Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Two Men Went Out, One Came Home...

Remember this photo from the other day? Did you chase that link over to flickr by clicking on (Source)?
U.S. Air Force ground personnel prepare AIM-7E Sparrow missiles for loading on McDonnell F-4C Phantom II aircraft (s/n 63-7473, 64-0830) at an air base in South Vietnam, in 1967. 63-7473 is armed with a 20 mm gun pod and napalm canisters. Note that 64-0830 is not equipped with the IR-sensor. It served with the 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 12th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cam Ranh Air Base. It crashed in Laos on 22 March 1968 following a bomb malfunction over Khe Sanh. One crew member was captured, the other is missing.
Well, you know me, I had to chase down that last sentence. Let me introduce you to two American heroes...
Lieutenant Colonel Lyon didn't come home...
On March 22, 1968, an F-4C Phantom II (tail number 64-0830, call sign "Phantom 82") with two crew members took off as the second in a flight of two aircraft on a strike mission against enemy targets in Laos. As they completed their second pass over the target, the crew reported they were hit by ground fire coming from a hill south of the target. The flight leader instructed them to mark the hill with rounds from their aircraft cannon, and "Phantom 82" was then seen coming off the target and climbing. Radio contact was established at this time and no sign of difficulty was reported. The flight leader then made his pass over the target, after which he was not able to reestablish radio or visual contact with "Phantom 82." Other aircraft on the mission searched the area for the "Phantom 82" but found no crash site, and while a rescue beeper was heard, neither of the crew members could be located. After the war, it was discovered the  "Phantom 82" aircraft commander survived the incident and was captured. After return to U.S. custody, he reported the aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire and crashed, but he was not sure if the other crew member was able to eject before the aircraft exploded. 
Major Donavan Loren Lyon entered the U.S. Air Force from California and served in the 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 12th Tactical Fighter Wing. He was the pilot of the F-4C Phantom "Phantom 82" when it crashed, and was the crew member lost along with the aircraft. Attempts to locate his remains have been unsuccessful. Following the incident, the Air Force promoted Maj Lyon to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col). Today, Lieutenant Colonel Lyon is Memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 
Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.* (Source)
Colonel Guy did come home, but he took the long way...

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Colonel Theodore Wilson Guy (AFSN: 0-1911304), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from 25 January 1972 to 25 May 1972. During this period, Colonel Guy was subjected to maximum punishment and torture by Vietnamese guards to obtain a detailed confession of escape plans, policies, and orders that he had issued as the senior ranking officer in the prisoner of war camp in which he was commander, and the communications methods used by the Americans interned in the camp. He withstood this punishment and gave nothing of value to the Vietnamese while sustaining many wounds to his body. Through his extraordinary heroism and willpower in the face of the enemy, Colonel Guy reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Colonel Guy was a P.O.W. from the time he was shot down until the P.O.W.s were released. He went through Hell...
Col. Theodore W. Guy was the pilot and Maj. Donavan L. Lyon his weapons/systems officer on an F-4C Phantom fighter jet which was sent on a combat mission over Laos on March 22, 1968. Their mission, meant to knock out an enemy gun on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, took them near the Aideo Pass through the mountainous border of South Vietnam and Laos a few miles southwest of the demilitarized zone.

During the mission, a bomb mechanism developed mechanical failure, the aircraft blew up and in the process ejected Guy. Guy landed in rugged terrain. At the time, he did not believe Lyon made it out. Guy was subsequently captured by the North Vietnamese, whose activities in Laos his mission was meant to thwart. However, information was given the Lyon family that Lyon survived the incident as well. Although Lyon survived, his fate after landing on the ground is unknown.

Guy went on to assume command of the POWs in July 1968. He made tough standards for the 44 airmen he was held with at "Plantation Gardens" and expected them to live by them, as he did. Guy, a Korean war veteran, suffered the same torture and deprivation as pilots captured in the early years of the war. His hair, normally brown, turned completely white on one side of his head, but later fell out and returned to its normal color.

Ted Guy was released with 591 Americans in 1973. When Guy was released, he brought charges against eight fellow POWs whom many considered to be traitors. The charges, in the wake of the hero's welcome which greeted returned POWs, were dropped by Guy at the behest of the U.S. Government.

Guy and Lyon's case is not unusual. In several incidents of loss, pilot and backseater are separated (partly because they eject at separate times, thus increasing the distance possible between them), not to be reunited. In Laos, both the North Vietnamese and the Pathet Lao forces were apt to be on the scene to apprehend downed pilots, and neither was prone to hand their capture over to the other force.

The Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of American captives, but the U.S. did not include them in the agreements that ended the war in Vietnam. Therefore, these men were not released, and were not negotiated for. They were abandoned.  

If Don Lyon was captured by the Pathet Lao, he could be among the hundreds that experts believe are alive today. If so, he was betrayed by the country he so proudly served. (Source)
Remember them...

See below**

* Active pursuit cases are assessed to have sufficient information to justify research, investigation, or recovery operations in the field. These cases are the priority for operational planning and allocation of resources. (PDF)
** U.S. Air Force Academy, CO -- F-4 Phantoms execute a Missing Man formation over the funeral of Brig Gen Robin Olds, who passed away June 14, 2007 at the age of 84. Gen Olds was buried at the Air Force Academy, where he served as commandant of cadets from 1967 to 1971. The F-4s were flown by Lt. Col. Anthony Murphy and Maj. Chris Vance, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron from Tyndall, and Lt. Col. JD Lee and Maj. John Markle from Detachment 1, 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron at Holloman. They're painted in the Vietnam era camouflage. (Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)


  1. A sobering post Sarge, those sources reveal much more that we need to read. RIP to Major Lyon and Col. Guy, they went through hell on Earth. A good post to also remember those American service members the United States abandoned during the Vietnam War. God bless those men.

  2. Given the time frame of the shootdown ('68) and the rapidly expanding Air War in NVN, if Major Lyon was an Electronics Warfare Officer (a Weapons Systems Officer with advanced electronics training), chances are good if he survived he was sent to Russia. The quality of the NVN air defenses rampped up significantly as the war progressed. There was always a lot of sotto voce murmurings in my F-4 squadrons that not many EWO's who ejected and were seen in chutes actually returned from the war.

    1. Yup, I've heard that before. Does not surprise me.


    2. The Russians have had a long tradition by '68 of keeping and not acknowledging people under their control. I'd almost rather have suffered under the tender hands of the North Vietnamese than end up somewhere, unknown, unacknowledged in Mother Russia.

  3. Ah, so even in '72 we were letting traitors off.

    Sorry. Yeah, not really, but yeah maybe. It is bad when so many stood strong and some few broke or went over to the other side. There's always a few, and the only way to ensure that it doesn't continue to rot the organization is to prosecute fully.

    We did in WWI, in WWII, and some in Korea.

    Makes me wonder about some of the rumors of a former presidential candidate. And how things would have been different if he had faced charges.

    Bah. Bad taste in mouth. Pteth...

    Hope Major Lyon did not suffer long.

    Godspeed, brave gentlemen.

  4. You learn something new everyday, and today, that knowledge is pretty tragic. I had no idea we didn't acknowledge some of our losses, nor was I aware of the Pathet Lao, or the WSO capture/transfer. More things to pray about.

  5. A few more dozen dozen decades at this rate and the numbers might balance out the deceased DEF's on the Rheinwiesen. And at the end of the copybook sits the real Judge, Who will balance the accounts for all. Fair enough?

  6. Hi, I had to come back and be prepared to make apologetic amends: the Judgement Juice had flowed and some unpleasant baggage from work was still festering near my brain cell.

    In case anyone was ticked off, I meant no disrespect to servicemen & women, nor to the honourable profession of arms, honourably executed. Neither did I wish to imply equivalence between the WW2 events and Vietnam or any other war; they are all equally repulsive in their own peculiar way. Neither did I wish to denigrate the endurance, sacrifice, bravery and loss of the men described in your blogpost, or to imply that one atrocity requites another. There is just retribution, but we have it not.

    What has been getting on my goat is the blind pride in the acts of bearing the sword and wearing a flash uniform with false cliquishness (if I just invented that word, patent and copyrights waivered) which has all too often led to horror, from Nimrod past us into the future. It is too easy with fallen human nature to descend into a merely well organised bandit gang. It is also too easy to lay down and apathetically let the scoundrels have their way.

    Neither do I wish to glorify or excuse (nor be unjustly shamed in reverse) the terrible misdeeds or forget the honourable acts of my ancestor's countrymen of the past (Germans, Belgians, French), and neither do I glorify or dimish respectively the sins and sacrifices of my countrymen of Australia, nor of your storied yet troubled Land.

    What I will rebuke is the ideology and practice of those who pragmatically subvert militaries and cultures (who should know better) into committing or condoning or even celebrating practices worse than they proclaim to be fighting; and often even secretly sponsor so as to seize the day. And to knowingly exploit the better motivations of people for the ruin of many and the gain of a few.

    I saw the magnificent waste and tribulation of the two airmen in a yet another shoddily run war; and railed against the root of that and so much more before, now, and to come. In doing that I condemned myself for the same sins, because I've waved flags and bayed with the pack too. Oh, for a righteous King with Wisdom and Grace, Mercy and Consolation! And thank you, Sgt. I'll endeavour to secure the cork better in future.

    1. I see no need for apologies Stefan. In fact your first comment led me to do some research and I have learned from that, for which I thank you. Expect a post on that topic to be forthcoming.

      It is always the common soldier, on both sides, who suffers the horrors of war. Blind pride is the Mother to many horrific acts in war and in peace.

      I too await the coming of the King of Wisdom and Grace, Mercy and Consolation.

      Please don't feel the need to "put a cork in it," this was a brilliant comment (as was the first). Well written and obviously from the heart.

      Thank you Stefan.


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