported that DeBruin
was last seen attempting to reach high ground in a classified location.

Eugene's family has not stopped looking for answers. They were able to find
a report that Eugene may have been alive as late as January 1968. His
brother, Jerome traveled to Laos in 1972 in search of information.

Although the Pathet Lao openly admitted holding American prisoners of war,
they insisted that the U.S. negotiate directly with them to ensure their
release. The U.S. never negotiated or recognized the Pathet Lao, and as a
consequence, not one of the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos (many of whom
were known to have survived their loss incidents) was ever released.

As reports mount that Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia, the
Debruin family wonders if one of them could be Eugene or one of his crewmen.