Remains returned 26 August 1978

Name: Dennis Edward Wilkinson
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 23 July 1944
Home City of Record: W. Palm Beach FL
Date of Loss: 10 May 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 214100N 1050700E (WJ120975)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E

Other Personnel in Incident: Jeffrey L. Harris, remains returned 05/97 [see
Harris bio]

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 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: In the spring of 1972, the U.S. formulated the LINEBACKER offensive.
Its objective was to keep the weapons of war out of North Vietnam. At this time,
the North Vietnamese had one of the best air defense systems in the world, with
excellent radar integration of SA-2 SAMs, MiGs, and antiaircraft artillery. The
NVN defense system could counter our forces from ground level up to nineteen
miles in the air. MiG fighters were on ready alert, and after takeoff, were
vectored by ground-control radar. Soviet advisors devised attack strategies,
manned a number of the SAM sites, and also trained North Vietnamese crews.

On the first strike day, the entire force encountered heavy concentrations of
anti-aircraft fire and 16 MiGs were seen. Three of the MiGs were downed, but the
Air Force lost an air crew. An F4E flown by Capt. Jeffrey L. Harris and Weapons
Systems Officer Capt. Dennis E. Wilkinson exploded and crashed. The Air Force
believed there was reason to believe the two escaped the crippled plane, and
declared them both Missing in Action.

In 1973, 591 Americans were released from prisons in Hanoi. Harris and Wilkinson
were not among them. Military officials were dismayed that hundreds of known or
suspected prisoners were not released.

In 1978, Congressman "Sonny" Montgomery led a much-maligned delegation to Hanoi
to determine whether any American POWs remained in Vietnam. The Vietnamese told
him there were none, and gave the delegation a few sets of American remains. Mr.
Montgomery returned with the report that all Americans were dead.

One of the sets of remains given to Montgomery was subsequently identified as
Dennis E. Wilkinson. If the Vietnamese could account for him, it seems unlikely
that they are unable to account for Harris as well.

LINEBACKER and LINEBACKER II offensives were the most effective strikes against
enemy defenses in the war. By the end of these surgical strikes, according to
pilots who flew the missions, the North Vietnamese had "nothing left to shoot at
us as we flew over. It was like flying over New York City."

Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of
reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in
captivity. As in the case of Wilkinson, Vietnam and her communist allies can
account for most of them.

In the total view of the issue of the missing, however, the return of remains
signals no progress. In the early 1980's the very credible Congressional
testimony of a Vietnamese mortician indicated that the Vietnamese are in
possession of over 400 sets of remains. In 15 years, they have returned barely
half of them. More importantly, the same credible witness, whose testimony is
believed throughout Congress, stated that he had seen live Americans held at the
same location where the remains were stored.

As long as even one American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, the
only issue is that one living man. We must bring them home before there are only
remains to negotiate for.
Daily Corinthian (subscription)
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