WRIGHT, THOMAS THAWSON
Name: Thomas Thawson Wright Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 02 October 1934 Home City of Record: Gary IN Date of Loss: 27 February 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 170000N 1070000E (XD951766) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Refno: 1063
Other Personnel In Incident: Gilbert S. Palmer (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 June 1990 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 1998.
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.
Major Gilbert S. Palmer Jr. and Capt. Thomas Wright comprised the crew of a reconnaissance version of the Phantom fighter/bomber, an RF4C, in Vietnam. On February 27, 1968, the two were assigned a reconnaissance mission from which they would not return.
Palmer's aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. The location is not clear. According to a sheet distributed by the Arizona POW/MIA families (Palmer's family was at that time residing in Arizona), Palmer and Wright were lost in Laos. According to Defense Department and State Department records, the two went down in Laos. However, coordinates listed by these agencies are located near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), some five miles southwest of the city of Vinh Linh in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The records of Joint Casualty Resolution Center indicate that the loss occurred in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam.
Palmer and Wright were declared Missing in Action. From the non-specific coordinates given, it is clear that the Air Force does not know the precise loss location. Thus, they are not sure what the Vietnamese know about their fates.
When 591 Americans were released from Vietnam in 1973, Palmer and Wright were not among them. If, as some records indicate, the two were lost in Laos, they join nearly 600 Americans who were lost there. Not one man held in Laos was ever released--or negotiated for.
As for those lost in Vietnam, military officials were dismayed in 1973 that hundreds that were known or suspected to be prisoners were not released. There were over 2500 still missing.
Unlike "MIA's" from other wars, most of the missing in Southeast Asia could be accounted for, alive or dead. Since the war's end, thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government regarding Americans still in captivity in Southeast Asia. There is a large volume of evidence which indicates that hundreds are still being held.
In the 1950's, Henry Kissinger predicted that future "limited political engagements" would unfortunately result in nonrecoverable prisoners of war. We have seen this happen in Korea and Vietnam, where thousands of men and women remain missing, and where ample evidence exists that many of them (from BOTH wars) are still alive today. The U.S. Government seems unable (or unwilling) to negotiate their freedom. For Americans, the "unfortunate" abandonment of military personnel is not acceptable, and the policy that allows it must be changed before another generation is left behind in some faraway war.
Gilbert S. Palmer Jr. and Thomas T. Wright were both promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period they were maintained missing.
From - Fri Nov 12 19:15:57 1999 From: ken molly <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Info re MIA Thomas Wright, Col., USAF
I was stationed with Tom Wright at Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, when his aircraft was shot down. I was told that the rescue helicopter actually had contact with Wright on the ground in Laos (he may even have been on the "tree penetrator") but because the winch/hoist used to reel in the penetrator was jammed, that they couldn't pick Wright up and had to leave him there for the night. When they went back the next day he was nowhere to be seen. Also, it was my understanding that the rescue helicopter was from NKP (NaKhon Phanom RTAFB). Perhaps someone from the rescue Sq. or a unit history has info re Tom Wright's whereabouts.