Luna, Donald Alfred, Lt Col

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Last Rank
Lieutenant Colonel
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
1444E-Forward Air Controller
Last AFSC Group
Air Operations
Primary Unit
1968-1969, 504th Tactical Air Support Group
Service Years
1960 - 1969
Lieutenant Colonel

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Home State
Texas
Texas
Year of Birth
1938
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by AB Raymond Guinn to remember Luna, Donald Alfred (Nail 33), Lt Col.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Houston, TX
Last Address
Ubon RTAFB, Thailand

Casualty Date
Feb 01, 1969
 
Cause
Hostile, Died while Missing
Reason
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Location
Laos
Conflict
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Mahomet Cemetery - Mahomet, Texas
Wall/Plot Coordinates
33W 033

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 Unit Assignments
23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron504th  Tactical Air Support Group
  1968-1969, 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron
  1968-1969, 504th Tactical Air Support Group
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1969-1969 Non-operation sorties/Reconnaissance missions over Laos
 Colleges Attended 
Texas A&M University
  1956-1960, Texas A&M University
 My Aircraft/Missiles
O-2 Skymaster  
  1968-1969, O-2 Skymaster
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

At 0502 hours on 1 February 1969, then Captain Donald A. Luna, pilot of an O2A, call sign "Nail 33," departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on a Forward Air Control (FAC) combat mission over the target area known as "VR Sector 7," Savannakhet Province, Laos. VR Sector 7 was also known as "Commando Hunt." His mission flight path was from Ubon to the Commando Hunt area and return to Ubon.

The weather conditions during his mission were widely scattered rain showers with the lower cloud layer bases at 4,000 feet and the second cloud layer with bases at 7,000 feet. Visibility was 6 miles plus with surface winds southwesterly at 6 knots.

The last radio contact with Capt. Luna was at 0653 hours as he flew over the densely forested mountains 15 miles southwest of Tchepone, Laos which were known to be under complete enemy control. At that time he reported situation normal with no indication of difficulties.

His next radio contact was scheduled for approximately 0800 hours. That contact was never made. An extensive visual and electronic search was immediately initiated along a line from Ubon to and in the target area, and in the adjacent area on either side of the intended route. This search effort was terminated at dusk the same day when no trace of Capt. Luna or his aircraft was found. Donald Luna was immediately listed Missing in Action.

Captain Luna was not reported as a prisoner by either the Pathet Lao or the North Vietnamese, nor has the crash site been located. He remains among the missing.


UPDATE

LTC Luna's remains were returned to the United States on 11/19/1999.
Identification was announced on 10/30/2000.



   
Comments/Citation

FAC

All tactical strike aircraft operating in Southeast Asia had to be under the control of a Forward Air Control (FAC), who was intimately familiar with the locale, the populous, and the tactical situation. The FAC would find the target, order up U.S. fighter/bombers from an airborne command and control center or ground based station, mark the target accurately with white phosphorus (Willy Pete) rockets, and control the operation throughout the time the planes remained on station. After the fighters had departed, the FAC stayed over the target to make a bomb damage assessment (BDA).

The FAC also had to ensure that there were no attacks on civilians, a complex problem in a war where there were no front lines and any hamlet could suddenly become part of the combat zone. A FAC needed a fighter pilot's mentality, but but was obliged to fly slow and low in such unarmed and vulnerable aircraft as the Cessna O1 Bird Dog, and the Cessna O2.

The Cessna O2 Skymaster was the military version of the civilian Model 335 Skymaster. The twin-engine, twin-tailboom O2 had greater endurance and a little more speed than the more familiar O1 Bird Dog, but still remained essentially unarmed carrying only smoke rockets. Like its predecessor, the low flying, slow moving Skymaster was used primarily as a Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft to mark targets for both attack aircraft and ground troops.

The Incident

At 0502 hours on 01 February 1969, then Captain Donald A. Luna, pilot of an O2A (call sign "Nail 33"), departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand, on a Forward Air Control (FAC) combat mission over the target area known as "VR Sector 7," Savannakhet Province, Laos. VR Sector 7 was also known as "Commando Hunt." His mission flight path was from Ubon to the Commando Hunt area and back to Ubon.

The weather conditions during his mission were widely scattered rain showers with the lower cloud layer bases at 4,000 feet and the second cloud layer with bases at 7,000 feet. Visibility was 6 miles plus with surface winds southwesterly at 6 knots.

The last radio contact with Capt. Luna was at 0653 hours as he flew over the densely forested mountains 15 miles southwest of Tchepone, Laos which were known to be under complete enemy control. At that time he reported situation normal with no indication of difficulties.

His next radio contact was scheduled for approximately 0800 hours. That contact was never made. An extensive visual and electronic search was immediately initiated along a line from Ubon to and in the target area, and in the adjacent area on either side of the intended route. This search effort was terminated at dusk the same day when no trace of Capt. Luna or his aircraft was found. Donald Luna was immediately listed Missing in Action.

Records on American military personnel were maintained in various government agencies. Raw intelligence data from Southeast Asia freqently first found its way into the files of the organization which came to be known as Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC). Many analysts believed JCRC records were the most complete and authoritative, since they contained largely raw data without benefit of analytical "muddling".

In November 1973, JCRC received a cable from Defense Intelligence Agency which was copied to various high stations, including CIA, the Secretary of State and the White House. The cable stated JCRC should "take necessary action to delete any references pertaining to PW [Prisoner of War] status and place members in a new MIA code" the files of Donald A. Luna and several others. Whether JCRC had intelligence that indicated Donald Luna had been captured is unknown.

Sources

Biographical and incident of loss information was obtained from either POW/NET and/or Task Force Omega, Inc (unless otherwise noted). Additional information may be found via remembrances at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund or The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

   
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