Backus, Kenneth Frank, Capt

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1967-1975, MIA Vietnam
Service Years
1960 - 1967
Officer Collar Insignia

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Home State
New York
New York
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by A3C Michael S. Bell to remember Backus, Kenneth Frank (Whizzer 2), Capt.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Pyrites, NY
Last Address
Ubon RTAFB, Thailand

Casualty Date
May 22, 1967
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam, North (Vietnam)
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - Honolulu, Hawaii
Wall/Plot Coordinates
20E 081

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 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  2012, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page

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Aviator (Basic)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
497th Tactical Fighter Squadron - Night Owls8th Tactical Fighter Wing - Wolf PackUS Air Force
  1965-1967, 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron - Night Owls
  1965-1967, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing - Wolf Pack
  1967-1975, MIA Vietnam
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1967-1967 Various Air Missions over North Vietnam
 My Aircraft/Missiles
F-4 Phantom  
  1966-1967, F-4 Phantom
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
On the night of 22 May 1967, Captain Elton L. Perrine, pilot, and 1st Lt Kenneth F. Backus, co-pilot, launched as the wingman in a flight of two F-4Cs targeted against the railway yard at Cao Nung northeast of Hanoi. The flight came under heavy anti-aircraft fire during run-in to weapons release. Captain Perrine and 1st Lt Backus were classed as Missing in Action.


Captain Perrine was promoted to Colonel while carried in MIA status; 1st Lt Backus had been promoted to Captain. The remains of the two men have not been repatriated. 

Source:  Task Force Omega:


On 22 May 1967, Capt. Elton L. Perrine, pilot; and then 1st Lt. Kenneth F. Backus, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4C, call sign "Whizzer 2," that departed Ubon Airfield as the #2 aircraft in a flight of 2. Their flight was on a night strike mission against the Kep railroad yard located on the Northeast Railroad line running between China and Hanoi.


The North Vietnamese railroad system consisted of nine segments, the most important parts of which were north of the 20th parallel. Almost 80% of the major targets were in this area laced together by the rail system. The most important contribution of the system was to move the main fighting weapons from China to redistribution centers at Kep, Hanoi, Haiphong, Nam Dinh and Thanh Hoa. These supplies were further distributed by trucks and boats to designated collection points where porters carried the weapons, food and ammunition on their final leg into the acknowledged war zone.


The most important segment of the rail system was the single-track northeast railroad line that ran some 82 nautical miles from the Chinese border through Kep and into the heart of Hanoi. Ironically, in spite of the sheer number of vital targets all along the length of the northeast railroad, only 10 to 22 miles of its total length, depending upon timeframe was declared accessible for attack according to our own self imposed rules of engagement. The rest of the railroad line lay within the 30-mile buffer zone south of the North Vietnamese/Chinese border and the protected zones surrounding Hanoi and Haiphong. Within that 10 to 22 mile section of railway, the communists constructed anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries every 48 feet. They also positioned a heavy concentration of surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites around the tracks.


When Whizzer flight entered the target area, the night sky was clear with visibility of 15 miles. As they continued toward the target, the Phantoms ran directly into an intense wall of flak from the AAA batteries. Whizzer 2 followed Lead into the briefed bomb run on the railroad yard. As the flight pulled off target, orange flashes were seen on the ground believed to be their bombs impacting. At 2052 hours, and 5 seconds after "bomb splash," Lead saw an isolated yellow explosion with glare going up to approximately 3000 feet some 3 miles east of the marshalling yard. Whizzer Lead was not positive the isolated explosion was an aircraft crash since black smoke was seen in the target area and Lead thought it all could have been flak and secondary explosions.


After completing the air strike, Whizzer Lead egressed the strike area as planned. As they continued toward the east, Lead tried to contact Elton Perrine and Kenneth Backus, but without success. The last radio contact Lead had with Whizzer 2 had been when the flight was roughly 10 miles short of the target. At that time Capt. Perrine radioed "coasting in."


The last known position of Whizzer 2 was approximately 3 miles southeast of the railroad yard and 1 mile southeast of a primary road winding through a heavily populated, lightly forested and flat area 16 miles northeast of Kep Airfield and 4 miles west of Long Cha Lake.


When no contact could be established with Capt. Perrine or Kenneth Backus, search efforts with immediately initiated by Lead. Due to darkness, no parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers heard. Likewise, because the aircraft disappeared deep within enemy held territory, no formal search and rescue (SAR) operation was possible. At the time the initial search was terminated, Elton Perrine and Kenneth Backus were listed Missing in Action.


During their debriefing, the crew of Whizzer Lead reported they received heavy enemy air command and control (ACC) tracking and saw two search lights aimed into the night sky from the same location. They then encountered light 37mm and 57mm AAA fire as they coasted out of the target area.


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