At 1745 hours, Jensen radioed his position, and again at 2100 hours, Jensen
radioed situation normal, with no position given, nor was the target area
specified. The aircraft's last location was over the Laotian panhandle about
15 miles due east of the city of Ban Muong Sen in Savannakhet Province.
When the aircraft failed to return to the base as scheduled, an aerial
search was conducted during the daylight hours of May 16, with negative
results. The aircraft was not found, and no evidence of the crew surfaced.
The crew of the AC47 is among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos during the
war with Vietnam. Although the numbers of men actually termed "prisoner of
war" are quite low, this can be explained in understanding the blanket of
security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the
public perception that we "were not in Laos", details of many loss incidents
were "rearranged" to show a loss or casualty in South Vietnam. Only a
handful of publicly exposed cases were ever acknowledged POW, even though
scores of pilots and ground personnel were known to have been alive and well
at last contact (thus increasing the chance they were captured alive).
The Lao communist faction, the Pathet Lao, stated on several occasions that
they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but the Pathet Lao were not
included in the Paris Peace agreements ending American involvement in the
war. As a consequence, no American POWs held in Laos were negotiated for.
Not one American held in Laos has ever been released. As thousands of
reports continue to flow in regarding Americans still captive in Southeast
Asia, the fates of the crew of the AC47 become more intriguing. It is
entirely possible, with no evidence to the contrary, that they survived to
be captured. Whether they survived or not, they were abandoned to the enemy.
MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS December 13, 1999
The remains of eleven American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from
the Vietnam War have been identified and are being returned to their
families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tim L. Walters, South Bend,
Ind.; U.S. Army 1st Lt. James R. McQuade, Hoquiam, Wash.; U.S. Army Spc.
James E. Hackett, Bradenton, Fla.; U.S. Air Force Col. George W. Jensen,
Seattle, Wash.; U.S. Air Force Col. Marshall L. Tapp, Los Angeles, Calif.;
U.S. Air Force Col. Lavern G. Reilly, St. Paul, Minn.; U.S. Air Force Maj.
George W. Thompson, Beckley, W.Va.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James
A. Preston, Bowden, Ga.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James E. Williams,
Oxford, Miss.; U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William L. Madison,
Lexington, Ky.; and U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Kenneth D. McKenney,
On March 9, 1969, Walters was aboard a 0-2A Super Skymaster flying a forward
air control mission over Laos. The aircraft crashed, due to an unknown
cause. Other aircrews in the area reported seeing the aircraft shortly
after impact. A ground party went to the site shortly after the crash and
determined that both crewmembers were dead, but they could not recover the
remains due to heavy enemy activity in the area.
Joint U.S.-Lao investigators visited several alleged crash sites in 1993,
1994 and 1998, and an excavation was conducted in January, February and
March 1999, where a team recovered human remains, personal effects and
Hackett and McQuade were attempting to rescue the crew of a downed aircraft
when their own OH-6A helicopter exploded in mid-air over South Vietnam on
June 11, 1972. In 1993 and 1994, joint U.S.-Vietnamese teams conducted
investigations and an excavation where they recovered numerous human
remains, pilot-related gear and personal effects.
On May 15, 1966, Jensen was piloting an AC-47D gunship on an armed
reconnaissance mission over Laos. Also aboard the aircraft were Tapp,
Thompson, Preston, Madison, McKenney, Williams, and Reilly. That evening,
Jensen radioed to his airborne control aircraft that everything was normal
on the mission, but the aircraft never returned to its home base. Joint
U.S.-Lao investigative teams visited several sites in 1994, 1995, 1996 and
1997 and conducted excavations where they recovered human remains an d
With the accounting of these servicemen, 2,032 are missing in action from
the Vietnam War. Another 551 have been identified and returned to their
families since the end of the war. Analysis of the remains and other
evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii confirmed
the identification of these servicemen.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the
governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Lao People's
Democratic Republic that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We
hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future.
Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the
highest national priority.
On Monday, May 15, 2000 a memorial service of full military honors is
scheduled to be held at Arlington National Cemetery for the 10 U.S. Air
Force crew members of "Spooky 10"~ lost over Laos and declared Missing In
Action on this date 34 years ago, May 15th, 1966.
Due to extensive evidence that the identification of the eight Americans and
two South Vietnamese crew members aboard this flight is highly inconclusive,
the interment will be a difficult time for many family members whose loved
ones were lost in this incident. However, all friends, veterans, and
POW/MIA activists are invited to attend as a symbol of honor and respect
rather than as an acceptance of the closure that remains continually
elusive regarding the true fates of these men.
The service is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time;
however, all in attendance are asked to be inside the Administration
Building (directly behind the Arlington Visitor's Center) no later than
A vehicle procession will follow to the gravesite where full military honors
will be given during a graveside memorial service which will be officiated
by Chaplain Brogan and Father McGill of Arlington. A fly over of C-130
gunships in Missing Man formation will symbolize the absence of these men
whose sacrifice has been most noble.
Upon departure from Arlington, all who wish to attend are invited to gather
at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall where a joint American Vietnamese
color guard will post both the American and South Vietnamese flags in honor
of the eight American and 2 Vietnamese crew members who were aboard this
Col. George William Jensen
Capt. Marshall Landis Tapp
Col. Lavern George Reilly
Maj. George Winton Thompson
CMSgt. James Arthur Preston
CMSgt. James Ellis Williams
CMSgt. William Louis Madison
SMSgt. Kenneth Dewey McKenney
Although the identities of the two South Vietnamese crew members remain
uncertain, their presence aboard Spooky 10 will be proudly acknowledged and
their loyalty and military service will be given equal honor for the price
that they have paid in the name of Freedom.
Two wreaths will be placed at Panel 11E in the name of continued hope for
all of these noble men.
Amanda Kidd, relative of CMSgt. James A. Preston, and Thuoc Nguyen, member
of the Former Vietnamese Political Prisoners will jointly place a wreath of
yellow roses as an outward symbol of American and South Vietnamese unity and
hope for truthful answers of the fate of the men aboard Spooky 10.
Members of the Former Vietnamese Political Prisoners will place a wreath as
well, which will represent their honor and gratitude for the sacrifices that
all of these men have paid in their effort to bring freedom to Vietnam.
All friends, family, and concerned citizens are invited to attend both
services as an expression of honor and continued hope. Upon departure,
please do so with the understanding that the search for the truth regarding
these men will continue.
Your presence will be welcome and deeply appreciated, as will your support
in the ongoing search for Truth.
Media coverage is welcome at the Wreath Laying ceremony at the Wall, however
discretion and respect are greatly requested of all photographers who may be
present during the graveside service at Arlington. Please acknowledge the
need for privacy of all family members during this very moving, yet
extremely difficult time.
For further information please contact:
J. David Murray
Chairman, New Jersey VVA State Council
Phone: (732) 264-3981