Name: Thomas Thawson Wright
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron
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.


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

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 <krm@teleport.com>
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.





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On February 27, 1968, a RF-4C Phantom II (tail number 66-0431) with a crew of two took off from Udorn Air Base, Thailand, on a photo-reconnaissance mission to targets northeast of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam. The aircraft failed to return to base, and a search effort was conducted over its flight path, but neither the aircraft nor its crew could be located. Following the end of hostilities, the remains of the aircraft’s pilot were returned to U.S. custody and identified; however, the other crew member is still unaccounted for.

Captain Thomas Thawson Wright, who joined the U.S. Air Force from Indiana, was a member of the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, and was the pilot aboard the Phantom when it went missing. He was not seen or heard from again following the aircraft's disappearance and he has not been identified among any remains returned to U.S. custody after the war. After his disappearance he was promoted to Colonel.  Today, Colonel Wright is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

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