Their remains have not been recovered.
On 24 November 1967, then Major Brendan P. Foley, pilot; and 1st Lt. Ronald M. Mayercik, navigator; comprised the crew of an RF4C that was conducting a routine night solo weather reconnaissance mission. Their area of operation included the Plaine Des Jarres in Northern Laos.
At 0125 hours, shortly after takeoff, the last radar contact with Major Foley's and 1st Lt. Mayercik's Phantom was made. At that time it was passing over extremely rugged mountains covered in dense jungle less then a mile west of Route 4, the primary north/south road in the region, paralleling the Nam Huong River that was located just to the east of Route 4. Both the road and the river ran through a very long and narrow valley that was also heavily forested and sparsely populated. The point of last contact was also approximately 25 miles north of the Laotian/Thai border, 45 miles southeast of the Plaine Des Jarres, 50 miles southeast of Long Tieng, Laos and 60 miles northeast of Udorn Airfield, Thailand.
Since it was not unusual for aircraft to be lost from radar contact while flying over the rugged mountains of Laos, no concern was raised until the Phantom failed to return to base as scheduled. Udorn's Operations Center initiated a standard ramp check of all bases to which Brendan Foley and Ronald Mayercik might have diverted in case of an in-flight emergency.
When no trace of the missing aircraft was found, a search and rescue (SAR) operation was commenced at first light. The search was conducted along the briefed flight path and the adjacent countryside from its last known position to the target area. During the search, no emergency radio beepers were heard and no wreckage sighted. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Brendan Foley and Ronald Mayercik were reported as Missing in Action.
In 1979, Sean O'Toolis, an Irish-American was reportedly in Vietnam on a trip to purchase guns for the Irish Republican Army (IRA). According to statements attributed to him after departing Southeast Asia, the North Vietnamese gave him a tour of the Bong Song Prison Camp, 40 miles south of Hanoi. Mr. O'Toolis reported he met and spoke with American POWs Wade Groth and Brendan Foley. He also said he spoke with other POWs whose last names were MacDonald, Jenning and O'Hare or O'Hara. He brought a message to Brendan Foley's brother along with two sets of fingerprints reportedly belonging to POWs' Foley and O'Hara. The contents of that message had not been made public.
US personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) showed Mr. O'Toolis pre-capture photographs of American POW/MIAs in an attempt to confirm his story as being either truthful or a fabrication. During the extensive review of the DIA's pre-capture photo album, Sean O'Toolis was able to identify old photos of Wade Groth. Further, he provided the DIA analysts with believable descriptions of both Brendan Foley and Wade Groth.
As part of his debriefing, Sean O'Toolis worked with a CIA sketch artist to draft pictures of the prisoners he saw and talked with. His description of Wade Groth was so detailed and accurate; including his dark red hair, that it was easy to tell it was Dustoff 90's crewchief. However, the US government chose to discount Sean O'Toolis' and his information because he was a gunrunner working for the IRA.
Brendan Foley and Ronald Mayercik are among the nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords that ended the war in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
If Major Foley and 1st Lt. Mayercik died in the loss of their Phantom, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Fighter pilots in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.