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F-111 COMBAT OPERATIONS

Last Updated 26 December, 2003

The F-111 has served in a number of combat operations during the past thirty-five years.  In that time, there have been 13 losses, only one of which being a confirmed shoot-down.  The remainder of the losses were mid-air collisions, flight into terrain, or unknown. There are 13 aircrew who remain missing, presumed killed in action.


Viet Nam, South East Asia, Operation COMBAT LANCER, 1968

  • F-111A 66-0022 28 Mar 68 (three days after COMBAT LANCER operations started).
    Crew: Maj. Henry Elmer (Hank) McCann and Capt. Dennis Lee Graham (PWSO).
    Callsign: OMAHA 77.
    POW/MIA Reference#: REFNO 1107-0-01 / 1107-0-02.
    Mission Target: Chanh Hoa (also reported as Banh Hoa) Truck park at N17 32 11, E106 29 12.
    Weapons Load: 2 x BRU-3A/As of 6 x M117C 750lbs bombs (12 total) plus 1 x AIM-9 Sidewinder.
    TF-30 engines: P3 S/N P658816 and P658823. (1)
    Flight Plan: Takhli-Udorn-Nakhon Phanom-N17 50 E105 40-Target (N17 32 11 E106 29 12) -Water-Danang-Takhli (1)

    Took off from Takhli at 0403 local, 2103Z 27 Mar 68 (one report stated 0503 local--suspect this is Viet Nam time, and Thailand is one time zone further west), HF check-in to "BRIGHAM" CRC at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB at 0545 local 1000’ AGL 50 nm west of "INVERT". (Last radio contact 2145Z over Laos N17 25 E105 40 - unconfirmed (2)). Invert painted a good IFF/SIF ID. Five voice calls received by "INVERT" until 0448 local. Aircraft passed "INVERT" 4 nm north at 0550 local on a heading of 085 degrees at 1000’ AGL. 60 to 65 miles east of invert in a figure eight holding pattern radio contact was lost at 0613 local possibly due to terrain between them. OMAHA 77 was painted by IFF at 135 degrees and 7 nm from "INVERT" . OMAHA 77 turned on a southwest heading of 210 degrees. Last radar paint was at 0630 local 190 degrees true 17-20 miles from "INVERT".(3)
    POW/MIA files list last known coordinates as N 17 32 00 E 106 29 00 (Target Co-ordinates) and not last radar contact in Thailand.

    Hanoi VNA International Service in English reported at 0618Z 29 Mar 1968:
    Quote The PAVN armed forces in the western part of HA TINH Provence yesterday shattered (sic) down a F-111A ... Unquote. (4)

    In 1991, a JCRC team visiting the QUANG BINH Provence Museum in Viet Nam, were shown a Flight Crew helmet with the name 'MAC' painted on it.  Museum records state the helmet was from the people of Xuan Thuy village, Lethuy, Quang Binh--who shot down an aircraft on 31 Mar 68.  Only one reported US/Allied loss over northern Viet Nam between 27 Mar and 4 Apr, and the names of that crew (REFNO 1105) were inconsistant with a nickname of "MAC".  The actual flight plan track of McCann/Graham was near Le Thuy district, the area where the helmet was located.

    JTF-FA Activities. A crash site was identified in Vietnam in 1990s. An investigation by a JTF-FA detachment resulted in mixed results, rimarily due to suspected intimindation and collusion of witnesses by Vietnamese officials escorting the American staff. Some witnesses stated that they saw a parachute decend near he crash area--a crater scattered with unexploded bombs, but devoid of any significant wreckage located approximately 600 metres north of the Long Dai ferry.  Witness statements appear confused as to the year, and even time of day (daylight/night) of the crash.

    In 1992, an analysis of components recovered from a suspected crash site at Grid Coord 48QXE7347116358 in Long Dia hamlet, Hien Ninh village, Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh provence, Vietnam--identified a number of F-111A components.  A piece of metal tubing, PN 7-22904 (706 714-50) was identified as an assembly control casing, which is part of the transmission feedback located above the engine intake on the left side of the main fuselage of an F-111A.   A further piece of wreckage, a H shapped mechanical linkage, PN 12C859-9, was identified as a flight control linkage bellcrank and part of the F-111A flight control system.  A turbine fan blade, PN 538104, was also identified as being from a TF-30 engine. A small portion of survival vest was also identified.  Co-operative investigation with SM-ALC (McClellan AFB, CA) discovered that the bell crank of the flight control linkage described above was changed across the F-111 fleet due to an engineering change proposal.  PN 12C859-9 was replaced with PN 12C859-17.  It was known that neither 66-022 (REFNO 1107) or 66-024 (REFNO 1139) were modified, and consequently, the F-111A wreckage was positively identified as from a 1968 loss, and not from a 1972 loss.   The repot also stated that the status of the crew cound not be determined from the escape and survival artifacts recovered. (##001)

    Circumstantial evidence, and anecdotal reports that INVERT was suffereing equipment problems at the time of the reported radar tracking of McCann/Graham orbiting in Laos and then returning to Thailand, has caused reassement of the case.

    Crew status—killed in action never recovered. Recent searches of the US Library of Congress appears to indicate that in the late 1980's the wreckage of this aircraft was found by the Thais. However, after a couple of years of further investigation, it was decided that the discovered wreckage was not that of a F-111.   Neither aircraft nor crew have been found. (1998)

    Disturbingly, the POW/MIA reference # 1107 appears to have been confused on a number of occasions with that of Capt Allen Upton Graham (actual ref # 1939) who was lost in 67-066 in 1972.

    In summary, neither the aircraft or crew remains have been located to this day.  In 1992, JTF-FA speculated that limited wreckage found in Long Dia hamlet, Hien Ninh village, Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh provence, Vietnam, was from either case 1107 or 1139. Speculation remains that 1107 actually crashed in Thailand, possibly from damage received from ground fire after orbiting in the vicinity of the Laos / Nth Vietnam border attempting to make contact with the airborne command post (required), or on diversion back to Thailand with some defect when lost. Possibly the aircraft impacted terrain due to an insideous TFR failure while on RTB.

    First combat related F-111 loss.(2)

    Note: Most F-111 references (apart from the Official 474th COMBAT LANCER History Vol 1) have mixed up aircraft -017, -022 and -024.

  • F-111A 66-0017 28 Nov 68.  Structural failure--not combat related, but on a combat mission. Crew, Sandy Marquardt and Joe Hodges ejected and landed safely in Thailand. Safely recovered the next day.

  • F-111A 66-0024 22 Apr 68.
    Crew: Commander David "Spade" Cooley USN, and Lt. Col. Ed Palmgren USAF.
    Callsign:  TAILBONE 78
    POW/MIA Reference#: REFNO 1139-0-01 / -02.
    Mission Target: M1 Le Highway Ferry N17 19 20 E106 37 50.
    Weapons Load: 2 x BRU-3A/As of 6 x M117R 750lbs bombs (12 total) plus 1 x AIM-9B Sidewinder. (##003)
    TF-30 engines: S/N P658828 and P658824. (##003)
    Flight Plan: Takhli - Korat - Ubon - N16 30 E106 20 - N17 00 E106 09 - Target N17 19 20 E106 37 50 - N1730 E 107 20 (water) - Hue - Ubon - Korta - Takhli. (##003)

    Presumptive finding of death. 
    Loss co-ordinates: N17 28 E106 37. (Target Co-ordinates) (##004)
    JTF-FA Resolved Crash Site (as of 1995): Grid 48QXE734162,   N17 19 37 E106 37 57, Hien Ninh village (Investigations 1992/93) ((##006)

    Prior to JTF-FA Activities: Some Combat Lancer crews believed the loss was due to failure of the horizontal stabiliser weld failure (same as the cause of the loss of 66-0032). (xx)
    Other crews believe that 024 was flown into the ground as the crew of 024 believed they could successfully fly lower at night using 'manual TF' instead of the auto TF.   Although 200 feet is the lowest TFR setting, anecdotal evidence suggests that attempts were made to manual TF at 50 feet by interpreting the TF E-Scope.  In the mid to late 1970's, reports surfaced from Thailand that aircraft wreckage was located.   Nothing came to this.

    Further records obtained by the FOIA reveals that there has been suggestions that witnesses in Hai Trach village, Bo Trach district, said that a F-111 crashed off-shore 1500 metres northeast of the village during a night sometime prior to 1972.  This could have correlated to REFNO 1139. A witness also stated that during 1972, a PAVN unit recovered the aircraft from the water.   Also recovered was a parachute. (##005)

    JTF-FA Activities. A crash site was identified in Vietnam in the 1990s. An investigation by a JTF-FA detachment resulted in mixed results, primarily due to suspected intimindation and collusion of witnesses by Vietnamese officials escorting the American staff. Some witnesses stated that they saw a parachute decend near the crash area--a crater scattered with unexploded bombs, but devoid of any significant wreckage located approximately 600 metres north of the Long Dai river ferry.  Witness statements appear confused as to the year, and even time of day (daylight/night) of the crash. A second incident, an F-4 which was lost with both crew on the evening of 22 Apr 1968 in the near vicinity was later identified as the probable source of confusion in some witnesses (who were recalling events of 24 years previous).

    In 1992, an analysis of components recovered from a suspected crash site at Grid Coord 48QXE7347116358 in Long Dia hamlet, Hien Ninh village, Quang Ninh district, Quang Binh provence, Vietnam--identified a number of F-111A components.  A piece of metal tubing, PN 7-22904 (706 714-50) was identified as an assembly control casing, which is part of the transmission feedback located above the engine intake on the left side of the main fuselage of an F-111A.  A further piece of wreckage, a H shapped mechanical linkage, PN 12C859-9, was identified as a flight control linkage bellcrank and part of the F-111A flight control system.  A turbine fan blade, PN 538104, was also identified as being from a TF-30 engine. A small portion of survival vest, oxygen hose, life preserver straps and pieces of impact bag was also identified, as was a faded Oak Leaf rank insignia of a Lt Cdr or Lt Col.  Co-operative investigation with SM-ALC (McClellan AFB, CA) discovered that the bell crank of the flight control linkage described above was changed across the F-111 fleet due to an engineering change proposal.  PN 12C859-9 was replaced with PN 12C859-17.  It was known that neither 66-022 (REFNO 1107) or 66-024 (REFNO 1139) were modified, and consequently, the F-111A wreckage was positively identified as from a 1968 loss, and not from a 1972 loss.  The repot also stated that the status of the crew cound not be determined from the escape and survival artifacts recovered. (##001)

    However, the later report ##006 (13 Dec 1993) stated that excavation of a site at 48QXE7345716292 (an elevated terrace along the west bank of the Dai Giang river --##006 pg 80) discovered a small portion of survival vest, parts of a oxygen mask hose, life preserver straps and pieces of impact bag, as was a faded Oak Leaf rank insignia of a Lt Cdr or Lt Col. Reference ##006 (13 Dec 1993) concludes that the crew were in the aircraft at impact. The Oak Leaf rank insignia, together witht he earlier found components identifing the wreckage as being from either F-111A 66-022 or 66-024, positively identified the site to be that of REFNO# 1139, F-111A 66-024.  Wreckage of F-111A 66-024 (correlated by museum receipt listing aircraft type, location and date) was located in the Military Region 4 Museum in Vinh.

    Download Doug Loeffler's investigation of the loss of Tailbone 78 which includes modern day photos of the probable crash site.

    350KB zipped pdf
    or
    360KB pdf

 


Viet Nam, South East Asia, Operation CONSTANT GUARD V, LINEBACKER 2, 1972-73

On the second deployment to SEA, initially operating from Takhli RTAFB and later Korat RTAFB, aircraft of the 428th, 429th and 430th TFSs USAF flew over 4000 combat missions, although nine F-111A and 10 aircrew were lost.  The F-111A was the most advanced combat aircraft flown during the conflict, and attracted a high degree of interest from the North Vietnamese, and reportedly also the Soviet Union (1).

  • F-111A 67-0078 28 Sep 72. Maj. William Clare "Bill" Coltman and 1LT Robert Arthur "Lefty" Brett Jr. Callsign RANGER 23. Aircraft lost on the first night of F-111 operations, only hours after deploying to SEA. Target was in Route Pack 1. Major Coltman was promoted twice to the rank of Colonel whilst listed as missing before being pronounced presumed killed in action.  POW/MIA Reference # 1929-0-01 / -02.
    Loss co-ordinates: 21 35 51N  104 59 21E are of target position (North Viet Nam).
    Wreckage positively identified by JTF-FA team in Laos in late 1990's, and recovery of bone fragments in 2000. (2) 
    Honolulu Star newspaper article. (3)
    More details and images here.

  • 0517.   Vietnam War casualty laid to rest in Arlington
         -- http://www.af.mil/news/Apr2002/n20020404_0517.shtml

    0517.  Vietnam War casualty laid to rest in Arlington
    by Master Sgt. Dorothy Goepel
    Air Force Print News

    WASHINGTON -- Col. William C. Coltman Sr. was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on April 3, nearly 30 years after he was declared missing in action during his second combat tour in Vietnam.

    Family and friends gathered for a memorial service in Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Fort Myer, Va., to celebrate the life of Coltman, who was reported missing in action Sept. 29, 1972.

    "Bill Coltman touched my life," said retired Brig. Gen. Charles Bishop, who knew Coltman in the '60s. "He left us rich memories and an abiding faith in family. I'm a better person for having known him."

    Two of Coltman's three sisters, Harriet Muir and Mary Crow, described their brother's sense of adventure, and a trip in 1972 to Las Vegas to visit him. Gratitude was expressed for "the Lord's timing, because a few weeks later, he was reported missing."

    They remarked about his impish nature, and Crow remembered the times he would ask, "Who's the greatest brother in the world," she asked.

    On Sept. 25, 1972, Coltman deployed for his second combat tour in Vietnam in support of Linebacker II. According to historical records, 48 F-111As with the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.,
    arrived in Southeast Asia on Sept. 27, to help check the accelerating advance of the North Vietnamese.

    On Sept. 28 of that same year, the first night of F-111 operations, Coltman and 1st Lt. Robert A. Brett Jr. disappeared while on a strike mission in North Vietnam. The last radio and radar contact occurred as the aircraft approached the Loatian border.

    At that time, Coltman was said to have deviated from his programmed track to avoid thunderstorms. Radio contact was never reestablished and on Sept. 29, 1972, both men were declared missing in action at the time of
    estimated fuel exhaustion and after a search and rescue operation produced no clues.

    An investigative team with Joint Task Force-Full Accounting discovered wreckage in Houaphan Province, Northern Laos, on Aug. 1, 1998. The site was initially excavated in March 2000, and three more digs followed.

    The final excavation occurred in September and November 2000. On Nov. 20 of that year the remains from the site were returned to U.S. soil, and in the months that followed, the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory
    at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, began the identification process using the techniques of forensic anthropology and dentistry.

    The laboratory positively identified Coltman's remains in December 2001 and was able to distinguish that another crew member was with him, said Ginger Couden, laboratory spokesperson.  Coltman's relatives traveled to Hawaii on March 29 to bring his remains to Arlington for burial.

    Coltman's widow, Gail Coltman, was presented with the flag that had draped her husband's casket.   Coltman's brother, retired Col. (Dr.) Charles A. Coltman Jr., removed the MIA bracelet he had been wearing all these years and wrapped it around a rose before placing it on the casket.

    Maj. Kimberly G. Coltman, who was only 12 when she last saw her father, rendered a salute after placing a rose on the casket, in loving memory of "the best fighter pilot in the world," as she called him.

    "It was a tearful occasion, but our tears were tears of joy," Kimberly said, a nurse at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "Words cannot express my feelings knowing that after all these years, my father has come home."

    What is important to the family, she said, is that her father is now at peace.

    "The ceremony at Arlington helps to bring closure to something that's been looming in our lives for so long," she said.

    In this celebration of his life, she said, family and friends are happily reuniting after not having seen one another for years.

    The current number of Americans who have been recovered and positively identified since 1973 from the war in Southeast Asia is 653, according to figures compiled by Joint Task Force-Full Accounting officials. Still unaccounted for are 1,932 Americans -- 1,457 in Vietnam, 409 in Laos, 58 in Cambodia and eight in China.

    Arlington Service for Capt "Lefty" Brett.  The Arlington service for Capt "Lefty" Brett, (WSO of Ranger 23, piloted Col William C. Coltman) is scheduled at the Fort Myer's Chapel at 1100 on 1 Aug 2002 with burial at Arlington to follow. Capt Brett was pronounced MIA 29 September 1972. 
    Info via Kimberly Coltman, daughter of Col William Coltman.

     

  • F-111A 67-0066 16 Oct 72. CAPT James A. Hockridge and 1LT Allen U. Graham POW/MIA reference # 1939-0-01 / -02. Remains returned 30 September 1977. Possibly hit by a SA-2 Guideline SAMs after being acquired by Fansong radars due to necessary climb to MSRH for Mk-84 LDGP delivery whilst attacking the Phuc Yen airfield. Reported as having been found dead in the module by the NVN.
    Bill Wilson (see Jackel 33 below) has reported to F-111.net that the remains of CAPT Hockridge and 1LT Graham were identifed and recovered to the US some years ago.

  • F-111A 67-0063 7 Nov 72. MAJ Robert M. Brown and CAPT Robert D. Morrissey. POW/MIA Reference # 1945-0-01 / -02 Presumptive finding of death.

  • F-111A 67-0092 21 Nov 72. Capt. Donald Dean Stafford and Capt Charles Joseph Cafferrelli. Crashed post target, going "Feet Wet" into the Gulf of Tonkin, off the N. Vietnamese coast. Crew never recovered. POW/MIA Reference # 1948-0-01 / -02 Reported KIA, bodies not recovered. In 1998, three Vietnamese witnesses described the 'shooting down' of F-111 aircraft which crashed off coast near Hai Trach village. Reports of NVN knowledge of wreckage 'with skeletons inside' in 8 metres of water off the Vietnamese coast. (XX) Improbable that remains exist due to the catrastophic effects that high speed impacts have on the forward fuselage of the aircraft.

  • F-111A 67-0099 18 Dec 72. LTCOL Ronald J. Ward and MAJ James R. McElvain killed. POW/MIA Reference # 1952-0-01 / -02 Presumptive finding of death.

  • F-111A 67-0068 22 Dec 72. Target in vicinity of Hanoi.   Shot down after an assumed lucky shot to an engine gearbox. After a valiant escape and evasion lasting a few days, including a near rescue by a HH-53C (tail # 69-5788, call sign Jolly Green 73, from the 40th ARRS, NKP, Thailand--info via Chuck Rouhier http://www.jollygreen.org), under heavy ground fire, the crew CAPTs Bill Wilson and Bob Sponeybarger become P.O.Ws. (POW REF# 1966-0-01 / -02).  They were repatriated on 29 March 1973.
    In the late 1980s there was a report of a F-111 module stored at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI), which had been  disassembled for technical analysis. 
    With the thawing of relations between the West and the East,  the US "Task Force Russia" operation were provided access to photograph the module.   Whilst identification could not be made on the spot, by 18 June 1993, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified the module as being from 67-0068
    (ref FBI file 95A-HQ-1045752).   The module is still believed to remain in the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI).

  • Download Doug Loeffler's investigation of the 'Moscow Module'. 17KB pdf or 68KB doc
Module in Moscow WSO MAJ D. PRIMAS... Crew Chief
SSGT HETRICK...
North Vietnamese newspaper
(via Chuck Rouhier)
MIG-21 astride F-111
wreckage, Hanoi
(via Chuck Rouhier)
  • F-111A 67-0072 14 Mar 73. The main landing gear pin failed during takeoff causing the aircraft to depart the end of Takhli runway and burn. 24 x 500lbs MK82 bombs 'cooked off'. The crew egressed successfully.

  • F-111A 67-0111 16 Jun 73. Mid-air collision over Cambodia.   Crew ejected and safely recovered.


Libya, Mediterranean, Operation EL DORADO CANYON, 1986

In response to Libyan backed terrorist activity against US Military personnel in Europe, a series of air-raids against specific targets in Libya were planned.  Only the initial USAF F-111 / USN A-6 raid on the night of 15/16 Apr 86 was carried through.

  • F-111F 70-2389 15 Apr 86. Maj Fernando Ribas Dominici and Capt. Paul Lorence. Probable shoot down. The remains of Maj Dominici were returned to US authorities on the request of the Roman Catholic Pope. Capt Lorence remains unaccounted for.


Iraq, Persian Gulf, Operation DESERT SHIELD 1990-91 / DESERT STORM, 1991

F-111E, F-111F and EF-111F used.  Australian F/RF-111C were requested by US, but the Prime Minister declined the request and sent a number of Australian warships and other assets for duty in the Persian Gulf. Australia was the first foreign country to commit forces to the US led Operation DESERT SHIELD.

  • EF-111A 66-0023 13 Feb 91. Saudi Arabia. Capt. Douglas L. Bradt and Capt. Paul R. Eichenlaub.  Callsign RATCHET 75. Speculation of flight into terrain at night avoiding air to air threat displayed on the threat radar warning receiver upon entering Iraqi airspace.  An ejection was attempted.  It has been reported that F-15s in the vicinity witnessed the EF-111A manourvering and dispensing countermeasures immediately prior to terrain impact.(XX)
    Both Capt. Douglas L. Bradt & Capt. Paul R. Eichenlaub received Distinguished Flying Crosses and Purple Hearts for "their gallantry in combat".  (DFC citation)
    The EF-111 (66-0016) on static display at Cannon AFB has the names  Capt. Douglas L. Bradt (Aircraft Commander) and Capt. Paul R. Eichenlaub (EWO) adorning the cockpit as a memorial to their heroism (see photo) (see art-work tribute by Jeff Ferguson, friend of Capt Bradt).


Iraq, Persian Gulf, 1991-

Enforcing "no-fly zones". F-111F and EF-111F used.
No losses.


Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Operation ??, 199?

EF-111A used.
No losses.


East Timor, 1999

Whilst not combat, Australian RF-111C were deployed in northern Australia to operate in 'war-like' conditions in support of the Australian led InterFET operations in East Timor, 1999.
There were however erroneous reports in various Australian media outlets stating that a reconnaisance pod, on loan for a trial, was used to observe masacares aboard Indonesian Naval vessels of Timorease civilians.  These reports are without basis.
No losses.


Library of Congress POW/MIA Database http://lcweb2.loc.gov/pow/powhome.html

Task Force Russia (TFR)

JTF-FA RECOVERS F-111A 67-0078 ?

JTF-FA Team in Laos Caption.  Army SGT Daniel J. Seymour of the Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii helps recover remains in Xam Nua province in Laos as part of the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting mission to achieve the fullest possible accounting of servicemen who did not return home from the war in Southeast Asia.  (Joint Field Activity in Laos was Aug.5-Sept3 2000) 

Additional Information.
* This is the site of an F-111 plane crash on a mountain side in Laos near the Vietnam border.
* This month (September) Seymour helped during another recovering of remains operation in Vietnam as part of the 62nd Joint Field Activity. (Joint Field Activity in Vietnam was Aug 28-Sept 27)
* For info about Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii see http://www.cilhi.army.mil/about.htm
* For info about Joint Task Force-Full Accounting Fact Sheet

Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) Fact Sheet

JOINT TASK FORCE–FULL ACCOUNTING

The mission of Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of Americans still unaccounted-for as a result of the war in Southeast Asia. JTF-FA operations include case investigations, archival research, an Oral History Program, and remains recovery operations. The task force was created in response to Presidential, Congressional and public interest, as well as increased opportunities for case resolution. The opportunities included an increased willingness by the governments of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to share information they have regarding unaccounted-for Americans, as well as increased access to files, records and witnesses in their countries.

The task force grew out of the previously established Joint Casualty Resolution Center, an organization that began spearheading U.S. Government accounting efforts in 1973. As cooperation on the part of the Southeast Asian nations and opportunities for issue resolution increased, the Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command, established Joint Task Force-Full Accounting on Jan. 23, 1992.

JTF-FA is comprised of approximately 160 investigators, analysts, linguists, and other specialists representing all four military services and Department of Defense civilian employees. The task force's operations are supported by casualty resolution specialists, archeologists and anthropologists from the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CILHI); representatives of the Defense POW/MIA Office; and augmentees from U.S. Pacific Command component commands. JTF-FA is headquartered at Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, with three detachments located in Bangkok, Thailand; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Vientiane, Laos. The detachment in Thailand also supports operations in Cambodia.

As of 1975, there were approximately 1,500 Americans unaccounted for in Vietnam, more than 500 in Laos, and about 80 in Cambodia. Another 425 were lost over water off the Vietnamese coast.

Not since the release of 591 American prisoners of war during "Operation Homecoming" in 1973 has an American -- whose fate was unknown to the U.S. -- returned alive from Southeast Asia. Over the years, however, numerous first-hand reports have surfaced concerning Americans alleged to be alive in Southeast Asia. Intelligence organizations have resolved most of those reports through correlation with accounted-for personnel; others have proven to be fabrications. Support of Defense Intelligence Agency investigation and resolution of these live sightings is JTF-FA's first priority. Although the U.S. Government has thus been unable to obtain definitive evidence that Americans are still being detained against their will in Southeast Asia, the information available precludes ruling out that possibility. Therefore, actions to investigate live-sighting reports have and will continue to receive the highest priority.

Archival research is conducted by JTF-FA analysts to determine if any of the materials contained in host-nation files can be correlated to unaccounted-for Americans. Another aspect of JTF-FA's responsibility is investigating incident-of-loss sites. JTF-FA investigators and linguists examine areas determined to be the position unaccounted-for Americans were known to be lost or last known to be alive. They also interview local villagers and provincial officials to determine if witnesses are available to support the investigation.

The Oral History Program was established to identify and interview higher-ranking individuals who may possess information related to specific cases. Often these individuals provide names of other individuals who have knowledge of incidents involving Americans. Information obtained through this program has sometimes led investigators to unresolved crash or burial sites.

Task force specialists also locate and examine crash sites. Many of the unaccounted-for Americans were pilots or other aircrew members who were lost when their aircraft crashed or was shot down. These excavations are much like archeological digs; their aim is to recover remains and material evidence, which could help confirm the fate of the aircraft occupants. If a site investigation, witness interview, or crash site survey results in the discovery of remains or material evidence associated with a loss, a recovery operation will be conducted by JTF-FA and CILHI casualty resolution and other operations specialists. The remains are then transported to CILHI, located at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, where they undergo forensic examination. Positive identification of the remains through anthropological and pathological analysis are made whenever possible.

Currently, JTF-FA conducts 11 Joint Field Activities annually in Southeast Asia, five each in Vietnam and Laos, and one in Cambodia. Depending on the requirements, team composition can range from 30 to almost 120 personnel. Counting deployment and redeployment time, each Joint Field Activity lasts approximately 35 days.

Since its inception in 1992, Joint Task Force-Full Accounting has conducted more than 3,206 case investigations and 549 recovery operations, which have led to the repatriation of more than 501 sets of remains believed to be unaccounted-for Americans. JTF-FA investigators and analysts have also answered countless questions about what happened to many of those whose fate was previously unknown. Many questions remain, some of which may never be fully answered, but Joint Task Force-Full Accounting is resolved to continue the investigation and recovery efforts until the fullest possible accounting is achieved.

 

Footnotes:

  1. Missing Persons Supplementary Report 18 Apr 1968
    (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  2. MSG 99312
    (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  3. 474th Tactical Fighter Wing COMBAT LANCER VOL 1 Official History, courtesy of Steven Hyre.
  4. MSG 290624Z MAR 68 FBIS OKINAWA - Transcript Hanoi VNA International Service in English 0618 GMT
    (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  5. Peter Davies (19xx), "F-111 Success in Action", XXXX
  6. Information relayed first-hand from Mr Doug Loeffler, who has visited the crash site twice during the 1990's and discussed the matter with propertied witnesses through an interpreter.
  7. Via Mr Don Logan from 474th TFWg Roadrunner Reunion.
  8. Malcolm McConnell and Theodore G. Schweitzer III (1995), "Inside Hanoi's Secret Archives", Simon & Schuster, New York, ISBN: 0-671-87118-8, pg 298.
  9. See above JTF-FA Internet article extract.
  10. Honolulu Star article...
  11. Tom Clancy and Gen C Honer (Ret) (19xx), "Every Man A Tiger", xxxxx
  12. ##001 MSG/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON/022051ZDEC92/SUBJ: LIFE SUPPORT WRECKAGE ANALYSIS, REFNOS 1107 and 1139
    (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  13. ##002  MSG/CJTFFA DET ONE/221206ZJUL92/SUBJ:
    (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  14. ##003 Casualty Report. LOC POW/MIA Reel #173 pg 1348. (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  15. ##004 ??
  16. ##005 LOC POW/MIA Reel #173. (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  17. ##006 JTF-FA Biographic/Site Report as of 21 April 1995.  LOC POW/MIA Reel #376 pg 67-89. (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).
  18. ## FBI file 95A-HQ-1045752 18 June 1993. (sourced via Mr Doug Loeffler FOIA request).

Hanoi VNA INTERNATIONAL SERVICE 0618 GMT 29 MAR 68 FBIS OKINAWA 290624Z MAR 68 FOIA Doug

Glossary:

  • JTF-FA : Joint Task Force-Full Accounting 1992-present.
  • LOC: Library of Congress
  • NVA : North Vietnamese Army (correctly known as the Peoples Army of Viet Nam {PAVN}).
  • TFR : Terrain Folowing Radar (system or flight procedure).
  • TFR : Task Force Russia.

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