Remains Identified 10/28/2000

Name: Gordon James Wenaas
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, Nha Trang Airbase, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 02 March 1932
Home City of Record: Mayville ND
Date of Loss: 29 December 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 220900N 1032200E (UK315501)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: C130E

Other Personnel In Incident: James R. Williams; Gean P. Clapper; Charles P.
Claxton; Wayne A. Eckley; Donald E. Fisher; Edwin N. Osborne; Frank C. Parker;
Gerald G. VanBuren; Edward J. Darcy; Jack McCrary; (all missing)


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.

SYNOPSIS: On December 29, 1967, a C130E aircraft departed Nha Trang Airbase
shortly after midnight on an operational mission over North Vietnam. The eleven
man crew aboard the aircraft included Maj. Charles P. Claxton; Capt. Edwin N.
Osborne Jr., and Capt. Gerald G. Van Buren (all listed as pilots); and crewmen
SSgt. Edward J. Darcy; SSgt. Gean P. Clapper; SSgt. Wayne A. Eckley; LtCol.
Donald E. Fisher; TSgt. Jack McCrary; Capt. Frank C. Parker III; Capt. Gordon
J. Wenaas; and Sgt. James R. Williams.

At 4:30 a.m., the pilot made radio contact with Nha Trang and said the mission
was progressing as scheduled. No further contact was made. The aircraft's last
known position was in extreme northwest North Vietnam, in mountainous Lai Chau
Province. The eleven Americans aboard the aircraft were declared Missing in

When the war ended, and 591 Americans were released from Vietnamese prison
camps, the crew of the C130 was not among them. Although the Vietnamese
pledged, as part of the Paris Peace Accords, to release all prisoners and make
the fullest possible accounting of the missing, they have done neither. The
Vietnamese deny any knowledge of the crew of the C130.

Alarmingly, evidence continues to mount that Americans were left as prisoners
in Southeast Asia and continue to be held today. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars,
most of the nearly 2500 men and women who remain missing in Southeast Asia can
be accounted for. If even one was left alive (and many authorities estimate the
numbers to be in the hundreds), we have failed as a nation until and unless we
do everything possible to secure his freedom and bring him home.

NETWORK NOTE: During May 20-24 we personally spoke to Col Gargus. After
reviewing this document, we again talked to the Col. regarding statements
made at the end of this report. The clarification is:

Remains of this crew were NOT discovered on the October 1992 excavation.
When the site was revisited in 1992 and 1993, natives had taken the remains
and co-mingled them. Analysis in 93/94 accounted for only 8 crew members.
Doing DNA testing, the USG claims to have accounted for ALL eleven crew
members. Our concern - they are not on the remains returned list - his

On Sunday, July 12, 1998 a memorial will be dedicated in Fort Walton Beach,
Florida at 10:00 am. It is hoped the action will force the USG to turn over
remains, if indeed they have been positively identified.


           The Last Mission of Combat Talon's S-01 Crew
               By Colonel John Gargus, USAF (Ret.)

This is the story of the Combat Talon MC-130E which was lost with its
eleven crew members on December 29, 1967, while conducting a SOG mission
over North Vietnam.  After many years of silence, Major John Plaster
authored a book, SOG - The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in
Vietnam. in which he described exploits of commandos who lost their
lives on missions which had not been brought to public attention for
numerous security reasons.  The loss of this aircraft fits into that
mold.  It was, according to Major Plaster, our largest single aircraft
loss over North Vietnam.  I hope that this story will honor the eleven
lost crew members and acknowledge the role of all men who served in the
Combat Talon unit, which was first named as Detachment 1 of the 314th
Tactical Airlift Wing, then the 15th Air Commando Squadron and finally
the 90th Special Operations Squadron.

At the time of this incident, Det. 1, 314 TAW was based at Nha Trang Air
Base, Republic of Vietnam, with 6 eleven member crews and four MC-130E
Combat Talon I aircraft. These aircraft were equipped with terrain
following radar, Fulton Recovery System and an array of passive
electronic countermeasures. They were painted with special dark green
paint which significantly reduced their reflected radar energy and,
because of their overall appearance, they were affectionately called the
"Blackbirds".  They provided Military Advisory Command-Studies and
Observations Group (MAC-SOG) with dedicated airlift during daytime and
conducted highly classified, clandestine missions at night.  These night
missions were called "combat missions" even though we never intended to
engage in what would certainly be a one sided battle with the enemy.
The only arms we carried were our survival 38 caliber pistols.  We
relied on our low level terrain following capability, the element of
surprise and experienced airmanship to fly wherever tasked over North

Our "combat missions" were generated at SOG headquarters in Saigon.
They ranged from quite ordinary to some bizarre air drop operations.
Thus, we would drop teams of infiltrators behind enemy lines and then
resupply them periodically with all their needs.  At times we would drop
specially rigged personnel parachutes without infiltrators and
imaginatively assembled resupply loads to convince the enemy that we had
teams operating in this or that area.  Sometimes our air dropped loads
were rigged to fall apart in the air or be booby trapped for the NVA
soldiers on the ground.  And, of course, there were psychological
operations consisting of high altitude leaflet drops and low altitude
drops of pre-tuned radios or gift packages to fishermen in the Gulf of
Tonkin.  This was interesting and rewarding work.  It made us feel that
we were making a very significant contribution to the overall war effort
by creating considerable confusion inside the enemy's own territory.

To be effective in our clandestine air operations, we had to maintain a
very low profile and avoid shop talk with airmen of other units.  Our
geographical separation from SOG headquarters in Saigon helped us in not
being visibly tied to their operations. Only a few of us, key command
officials and mission planners, got to visit SOG Headquarters.  There,
our points of contact told us only operational data for which we had a
need to know.  We understood the need for this arrangement and loyally
carried out our role as dedicated air lifters for this important player
in the war.

As we acquired more experience in performing our assigned tasks, we
became aware that there were problems with some of the teams we
supported in the North.  We had to make some peculiar drops with very
specific instructions and, at times, execute them under the supervision
of tight-lipped SOG jump masters who were assigned to fly with us on
some missions.  This led us to believe that we were dealing with
probable double agents and some questionable characters.  As mission
planners we did not share these concerns with our crews, but some
details had to be disclosed when astonished loadmasters reported to the
cockpit that our SOG jump masters halted the paradrop after the first
man went out and that they made the rest of the team sit down without
offering any explanation.  Then after landing, just as the aircraft came
to a halt in its parking area, a van would appear and the remaining
jumpers would smartly pile into it without any comments to the crew.
Events like that and cargo loads that were purposely rigged to foul up
or break up upon hitting the air stream had to be explained to the crew

Because the success of our missions depended on secrecy, we were
naturally apprehensive about dealing with complete strangers who would
not speak to us.  In time, we learned that some of the teams were
compromised and feared that our aircraft may become an easy target to be
brought down over a drop zone.  In mission planning, we dreaded the
possibility that one day we could be directed to recover a questionable
agent or a package from North Vietnam using our Fulton Recovery System.
We were known to the enemy for delivering booby trapped resupply
bundles.  A recovery of an agent or a package would be an opportune time
for them to return the favor and bring down a Blackbird.

There was also considerable internal secrecy in our work. Crews were not
allowed to discuss their combat missions with other crews.  Locations of
drop zones and types of delivery payloads could not be shared with
others.  One could not be exposed to too many details of our clandestine
operations.  There was always a possibility of being forced down and
captured behind the enemy lines.  For this reason, Major Thompson , a
C-130 navigator, who was not a Combat Talon qualified crew member, was
assigned to our unit as a mission planner.  As such, he knew about the
locations of infiltrated teams and about the type of air drops we were
conducting.  He did not have a crew position and was not allowed to fly
"combat missions".  This arrangement lasted only for the duration of his
one year tour.  It also gave me, Major John G Gargus, navigator, and 1
/Lt John Lewis, Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO), both from the S-05
crew, the opportunity to succeed him when he rotated to his next duty
station.  By that time it didn't matter any more that two crew members
from the same crew would become his replacements and continue flying
combat missions.  We began our on-the-job training by helping him to
plan this fateful mission.  Roy Thompson, who retired as a Colonel,
agreed to collaborate on putting this story together.  Unfortunately his
contribution was lost forever.  He passed away on July 25, 1997 before
he could join me and John Lewis in sharing his memories of almost 30
years ago.

The frag order for this fateful mission came from SOG on Christmas Day.
Our whole detachment celebrated Christmas in the courtyard of Nha
Trang's Roman Catholic Cathedral with Christian Boy and Girl Scouts and
their parents.  When we returned to our hotel after the festivities, Roy
Thompson came by to tell me that First Flight Operations had a
classified message tasking us with our next combat mission.  He wanted
to know ff I was interested in going with him to review it.  I was eager
to see what it was all about, so we hopped into our jeep and drove to
the Vietnamese side of the base where we shared our secure mission
planning and communications facilities with our sister unit, which was
designated First Flight.  The First Flight was another SOG air asset
flying C-123s with some very interesting crew members.  First Flight
cargo specialists assembled all our air drop packages, rigged all our
parachutes and even loaded the cargo for our combat missions We were to
trust their methods and procedures no matter how weird or foreign the
resulting drop configurations looked to our load masters.

The frag order called for an unusual combat mission.  It directed us to
execute two air drops deep inside North Vietnam. The first one was to be
a high altitude leaflet-drop on a NNE heading just west of the Red River
and the second one a low level resupply drop on a southerly heading just
west of the Black River.  We positioned ourselves in front of a large
scale classified wall chart with numerous circles of various diameters
and colors which depicted locations of known enemy defenses.  We traced
a probable inbound and outbound route with our fingers and concluded
that the mission was a feasible one.  The only possible threat to our
aircraft would come during the "short look", the leaflet drop when the
Blackbird would be in close proximity to the Yen Bai Air Base and its
MIG interceptors, or from any other Hanoi area base that had MiGs on
night alert.  Otherwise, everything else looked good. We would be able
to lay out a flight path that would be clear of lethal ranges of all
known surface to air missiles (SAMS) and anti aircraft artillery (AAA).

With this accomplished, we returned to our Ahn Hoa hotel to brief our
Det Commander, Lt Col Dow Rogers, and our Ops Officer, Lt Col Tom Hines,
on the forthcoming combat mission.  The mission was scheduled for the
night of 28 and early morning of 29 December 1967.

At Ahn Hoa, things were in a festive mood.  Major Charlie Claxton, who
had performed the role of Santa Claus, was now busy in the kitchen
making sure that everything was going on schedule for our big evening
meal.  We were hosting the American officers of First Flight and
borrowed their gourmet cook to assist our own very capable Chinese
kitchen staff.  Captain Gerald Van Buren, our Officers Open Mess
Steward, had already done his job.  He made sure that all needed kitchen
supplies were either procured in the Saigon Commissary, or that they
were obtained from his various contacts at Special Forces operating
locations.  We would trade with the Special Forces outposts on almost
every visit to their remote sites.  We would trade San Miguel beer,
obtained on our visits to Taiwan or to the Philippines, for crates of
fresh vegetables grown in their neighboring montagnard villages.
Charlie Claxton was aspiring to replace Gerald Van Buren as the Mess
Steward when Gerry completed his one year tour in Vietnam.

That evening we had what must have been the best feast of our Vietnam
tour.  We all complimented our kitchen staff and Charlie Claxton and
Gerald Van Buren for their superb performance.  Our rooftop bar activity
that night was somewhat subdued, Most of us retreated to our rooms early
to make audio tapes for our families.  We all owed special thanks to our
wives for making our Vietnamese Christmas as good as it could have been.
All the sweets, toys and clothing for the Cathedral party and gift
dispensing visits to several local orphanages were sent to us by our
well organized wives.  They enlisted support of their local Chambers of
Commerce for donations of clothing , candy and gifts and arranged with
the USAF for shipment of assembled goods by opportune C-130 airlift.  We
were proud of them for their contribution to this civic action effort.
Sorting of donated clothing became a major undertaking which took us
several days to complete.  We sized and sorted the clothing in the hot
unventilated upstairs storage rooms of our operations building.  Sgt Jim
Williams spent countless hours helping me in my capacity as the unit's
Civic Action Officer.  He took charge in keeping the effort going when
some other volunteers gave up because of uncomfortable heat and
troublesome clothing lint and dust in our improvised Santa's work shop.
It was he who recruited Ssgt Ed Darcy to help us until the clothing was
finally sorted, boxed and labeled for distribution.  During the
festivities in the cathedral courtyard , both of these young men
displayed great enthusiasm in playing games with the Scouts.  We all had
a great time. Christmas spirit and joy overcame all language and age

Early next morning Roy Thompson, John Lewis and I settled down in our
secure planning room where we drew out the route and prepared master
charts for the crew that was going to fly the mission.  Our master
charts would be used the next day by the mission crew members who would
study them and customize them for their own personal use.

The entire flight would take about 8 hours.  It would follow our often
repeated high level route from Nha Trang to the SKYLINE beacon in Laos.
There the Blackbird would descend to a terrain following altitude and
fly a short zigzagging route toward the first leaflet drop area.  Then,
after a "short look" (rapid climb to high altitude, quick drop and rapid
descent), the aircraft would resume terrain following through the low
level resupply drop and return to the SKYLINE beacon. From that point
the aircraft would continue back home at normal cruising altitude.

In planning our terrain following routes, we always tried to stay away
from populated areas, selecting prominent radar return targets for
turning points and navigational instrument updates.  A unique feature of
our terrain following flights was that we flew at controlled ground
speeds rather than constant airspeeds.  Our aircraft was equipped with
the APO- 115 terrain following radar which used aircraft's speed over
the ground in its computations for maintaining desired altitude above
the ground. Typically, we flew at 500 ft above the ground during daytime
and at 1000 ft at night.  Flights over uneven terrain required
continuous throttle adjustments to maintain our standard 230 knot ground
speed (265 miles per hour).  The pilots had a Doppler ground speed
indicator which they monitored incessantly.  The pilot (left seat) had
an APQ-115 screen, which in one display mode traced the terrain
directly ahead of the aircraft and in another, cross scan mode, painted
the terrain 20 degrees left and right of the projected ground
track. Radar navigator had a third mode option for map reading. This one
gave him a 45 degree left and right view of the aircraft's projected
track, but when the radar was in this mode, the terrain following input
used by the pilot was disabled.  Flying in the left seat was very
strenuous.  For all practical purposes it was like flying sustained
instrument landing system (ILS).  Blackbird pilots had to fly the
attitude director indicator's ( ADI's ) pitch bar which received
commands based on radar terrain returns and Doppler ground speed.  They
had to monitor their radar scope for visual terrain signals and
manipulate engine throttles to maintain the desired ground speed.
During daytime, well placed cockpit windows allowed the pilot to verify
approaching terrain, but on a dark night, this was impossible.  One
could not fix his eyes to the outside through the ever present glare of
the cockpit's amber lights and not lose focus on the instruments by
which he had to fly.  For that reason it became our standard practice to
have the First Pilot fly in the left seat and have the Aircraft
Commander sit on the right.  This was the only way he could command his
eleven member crew.  He could not take time away from the instruments to
focus on even a routine in-flight problem.

Terrain following combined with special navigational and flying
techniques would get us to where we needed to go, but our ultimate
survivability over North Vietnam depended on the skills of our
Electronic Warfare Officers (EWOs).  At that time, North Vietnam had the
most formidable air defense system in the history of air warfare. It is
true that their radars were not of the latest state-of-the-art, but they
were effectively used by operators who had gained considerable skills
with them. The same could be said about the AAA and SAM crews.  Their
tours of duty were not limited to one year like ours.  They were at home
defending their families against the most advanced American war machines
for as long as their war lasted.  So these Soviet made radars, which
were first introduced in Eastern Europe, were now being combat tested.
The U.S. intelligence had appropriate nicknames for all of them.

Our knowledge of the locations of these radars , combined with our low
level tactics, would get us into most target areas without detection.
Once detected, however, it became the EWO's job to analyze the threats
these radars posed.  If all radars were in the locations we plotted on
our charts, we would be able to fly through their scanning ranges and
stay away from the effective ranges of missiles or artillery they
controlled.  During mission planning, the EWO would prepare a scenario
which would tell him at which point of flight and from which direction
each radar's scan would illuminate our aircraft.  If he detected radars
not plotted on his chart and the received signal strength was stronger,
indicating a closer proximity to our flight track, he would have to
direct the pilots to get us out of there.  By monitoring his state of
the art instruments, he could tell whether the enemy radars were in
routine mode or were focused on his aircraft.  In a concentrated radar
signal area, such as our aircraft would enter upon its climb to drop
altitude, the EWO would receive welcomed assistance from the crew radio
operator who shared his instrument console and sat on his left.  All our
radio operators became very adept EWO assistants.

Blackbird's EWOs also had the capability to detect and disrupt an attack
by a MIG interceptor.  Using passive electronic techniques, they could
confuse a MIG long enough to enable their aircraft to escape into a
hilly terrain where the interceptor's radar became ineffective and the
pursuing pilot risked flying into the ground.

In addition, Blackbird's EWOs could dispense highly reflective chaff,
which would instantly paint a brighter and larger target than the
aircraft.  With all that equipment and our special training, we had what
we needed to conduct gutsy, but safe operations in the hostile skies of
North Vietnam.  No one expected a large, slow and unarmed transport
aircraft to operate in the same North Vietnamese air space, which proved
to be so challenging to the most advanced high performance aircraft in
the US inventory.

Our success rate over the enemy territory was commendable. Many of our
low level missions through the North Vietnamese air space went
undetected.  Some were tracked during portions of their flight, but
always succeeded in avoiding AAA fire.  A few had to abort their high
altitude leaflet drops when a missile control radar locked on to them.
They always managed to break their radar lock on during a rapid roller
coaster dive down to the minimum safe altitude.  Fewer still experienced
a MIG chase with an airborne radar lock on.  Our EWOs always saved the
night for us. Consequently, it didn't take long for the Blackbird crews
to develop a due respect for the skills of their EWOS.

Two months before, in mid October, our.  S-05 crew's EWO, John Lewis,
defeated three passes of an interceptor that jumped upon us just off the
coast near the Haiphong harbor.  We were dropping pre-tuned radios to
the local fishermen.  Pursued, we flew as low and as fast as we could,
shaking and bouncing on the air currents our aircraft stirred off the
otherwise calm sea water.  When John called "Break Left", we had to pop
up a few feet in order to avoid dipping the left wing into the water.
Our Ops Officer, Lt Col Tom Hines, flew with us that night.  It was
daylight when we landed at Nha Trang.  The wings and the fuselage of our
Blackbird were white with salt.  John Lewis may still hold the Combat
Talon record for besting a pursuing fighter pilot three times on a
single "combat mission".

Our first problem on the 29 December mission would be the early warning
radar at Na San.  We had to stay as low and as far south of its range as
possible in order to avoid detection while crossing into North Vietnam.
Once inside North Vietnam, we had to get to the east side of the central
mountains and stay out of range of well placed AAA and SAM sites along
the Red River Valley.  We tried to avoid getting picked up and tracked
by the multitude of radars associated with those anti-aircraft weapons.
These radars by themselves could not hurt us but would alert AAA and SAM
crews for possible action ff we came within range of their weapons.  Our
best scenario was to have no radar track us until we began our rapid
climb to 30,000+ feet for the leaflet drop.  We knew that once our
aircraft got to 9-10,000 feet, all available radars would come up and
keep our EWO extremely busy.  If the enemy did not respond with a launch
of interceptors, the leaflet drop would be completed and the aircraft
would resume low level terrain following and proceed westward just south
of the China border along the 22nd parallel until reaching the Black
River Valley. There a southbound turn would be made.  Then staying in
the mountains along the west side of the river, the second airdrop would
be executed NW of the Na San early warning radar.

Our avoidance of Na San radar was not our concern at this point in the
flight.  By this time a warning would have been issued from the Hanoi
side of the mountains that a leaflet dropping intruder was moving
westward toward Dien Bien Phu. Consequently this early warning radar
would be scanning in a NW direction, expecting the emergence of- our
Blackbird.  Na San's detection of our flight at this time could actually
assist in the accomplishment of the second portion of our mission.  Our
resupply drop was what we called a " notional" drop, or a diversionary
drop.  There was no friendly team to receive the two resupply bundles.
These bundles were carefully planned by imaginative minds at SOG to
confuse the enemy and to have him expend considerable resources
searching for infiltrators that did not exist.  So the resupply bundles
were meant to be captured by the enemy.  Na San's detection of our
aircraft's slow down could assist the enemy in locating this bogus

By the time we finished with our planning, we learned that augmented
S-01 crew would fly the mission.  It was S-01's turn to take the next
mission, but there were some questions about the possibility of having
this crew skip its turn.  Major Dick Day, its Aircraft Commander, and
one of the crew's loadmasters were on duty not involving flying (DNIF) .
His senior navigator, Lt Col Don Fisher, was not yet back from his R&R
(rest and recreation) in Hawaii.  His earliest expected return was on
that day, December 26.  Earlier on this day, the other crew load master
departed with S-03 crew on that crew's flight to our parent 314th Wing
in Taiwan.  He had made arrangements with SSgt Ed Darcy from S-03 crew
to switch places.  Ed Darcy, a quiet, conscientious young man, planned
to save some money by staying in Nha Trang.  He did not want to spend it
on a 3 to 5 day stay in Taiwan while the ferried Blackbird went through
its scheduled inspection and repair as necessary (IRAN) in a maintenance
facility that was equipped to handle C130 aircraft.  The crews looked
forward to their turn to ferry a Blackbird for an IRAN in Taiwan.  It
was a most welcomed vacation break from the wartime conditions in
Vietnam. So, Ed Darcy became a volunteer replacement for one S-01
loadmaster.  Sgt.  James Williams agreed to take the place of the other
load master who was also DNIF.

This mission provided an opportunity for Capt Edwin Osborne to take
command of the S-01 crew and for Capt.  Gerald VanBuren to move up to
the First Pilot's position.  The Second Pilot's slot was filled by Major
Charlie Claxton from my S-05 crew.  He had missed an earlier combat
mission when he was DNIF, so this would become a make up mission for
him.  I made up my mind that I would take LtCol Don Fisher's place if he
did not return in time from Hawaii.  I would have been the logical
replacement in any case because I already knew the route and mission
details and could be used to step in to replace him up to the last

Later on that evening I heard that Don Fisher was back. I went to see
him and found him in a most jovial mood.  He had just returned from a
memorable R&R in Hawaii with his whole family.  He had just had the
greatest of Christmases and repeated to me and to others that he was "in
love with the whole world." He was ready to fly combat.

Edwin Osborne was also ready to fly as an aircraft commander of a combat
mission.  All our First Pilots were highly experienced as C-130 airlift
aircraft commanders before becoming qualified in the Combat Talon
Blackbirds.  Many felt that to become-a highly qualified copilot in the
Combat Talon program was somewhat of a career regression even though
they understood the need for such demanding pilot qualification. As
experienced pilots, they were simply outranked by others with more
impressive pilot credentials who became Combat Talon Aircraft
Commanders.  Edwin Osborne was clearly a pilot who should not be taking
a back seat to anyone.  He was an excellent pilot qualified as an
instructor pilot in the Blackbirds.

The next day John Lewis and I rode with the S-01 officer crew to the
mission planning room.  Van Buren drove the crew van.  He normally drove
whenever his crew went places.  I was told that as our Commissary
Officer he even drove through Saigon on his crew's periodic commissary
runs when his crew's Blackbird got extra ground time at Tan Son Nhut to
accommodate his grocery shopping.  Since Charlie Claxton was destined to
inherit that duty from him, it meant that my S-05 crew would get the
long ground time on some future transits through Saigon.

On the way to our secure mission planning room, I sat right across from
Capt. Frank Parker, a tall blond young man who was the crew's EWO.  He
was telling several of us how fortunate we were in having missions where
we could sneak in and sneak out without stirring up a hornets' nest.  He
had recently returned from Thailand where he ran into several of his EWO
classmates who were flying the RB-66s.  Their mission was to deliberately
challenge the enemy's electronic detection systems and deadly
retaliation in their efforts to pinpoint locations of enemy radars.  He
used the term we sometime applied to those situations when one would
prefer to be on the ground rather than in the air.  He said that his
friends were "eating their livers" on their RB-66 missions.

Roy Thompson had everything ready for us when we arrived.  All the
charts we prepared the day before were either posted on easels or laid
out on work tables.  Fresh, unmarked charts, flight plan logs and other
necessary mission forms were placed on tables where the crew members
would use them.  Roy gave a brief overview of what the mission entailed.
About the only unusual thing that he noted was that TOTS, (times on
targets), were not prescribed because neither drop zone had a reception
team.  The psy-ops (leaflet) drop had a fixed drop leg at altitude of
30,000 or more feet, depending on the wind velocity and direction.
Weaker winds would require a higher altitude.  The heart of Hanoi would
be from 65 to 70 miles away and it was hoped that some of the leaflets
would make it that far before the sunrise.  Lack of TOTs also explained
to them why their flight plan was not completed with time of arrival at
turning points.  They were to calculate these by themselves, planning on
a 260-265 true air speed at high altitudes and a standard 230 ground
speed at terrain following levels.

Once Roy Thompson was finished with his mission introduction, I joined
Don Fisher and Gordie Wenaas, the two crew navigators, to work on the
flight planned route.  John Lewis and Frank Parker got together to work
on the enemy's defenses.  Roy joined the three pilots.  Our enlisted
crew members: two flight engineers, two load masters and one radio
operator, normally did not participate in mission planning.

Gordie Wenaas thought the mission would be a "piece of cake." He quickly
noted that there were practically no threat circles anywhere near our
track.  Then he started crunching out flight plan times between turning
points.  Don and I went over each low level turning point, examining the
terrain in its vicinity.  Practically all were river bends or rivers
that would show up well on radar. Some turning points had been used on
previous missions and were reported to be good ones.  Selected drop zone
for the second drop was a location with good radar targets everywhere.
He was satisfied with everything and began to prepare his own
navigational chart.  In this task, Gordie was way ahead of him.

Gordie was a man who undertook every single task very seriously.  I
remember him going around our hotel taking care of chores whenever his
S-01 crew was scheduled to be the hotel's duty crew.  Each crew was
regularly scheduled for hotel crew duty by the Ops Scheduling as if it
were a flight assignment.These duties consisted of servicing our two
electrical generators, bringing in fresh potable water from the Air
Base, taking care of mail, stocking the rooftop bar and performing
whatever maintenance chores were needed at the hotel.  Gordie Wenaas was
conspicuous by keeping himself occupied with these chores.  He showed me
how to start up and switch our two noisy generators.

I was then drawn into a conversation with the pilots.  Osborne liked the
route and had only one concern.  It was the time interval between the
end of the first drop and the start of the second one. Would his two
loadmasters have enough time to move the cargo to the ramp for this
drop?  How many bundles would there be?  How much would they weigh?
And, of course, "What is this notional stuff ?" The answer to this
question could only be provided by our cargo rigger, a Warrant Officer
from the First Flight.  Van Buren was dispatched to go next door to get
him.  Van returned alone, but he had the information we needed.  He also
succeeded in making arrangements for the loadmasters and the flight
engineers to be at the aircraft next morning to witness the cargo
loading.  He commented that the Warrant Officer reminded him that no one
was to mess with the cargo and question its rigging.  Everything would
be set up by the First Flight crew just the way it should be dropped.
Anything non-standard or out of place should be ignored.  Our job was to
fly it there and drop it just as it was configured.

Ed Osborne showed much interest in the terrain following portion of
flight.  So the pilots gathered around Don Fisher who had already drawn
his chart.  He walked through every leg of flight and explained each
turning point.  Charlie Claxton had the weight of the aircraft
calculated at the point of acceleration and climb to high altitude.
There were questions about how much of the area west of Hanoi the crew
would be able to see.  Aircraft's track was over the eastern slopes of
the central highlands.  Numerous peaks with elevations of up to 9,000
feet were immediately to the left and the sprawling Red River Valley
with level terrain west of Hanoi to the right.  It was to be a dark
night with new moon beginning on December 30.  There would be total
darkness.  Some lights would no doubt be burning towards Hanoi.  Our
prior flights noted that North Vietnam did not have a complete nighttime
blackout.  The night would be perfect for the two map readers - Gordie
Wenaas on the right and Charlie Claxton on the left - to use the
somewhat cumbersome starlight scope to monitor the terrain below.  The
scope was of little use at terrain following levels because it had
excessive tunnel vision.  This made the terrain whiz by so fast that it
caused the images to blur.  But at drop altitude, where the Blackbird
would seem to be at a standstill in relation to the ground below, the
scope would give its user a fascinating view of terrain otherwise hidden
in total darkness.  Very little cloud coverage was predicted for that

We pointed out the location of Yen Bai Air Base which would be at the
aircraft's 1 to 2 o'clock position during the drop.  If there were any
MiGs on night alert, that base would pose them their greatest threat.
This would also be Frank Parker's greatest challenge that night.  He
would have to defend against a possible interceptor activity.

Ed Osborne examined the terrain into which the aircraft would have to
descend after the leaflet drop.  He was concerned about the rapidly
approaching ground during their maximum rate of descent when the radar
stabilization was habitually, but only temporarily, lost and the doppler
limits were also exceeded- Here I pointed out that a rapid descent
should not be executed unless the aircraft was in jeopardy due to SAM or
interceptor attack.  All crews seemed to have the same Pope AFB training
mind set.  During our training there, each short look was followed by a
maximum rate descent, a maneuver which put a lot of stress on the
aircraft. This needed to be practiced at every opportunity.  Now in real
life, if a threat to our aircraft did not materialize, there was no need
to put it through such a stressful maneuver where the crew experienced
weightlessness and everything not tied down started floating about.
Then at the point of level off, the tremendous G load would force the
standing crew members down to their knees.  On this mission there would
be additional cargo just behind the EWO and the radio operator
compartment. We did not want any of it to break loose during such a
stressful maneuver.

Ed was concerned with the time remaining before the second drop.  His
loadmasters and the second flight engineer would have to move the cargo
to the back of the aircraft and get it set for the drop.  Normally, the
cargo would be all set from the point of take off.  But not this time.
The back of the aircraft would have to be cleared of any remaining
restraining straps from the leaflet drop.  Then the resupply bundles
would have to be moved into place.  Normally this would not be that
difficult because the pelletized bundles were on rollers.  But being on
rollers in straight and level flight is one thing, being on rollers in
an up and down terrain following flight is another.  Great care was
needed to avoid an injury or have a cargo slip off the rollers at an
angle where the pallet would jam.  This would no doubt be a new
experience for these loadmasters.  Ed noted with some satisfaction that
the terrain following leg going westbound along the 22nd parallel was
relatively level because we were taking advantage of the break between
10,000 ft high peaks on the right and 9,000 ft ones on the left.

At a prominent turning point over the Black River the mission would turn
south.  The Blackbird would fly almost due south hiding behind the high
terrain west of the river.  This would keep it west of the valley's
populated areas.  Ahead at the aircraft's 10 to 11 o'clock position
would be the Na San early warning radar.  This radar would be looking
for the reappearance of the intruder which was sure to excite the radars
on the Hanoi side of the mountains in the Red River valley.  This radar
was not capable of directing MIG interceptors and none were expected to
come west out of the Red River valley.

Our drop zone was in an isolated area in the vicinity of Highway 6. It
was a logical place for a drop zone.  This would no doubt add to the
credibility to the nonexistent team's presence.  The deceptive nature of
this drop was explained by Roy Thompson.  There would be no ground
markings or signals. The drop would occur on Don Fisher's green light
command when his doppler distance to go ran out.  After this drop the
crew would continue terrain following into Laos where the high altitude
route home would resume at the SKYLINE beacon.

At some point during this low level route review we were joined by Frank
Parker and John Lewis who had concluded their study of the enemy's
electronic air order of battle.  They pointed out correctly that once
the aircraft crossed into the Black River region the enemy defenses were
such that a return home at any altitude would be safe.  That was a good
thought in case of any in flight problems, such as navigational,
mechanical, or outside visibility degradation due to weather.

Then the whole group gathered around Frank Parker's chart.  His differed
from those of Don Fisher and the map readers Charlie Claxton and Gordie
Wenaas.  Theirs had smaller threat circles along the flight planned
track.  They represented lethal ranges of SAMs and AAA.  Frank's chart
had the mission flying through much larger circles which outlined scan
ranges of various radars.  His chart showed that the aircraft would be
exposed to many radars throughout its northbound portion of flight along
the Red River.  He estimated that even before the aircraft would reach
its drop altitude of 30,000 + feet, all available radars would be
alerted to their presence and that he would be saturated with a
tremendous amount of visual and aural signals.  He acknowledged that he
would have to rely on very able assistance from Gean Clapper, the crew
radio operator, who would be sharing his console behind the cargo
compartment curtain.

Gean Clapper was a true professional in his field.  He had many years of
experience as a HAM radio operator.  As such he had contacts with
colleagues throughout the world.  On flights over international waters,
where it was permissible, he would raise his contacts and relay personal
greetings and messages to families back home.  He was also very good at
electronic warfare.  He could positively recognize the chirping sounds
of various radars.  This should be a great asset on a flight such as
this one where sound-wise things would get extremely noisy for Frank.

Frank concluded that with Gean's help he should be able to detect
anything out of the ordinary and call for evasive action before any harm
could come to the Blackbird.  It would be Don Fisher's task to find a
safe evasive flight path through the mountains on the left.

After that each crew member went on his own, putting finishing touches
on all paperwork he was producing.  We three mission planners assisted
them with anything they needed and insured that all mission documents
they produced were properly stamped TOP SECRET.  None of the documents
could leave with the crew.  They were collected by us and locked in
First Flight's safe.  They would not be released to the crew until the
next night before the pre-departure mission briefing.

The next day's mission briefing was a whole crew aff air attended by our
Commander, Lt Col Dow Rogers, and our Operations Officer, Lt Col Tom
Hines.  This would be the first time the enlisted crew members learned
about the target area.  All five, the two engineers, two loadmasters and
the radio operator, were present when the First Flight's cargo handlers
loaded the aircraft.  Flight Engineer TSgt Jack McCrary gave us a thumbs
up on the condition of the aircraft.  He was a very meticulous crew
member, well regarded, not just by Ed Osborne, but also by his flight
engineer peers. I wondered how much sleep he had gotten during the day.
His eyes looked red as ff he had not slept at all.  But we all knew that
his nickname was "Red Eye." He had an eye condition that made them look
red and blood shot all the time.  His second, SSgt Wayne Eckley, was an
engineer of lesser experience, but not short on enthusiasm.  His
nickname was "Bones." The jungle fatigue uniforms (designed as one size
fits all) exaggerated his lean and bony body.  There was so much more
space left for him inside his fatigues.

The mission briefing started with Roy Thompson who stood in front of
several chart filled easels placed in the front of the briefing room.
He briefed the weather.  It was going to be favorable for this flight
with very few clouds on the east side of the mountains in North Vietnam
and strong favorable WNW winds at drop altitude.  A low level pressure
was moving south east from China, bringing some cloudiness into the
target area in the Black River valley late in the morning.

Then, the mission briefing was turned over to Don Fisher who briefed the
route and the drop sequences.  He was followed by Frank Parker, who
covered the enemy order of battle.  He presented the latest SOG
intelligence which included known numbers of different MIG interceptors
available to North Vietnamese defenses.  As always, he mentioned the
standard radio silence precautions.  Minimum chatter on the intercom! He
was going to run every one of his sophisticated tape recorders which
registered all electronic signals generated by enemy radars and also
captured crew's intercom transmissions. This was going to be a special
night for him to gather electronic intelligence signals for our future
use.  We should end up with a sizable amount of signals from all types
of radars.  These tapes would then be used by other crew EWOs interested
in sharpening their listening and signal interpretation skills.

Frank's briefing was followed by the Aircraft Commander Osborne.  He
briefed the crew assignments which had been previously reviewed with Lt
Col Tom Hines.  He would fly the entire mission in the right seat.  Van
Buren would be in the left seat from the take off through the low level
terrain following part of the flight.  Charlie Claxton would map read
from behind Van Buren during terrain following and then take the left
seat at high altitude on the way home.  Don Fisher would ride the radar
navigator's seat with the curtain drawn during terrain following and the
leaflet drop.  Gordie Wenaas would stand behind Osborne's right seat and
map read from there.  Jack McCrary would fly the engineer's seat during
terrain following.  Wayne Eckley would spend his time in the back
playing the safety observer role and provide assistance to the
loadmasters.  Frank Parker and Gean Clapper were to man their console
behind the bulkhead curtain and the two substitute loadmasters, Jim
Williams and Ed Darcy, were to make sure they kept their restraining
harnesses on during the drops. All crew members were to go on demand
regulator oxygen upon entering North Vietnam and then on 100% oxygen
during the leaflet drop.

There were a few standard questions from Lt Colonels Rogers and Hines
about everyone's fitness and emphasis on safety.  Finally, the crew was
wished good luck.

After this the crew was sanitized.  All personal effects,
identifications, family photographs, and even jewelry were placed into
plastic bags and saved for the crew's return.  Each crew member had only
his dog tags and Geneva Convention card as identifying documents.  That
was the standard procedure for all combat missions.

Because the mission planners had to secure all the classified mission
documents and personal effects, the crew members were already in their
assigned positions running their pre-departure check lists when we
rejoined them at the aircraft.  We witnessed an orderly engine start and
watched the Blackbird taxi out to the end of the runway.  From our
vantage point we saw them take off and disappear into the darkness over
the South China Sea.

About 3 hours later, I returned with Roy Thompson to our Operations
Office to monitor the North Vietnamese portion of the mission.  We had
one of our radio operators monitor a special HF radio frequency over
which Gean Clapper transmitted coded mission progress reports every 30
to 40 minutes when the aircraft reached a significant in-flight turning
point.  A radio station in an unknown location would broadcast
continuous one letter Morse Code at regular intervals.  Our airborne
operator would monitor the same frequency and at proper moments would
insert a two letter Morse Code signal which would let us know which
point of the route was reached and gave us the status of the mission's
progress.  This was such a short burst of transmitted energy that our
enemy, who was sure to monitor the same frequency, would not have enough
time to zero in his direction finders to locate the position of our
aircraft.  These -transmissions were the only breaks in radio silence
allowed during our combat missions.

Upon checking with our radio operator, we learned that the flight was
already over North Vietnam and right on time.  We did not have any
mission documents with us other than the radio operator's log with
numbered points and corresponding estimated times of arrival over them,
but we had a good mental picture of what must have been happening in the
cockpit.  So as we sat there, sipping on some very strong coffee that
the radio operator prepared, we made occasional comments on what the
crew must have been going through.

For the leaflet drop, all the lights were at their dimmest and the radar
navigator and EWOftadio operator compartment curtains were drawn to
prevent any outside light to affect the night vision of the rest of the
crew.  All were on oxygen and their intercom voices were muffled by the
oxygen mask microphones which registered and exaggerated the sound of
every breath they took.  The aircraft began its acceleration prior to
the rapid climb.  Maximum aircraft acceleration to 932 degree turbine
inlet temperature was attained in relatively short level flight with
aircraft shaking as if its four turbojets were ready to tear loose and
leave the bulky aircraft carcass behind.

Then as the aircraft began its rapid climb, Frank Parker's connsole
surely began to light up.  At first he would pick up a number of AAA and
SAM radars, which would routinely scan their assigned areas.  As they
detected the Blackbird, they would focus their scan on their just
discovered target and activate their height finders to establish the
aircraft's altitude. They would pass their acquired target data through
their established notification channels.  This would cause even more
radars to come up and focus on this rapidly rising, but now slow moving
target. The crew would hear Frank reporting the inevitable.  Two or
three AAA radars were tracking them, but from a safe distance.  Of
greater concern would be the SAM radars.  These had longer reach, but
were expected to be out of range.  He would certainly be calling these
to Osborne's attention.  Then the level off and the start of drop.  Each
man could tell when each cardboard box exited the aircraft. There was a
whoosh sound to each exit as the departing load created an added vacuum
in the rare atmosphere of the cargo compartment.  The aircraft would
seem to stand still, just hanging on in the thin air, being as high as
it could climb on the thin cushion of available air.  And as Frank
watched for the emergence of a GCI radar and its tracking pattern in
order to determine ff there was an intent to launch a MIG, Gordie Wenaas
must have struggled with the night vision scope looking for Yen Bai Air
Base some 30 miles away.  This was the place from which the nearest MIGs
could come.  His night vision scope would certainly pick up the heat of
an interceptor at take off.  He would have to be pointed in the right
direction. Others in the cockpit were getting the answer to whether they
could see the lights of distant Hanoi now at their 3 o'clock position.
Don Fisher must have had his face buried in the hood of his radar as he
carefully traced every mile of ground covered by the aircraft.  He had
to know exactly where he was in case Frank reported a radar or
interceptor lock on which would demand an immediate descent to a safe
terrain between the mountain peaks on the left.

We did not hear any interruptions to the monotonous "V' sound on the
radio, so we assumed that all was okay.  All the leaflets were
delivered.  The aircraft was on its way down and proceeding westward to
its turning point over the Black River.  The next report came just as
expected.  All was still okay.  The aircraft was now southbound running
its checklist for the bundle drop by Highway 6.

Roy and I planned to return to the hotel right after the next report and
get a couple of hours of sleep before coming back to greet the returning
crew.  But as we waited, nothing happened. There were no further reports
from the aircraft.  Our first assumption was that something went wrong
with Clapper's radio.  We would surely hear something once the aircraft
emerged from its radio silence over the SKYLINE beacon.  That is when
the aircraft would report a small problem like that to our radar sites
in Thailand.  Once again, there was nothing.  With that we returned to
the hotel and reported our concerns to Dow Rogers and Tom Hines.

There were anxious moments as the aircraft's return time approached.
Calls were made to find out if any landings were made in Thailand or at
Da Nang.  Then the command at SOG was notified. The SOG took over all
search and rescue efforts.  Several F-4 Phantoms were launched to survey
the area south of the last known reported position. The weather turned
bad.  The front moved in as expected and the F4s could not see a thing
on the ground. They monitored radios for signals from the aircraft's
crash position indicator and from any crew member survival radios. They
heard nothing.  After several attempts, the search was given up.  The
crew of 11 was declared as missing in action ( MIA).

There were many guesses and opinions as to what might have happened.  A
loss to enemy action was discounted.  The aircraft was proceeding
normally on its assigned mission after the leaflet drop, which was the
most hazardous part of the flight. Enemy attack on the aircraft would
have been reported.  The enemy had a chance to detect our aircraft by Na
San radar, which must have been alerted about our aircraft's escape
toward Dien Bien Phu.  Had this happened, there might have been some
forces in the vicinity of the drop zone capable of bringing down a low
flying aircraft with small arms fire.  But such an act would have been
heralded as a great victory by North Vietnam.  The enemy should have
learned of our aircraft's fate almost immediately. Even with our low
profile, the failure of our aircraft to return to Nha Trang could not be
concealed for very long.  The enemy would have concluded that it was the
aircraft that had dropped several million leaflets west of Hanoi.  They
did not take credit for its disappearance during this mission.  But some
thought of a more sinister scenario. The enemy had the aircraft and
perhaps some members of the crew and they would use them for propaganda
purposes.  However, as time went on this probability dissipated.  It
became clearer and clearer that our aircraft must have impacted a
mountain in an isolated area sometime after making its last position
report.  The return of our POWs in 1973 confirmed that.  The names of
the crew members were not known to any of the returning POWs.

The location of Blackbird 64-0547 continued to be a mystery for 25
years.  In 1991, when the villagers of Phu Nung heard that the U.S. was
searching for remains of American airmen, various individuals reported
that they knew of a crash site in their vicinity.  In November 1992 a
joint U.S.-Vietnam team was lead to a very isolated location at
coordinates 21-39-80N 103-31-20E (Grid 48OUJ 4744596161) where they
found few remaining parts of an aircraft which turned out to be our

The crash site is located in a rugged mountainous terrain of Lai Chau
province some 32 miles northeast of Dien Bien Phu. It lies just a few
miles east of the route which many of our crews flew in the opposite
direction toward the same prominent bend in the river over which the
last aircraft position report was made.  This river bend was a very
distinct radar return and we used it on those missions which required
our undetected entry into areas between Hanoi and the China border.
Since we are unable to retrieve the flight plan for this mission, we do
not have the exact location of the initial point for the drop or for the
drop zone.  I must rely only on my memory and conclude that the aircraft
was either on its planned route to the initial point or making a course
correction to it. Distance wise, the crash occurred seven and a half
minutes from the reporting point at the river bend. Description of the
aircraft's impact point reveals that it was heading directly toward the
Na San radar site which was about 45   nautical miles away.

The US recovery team pinpointed the crash location on the best available
1 to 50,000 scale chart.  This chart shows it to be at 4780 ft on a
steepd 60 degree slope of a north northwest facing crescent shaped
mountain.  The crest of this mountain goes only up to 4870 ft.  The main
peak of this karst studded mountain known as Nam Bo rises to 5174 ft and
it is one mile due west of the crash site.  The crash site is very
small. Its measurements established by the recovery team are given as
105 by 72 feet.  This is a very small area for an aircraft as large as a
C-130.  Since all the crew remains were recovered from this small
location, it can be safely concluded that the aircraft did nor bounce
and break up along its track before coming to a stop.  Its crash heading
must have been perpendicular to the face of the mountain.  With that,
the destruction of the aircraft must have been instantaneous.

At the time of the crash the crew was getting ready for the second drop.
Eckley, Darcy and Williams were in the cargo compartment making sure
that the load was properly positioned for the drop.  They were moving
about and did not yet have their restraining harnesses hooked on.
Claxton and Wenaas were the other two crew members who were not fastened
to any seats.  Their map reading duties called for them to stand behind
the pilots and peer outside through the side windows.

The first person on the scene of the crash was a 12 year old boy.  He
reported that the aircraft was in many pieces and that it was still
burning.  He saw several bodies, many of them burnt.  He did not find
any survivors.

The team found very little at the crash scene.  The villagers had
pilfered the site within days after the crash and over the years carted
away all aircraft parts they could use.  In 1991 when they learned about
the US search for the remains of airmen, they returned to the site and
dug up all the human remains they could find. They turned them over to
the proper authorities who concluded that they accounted for eight crew
members. When the team returned to the site one year later, they found
only a few fragments of human remains and the team leader recommended
that any further attempts at recovery should be abandoned.  Subsequent
analysis of human remains accounted for all eleven members of the crew.

There is a question why the site went so long without being reported.
Team's investigation revealed that the crash site was reported to the
village authorities immediately.  It may be that the village leaders
were so isolated from the governmental authorities that they didn't know
what to do.  Or, on the other hand, they were astute enough to realize
what kind of fate would descend upon them for pilfering the crash site
and keeping the crew weapons as well as those that must have been
packaged in the air drop cargo. Consequently, keeping the news of the
crash a village secret had some benefits for their isolated indigenous
population.  Then, once the American rewards for locating aircraft crash
sites became known and profitable, the village secret was revealed.

Our own information channels were also flawed.  Personnel associated
with Combat Talon were never officially informed about the crash site
discovery. in mid 1997, plans were put in motion at Huriburt to erect a
memorial for the eleven lost crew members whose status had been changed
from MIA to KIA in 1978.  As an individual who was closely tied to this
unfortunate mission, I agreed to write this story so that the families
of the lost airmen would learn about the work their loved ones did in
Vietnam and so that those who flew the Blackbirds in that war would
recall and share their mission recollections with others.  I finished
the first draft of this story in July, hoping that John Lewis' and my
recollections of the route and events of 30 years ago would help someone
to locate the missing aircraft.  The title of this first draft was
"Missing Combat Talon C-130E".  The word of my writing went out and in
August I received a surprise phone call from a man who had been looking
for information about his friend who flew on that mission. It was Gene
Kremin, a radio operator buddy of Gean Clapper.  He informed me that the
aircraft had been located almost five years before and that his
information about the crash site came from the Library of Congress in
Washington, D.C.


Subject: Air Force Print News for Oct. 28, 2000
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 2000 14:23:16 -0500

001625.  Vietnam War MIAs identified

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The remains of eleven U.S. Air Force servicemen missing
in action from the Vietnam War have been identified and are being returned
to their families for burial.

They are:  Col. Charles P. Claxton, Chicago, Ill.; Col. Donald E. Fisher,
Halfway, Ore.; Lt. Col. Edwin N. Osborne, Jr., Raiford, Fla.; Lt. Col.
Gerald G. Van Buren, Toledo, Ohio; Lt. Col. Gordon J. Wenaas, Mayville,
N.D.; Maj. Frank C. Parker III, Bridgeport, Pa.; Chief Master Sgt. Jack
McCrary, Madison, Tenn.; Chief Master Sgt. Wayne A. Eckley, Enterprise,
Ore.; Chief Master Sgt. Gean P. Clapper, Altoona, Pa.; and Chief Master Sgt.
James R. Williams, Charlotte, N.C.  The name of the eleventh crewmember is
not being released at the request of his family.

On Dec. 29, 1967, their Air Force C-130E Hercules took off from Nha Trang,
Republic of Vietnam, on a special mission over North Vietnam.  Approximately
four hours into their mission, the crew made a radio report from an area
near Lai Chau Province, North Vietnam.  When they failed to return to base,
a visual and electronic search was initiated.  About a month later, the
search was ended when the aircraft could not be located.

In October and November 1992, a joint U.S. - Socialist Republic of Vietnam
team interviewed five witnesses who had knowledge of the crash site.  Two of
the witnesses had visited the area of the crash in 1967 or 1968 and provided
information about the site.  Some of the witnesses turned over
identification cards or tags that contained the names of some of the crew
members.  The team visited the site and recovered some human remains.

In February 1993, the government of Vietnam turned over additional remains
and a photocopy of more identification media.  In October and November a
joint team led by Joint Task Force-Full Accounting excavated the suspected
crash site where they recovered aircraft wreckage, personal effects and
human remains.  In 1994 and 1995, Vietnamese citizens and government
officials turned over additional remains.

Department of Defense analysts concluded from the distribution of the
aircraft wreckage that the C-130 hit a mountainside and the crew was unaware
of the impending crash.  Nine parachutes were accounted for among the
artifacts recovered, and there are no unresolved live sighting reports
associated with this incident.

Analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central
Identification Laboratory Hawaii established the identification of the
eleven servicemen.





Return to Service Member Profiles

On March 10, 2000, Joint Task Force–Full Accounting (JTF-FA, now DPAA) identified the remains of Lieutenant Colonel Gordon James Wenaas, missing from the Vietnam War.
Lieutenant Colonel Wenaas entered the U.S. Air Force from North Dakota and served with the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing. On December 29, 1967, he was a crew member aboard a C-130E Hercules (tail number 64-0547) that took off from Nha Trang Air Base, South Vietnam, on a mission over North Vietnam. While flying over Lai Chau Province en route to the target, the aircraft crashed into a mountainside, killing Lt Col Wenaas. His remains were not recovered at the time. Between 1992 and 1995, a joint U.S./Vietnamese team located and investigated the crash site, where they recovered human remains. In 1993, the Vietnamese government also turned over human remains and artifacts associated with this loss. In 2000, U.S. investigators identified Lt Col Wenaas from these remains. 
Lieutenant Colonel Wenaas is memorialized in the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

If you are a family member of this serviceman, you may contact your casualty office representative to learn more about your service member.