forward air control was called the "Misty" FAC. Misty operations were flown high
and fast in such aircraft as the F100, able to cover a larger area than the small,
traditional aircraft flown by the "hands-on" FACs. Their role, although not
usually directly in the arena of ground fire, was hazardous. The enemy had weapons to
reach them, even at their greater altitude.
The North American F100 "Super Sabre" first saw action in Southeast Asia in
northwest Laos in May 1962. F100 operations in Vietnam began in 1965, and took part in
Operation Flaming Dart, the first U.S. Air Force strike against North Vietnam in February
of that year. Further deployments of the aircraft to the area left just five F100
squadrons in the United States. Various modifications were made to the aircraft
affectionately called "Hun" or "Lead Sled" by its pilots and mechanics
over the early years, gradually improving night bombing capability, firing systems and
Maj. Michael O. McElhanon and Maj. John F. Overlock were pilots assigned to the 309th
Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat, South Vietnam. The missions they generally flew were
Misty FAC operations over North Vietnam. McElhanon was rated as a pilot and Overlock as a
On August 16, 1968, McElhanon and Overlock were on an early mission and had already
refueled once (the maximum range for the F100 is nearly 1500 miles), and had radioed the
Airborne Control that they were enroute to rendezvous with a tanker over the Gulf of
Tonkin for the second refueling. That was the last contact Airborne Control had with
Overlock and McElhanon. They were not missed until some fifty minutes later, when a flight
of fighter aircraft tried to locate them to get a fix on their target. The plane is
assumed to have gone down somewhere near the city of Dong Hoi in North Vietnam's Quang
No one knows for sure what happened to Overlock and McElhanon. If they went down close to
the city, they could have been captured. If they went down over the Gulf, they may never
For the next 5 years, their families waited to see if McElhanon and Overlock had been
captured. When 591 prisoners were released in the spring of 1973, the two were not among
them. Experts said that there were hundreds who were expected to be released and who were
not. Finally, in late 1975, the U.S. Government declared the men dead, based on no
specific information that they were alive.
Were it not for the thousands of reports received that Americans are still held captive,
the McElhanon and Overlock families might be able to assume they died and go on with their
lives. But as long as men are alive, Overlock and McElhanon could be among them. It's time
we brought our men home.
Michael O. McElhanon was promoted to the rank of Colonel and John F. Overlock was promoted
to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period they were maintained missing.
Discovery raises a woman's hopes
Pat Mohos of Stephentown has been given reason to suspect remains from
Vietnam could be her brother
By DANIELLE T. FURFARO, Staff writer
First published: Tuesday, June 7, 2005
STEPHENTOWN -- Lt. Col. John Overlock might be coming home at last.
Nearly 36 years after he was shot down over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a
military group created to find POW/MIAs has contacted his sister, Pat Mohos,
to tell her remains that might be her brother's have been found. The most
promising evidence is the serial number from his plane's ejection seat, near
where the remains were found. But DNA testing, which could take years, may
help to confirm it.
"It's kind of chilling, but maybe it's him and maybe it's not," said Mohos,
68, and the only remaining member of his immediate family. "It'd be nice if
it was. We'd have closure."
While serving with the Air Force in Vietnam in 1968, Overlock volunteered
for the risky mission of flying a "spotter" plane to locate enemy
anti-aircraft guns. It was on such a mission on Aug. 16 of that year that he
was shot down.
The plane was recovered, but his whereabouts have been a mystery.
Overlock's family spent years campaigning to get more help for those missing
In the 1970s, his parents, Francis and Theresa, bought television and radio
spots to publicize the plight of their son and other POW/MIAs.
Theresa wrote a letter to then-President Richard M. Nixon criticizing his
handling of the Vietnam War and what she called his "feeble attempts" to get
war prisoners released.
By the mid-1980s, both parents had died, and Mohos and another sister,
Theresa Petell, conceded there was little hope their brother was still
alive. On April 21, 1988, what would have been Overlock's 42nd birthday,
what was left of his family held a memorial service for the airman.
Petell died two years ago.
Last week, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command told Mohos they have what
could be his remains at the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air
Force Base in Hawaii.
DNA samples from Mohos will be compared with DNA from the remains, but
officials cautioned that it could be months or even years before they have
The military conducts an exhaustive procedure to identify remains, including
testing DNA and dental records, as well as examining such personal effects
as wedding bands or dog tags found near the remains, said Army Major Rumi
Nielson-Green. With DNA alone, conclusive identification can be impossible.
"DNA is not the gold standard for identification," said Nielson-Green. "With
mitochondrial DNA, many people in a population can share the DNA and not be
related. The gold standard is really the dental records."
The process can drag on. In January 2001, the military thought that remains
unearthed from Koh Tang's western beach in Cambodia could have been those of
Ashton Nathaniel Loney of Albany. More than four years later, the remains
still have not been conclusively identified.
While Nielson-Green would not say specifically what remains were found near
Overlock's crash site, Mohos said one item gives her hope -- the serial
number from the ejection seat.
"So there are other things indicating it is a strong possibility," Mohos
Still, these new developments have left Mohos on edge and have brought up a
wealth of old emotions.
"I've been talking about it a lot, searching on the Internet," Mohos said.
"My cousin and I bring out the old yearbook and talk about the things we did
as a family. ... what his hopes and dreams were."
According to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, about 1,800 military
personnel -- about 130 from New York state -- still are missing from the
Robert Reiter, director of the Rensselaer County Veterans Service Agency,
said he hopes that the remains turn out to be Overlock's.
"It's time to give some closure to this family," he said.