Last Known Activity|
On 29 March 1972, Major Irving B. Ramsower II, aircraft commander; Capt. Curtis D. Miller, pilot; 1st Lt. Charles J. Wanzel III, pilot; Major Henry P. Brauner, navigator; Capt. Richard Castillo, infrared sensor operator; Major Howard D. Stephenson, electronic warfare officer; then Capt. Barclay B. Young, fire control officer; Capt. Richard C. Halpin, low light TV senior operator; SSgt. James K. Caniford, illuminator operator; SSgt. Merlyn Paulson, flight engineer; SSgt. Edward D. Smith, Jr., aerial gunner; SSgt. Edwin Pearce, aerial gunner; AFC William A. Todd, aerial gunner and AFC Robert E. Simmons, aerial gunner; comprised the crew of an AC130A gunship named "Prometheus," tail number 55-0044, and call sign "Spectre 13." They departed Ubon Airbase, Thailand on an armed reconnaissance mission with an F4D fighter escort over Laos to interdict North Vietnamese supplies moving south into the acknowledged war zone, then return to Ubon.
0300 hours, the F4D's aircrew saw a surface to air missile (SAM) lift off the ground. Before the gunship could take evasive action, the SAM hit Specter 13. A few seconds later the AC130A impacted the ground on the east side of a jungle covered mountain followed by secondary explosions.
As one of the F4D escort aircraft flew low over the burning wreckage, he was unable see any sign of survivors. However, several minutes later as he was departing the area he clearly heard multiple emergency beepers. Another AC130A gunship operating nearby, call sign "Spectre 10," and his F4 escort also heard the beeper signals. In the darkness, no parachutes were seen and no voice contact could be established with any of the downed aircrew. The wreckage of Prometheus was located in the jungle-covered mountains approximately 12 miles south of Ban Namm, 21 miles west of Tchepone, 56 miles east of the city of Savannakhet and 32 miles west of the Lao/Vietnamese border, Savannakhet Province, Laos; and 45 miles due west of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam.
It was believed any surviving crewmen would have undoubtedly been captured by then. All 14 crewmen were listed Missing in Action.