WEST, JOHN THOMAS
Name: John Thomas West
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon AB, Thailand
Date of Birth: 26 July 1947
Home City of Record: Baltimore MD
Date of Loss: 02 January 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163400N 1062700E (XD548329)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Ronnie G. Lindstrom
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 2020.
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"
Capt. John T. West and 1Lt. Ronnie G. Lindstrom were co-pilots of an F4D
Phantom which departed as second aircraft in a flight of two from Ubon
Airfield on January 2, 1970 on an operational mission over Laos.
As the aircraft were near the Sepone River in Savannakhet Province, about 10
miles from the border of South Vietnam, West and Lindstrom's aircraft was
seen to crash. The flight leader saw the aircraft descend and saw the
wreckage on the ground, but observed no parachutes. No emergency radio
beeper signals were heard to indicate that West and Lindstrom safely ejected
from the aircraft.
West and Lindstrom became two of nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in
Laos during the Vietnam War. Although Pathet Lao leaders stressed that they
held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, they stated that those captured
in Laos would be released in Laos, hoping to gain a seat at the negotiating
table in Paris where the U.S. and Vietnam were negotiating an end to the
war. The U.S. did not include Laos in the Paris Peace Accords, and no
American held in Laos was ever released. In America's haste to leave
Southeast Asia, it abandoned some of its finest men. Since the end of the
war, thousands of reports have been received indicating that hundreds of
Americans are still held captive.
In seeming disregard for the Americans either held or having been murdered
by the Pathet Lao, by 1989 the U.S. and the Lao had devised a working plan
to provide Laos with humanitarian and economic aid leading toward ultimate
full diplomatic and trade relations while Laos allows the excavation of
military crash sites at sporadic intervals. In America's haste to return to
Southeast Asia, we are again abandoning our men.