The Crew of of 56-0477:
Lieutenant Colonel-William H. Mason Aircraft-Commander
Major-Jerry L. Chambers-Observer
Captain-Thomas B. Mitchell-Pilot
Captain-William T. McPhail-Navigator
Staff Sergeant-Calvin C. Glover-Flight Engineer
Airman First Class-Thomas E. Knebel-Crew Chief
Airman First Class-Melvin D. Rash-Flare Handler
Airman First Class-John Q. Adam-Flare Handler
The above listed personnel comprised the crew of a C-130 aircraft which departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand, at 1710 hours, 22 May 1968, on an operational mission over Laos. The last know radio contact with the crew was at 2055 hours, at which time the aircraft was located 52 miles southeast of Tchepone, Laos.
Weather conditions in the area were scattered clouds with visibility of 6 miles. The terrain was mountainous with heavy foliage and an occasional clearing.
At 2055 hours Blind Bat 01 made its last radio contact with the airborne mission command and control center as it was orbiting the target area. At that time the aircraft was positioned near the city of Muong Nong and there was no indication of trouble.
By 2125 hours, the airborne command and control center was unable to raise Blind Bat 01 on the radio, another C130A, call sign Blind Bat 02, was called in to investigate non-contact with Blind Bat 01 and it arrived onsite 15 minutes later. Blind Bat 02 found a large fire on the ground, but when they attempted to investigate the fire, they were driven off by enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Another aircraft was called in to participate in the aerial search that was equipped with night photography equipment. The photographs it took could not confirm whether or not the fire was associated with an aircraft crash site, but the photo interpreters were of the opinion that the circular fire resembled that of a crashed aircraft. The photography showed no evidence of any parachutes on the ground, and none of the aircrews heard mayday calls or emergency beeper signals emanating from the jungle below.
Because of a lack of any positive evidence of survivors, aircraft wreckage or beepers, no formal search and rescue (SAR) effort was initiated. However, aerial photographs were taken the following day. Again, there was no indication of aircraft wreckage, and the fire burning on the ground the night before had been extinguished. Likewise, there were no signs of survivors in or around the area. At the time the aerial search effort was terminated, Jerry Chambers, William Mason, Thomas Knebel, John Adam, William McPhail, Gary Pate, Melvin Rash and Calvin Glover were listed Missing In Action.
The location of loss was deep within enemy held territory approximately 8 miles southwest of Tavouac, 29 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, 33 miles west of the A Shau Valley, South Vietnam; and 43 miles south-southeast of the town of Tchepone, Saravane Province, Laos. It was located on the west edge of mountain foothills within 1 mile of a primary north/south road running along the east side of a long, narrow jungle covered valley. Along the west side of the valley ran a power line that paralleled the road. The distance between the road and the power line was often only 1 mile or less and never more than 3 miles as they both continued through the mountains to the south of the valley.
From the Group 559 Document, it has been learned that the crew was on a Flare Mission, when they possibly where hit with AntiAircraft fire from a 37MM gun. It is believed that the aircraft was either hit in the wing or thru the cargo section, igniting the flares.
Airmen missing from Vietnam War identified
6/11/2010 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) – Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office officials announced June 11 that the remains of nine servicemembers, missing in action from the Vietnam War have been accounted for and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
Col. William H. Mason, Camden, Ark.; Lt. Col. Jerry L. Chambers, Muskogee, Okla.; Maj. William T. McPhail, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Maj. Thomas B. Mitchell, Littleton, Colo.; Chief Master Sgt. John Q. Adam, Bethel, Kan.; Chief Master Sgt. Calvin C. Glover, Steubenville, Ohio; Chief Master Sgt. Thomas E. Knebel, Midway, Ark.; Chief Master Sgt. Melvin D. Rash, Yorktown, Va.; and Master Sgt. Gary Pate, Brooks, Ga., were buried as a group June 11 in Arlington National Cemetery. The individually identified remains of each Airman were previously returned to their families for burial.
On May 22, 1968, these men were aboard a C-130A Hercules on an evening flare mission over northern Salavan province, Laos. Fifteen minutes after the aircraft made a radio call, the crew of another U.S. aircraft observed a large ground fire near the last known location of Colonel Mason’s aircraft. Search and rescue attempts were not initiated due to heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area.
Analysts from DPMO developed case leads with information spanning more than 40 years. Through interviews with eyewitnesses and research in the National Archives, several locations in Laos and Vietnam were pinpointed as potential crash sites.
Between 1989 and 2008, teams from Laos and the Vietnam, led by the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command, pursued leads, interviewed villagers and conducted 10 field investigations and four excavations in Quang Tri province, Vietnam. They recovered aircraft wreckage, human remains, crew-related equipment and personal effects.
Scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory also used mitochondrial DNA, which matched that of the crew members’ families, as well as dental comparisons in the identification of the remains.
Since late 1973, the remains of 927 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been accounted for and returned to their families. With the accounting of these Airmen, 1,719 service members still remain missing from the conflict.
Vietnam Wall Panel coords 65E 008