Parker, Woodrow Wilson, II, Maj

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Last Rank
Last Primary AFSC/MOS
Last AFSC Group
Primary Unit
1968-1998, Missing In Action (MIA)
Service Years
1965 - 1968

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Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Sgt Stephen Willcox-Deceased to remember Parker, Woodrow Wilson, II, Maj.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
St Petersburg, FL
Last Address
Korat RTAFB, Thailand

Casualty Date
Apr 24, 1968
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam, North (Vietnam)
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
51E Line 048

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Aviator (Basic)

 Unit Assignments
Air Education and Training Command480th Tactical Fighter Squadron366th Tactical Fighter Wing - GunfightersUS Air Force
  1965-1965, Air Education and Training Command
  1968-1968, 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron
  1968-1968, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing - Gunfighters
  1968-1998, Missing In Action (MIA)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1968-1968 Various Air Missions over North Vietnam
 Colleges Attended 
The Citadel
  1961-1965, The Citadel2
 My Aircraft/Missiles
F-4 Phantom  
  1966-1968, F-4 Phantom
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Article by Roy Freedman, Adjunct professor of English,

"When examining the life of Woodrow "Woody" Wilson Parker II, Charlie Company Class of '65, one cannot help but notice two distinct yet connected stories. The first begins with a rough and tumble boy who always loved flying airplanes. The boy went on to graduate from The Citadel and continue his insatiable quest to fly. He became a valiant, outstanding fighter pilot for the United States Air Force.

This first story ends with a sudden ball of flame in the night sky over North Vietnam and the pilot's utter disappearance for the next 25 years. The second story is about the search for Woody Parker.

Parker entered The Citadel in 1961 after having actively and happily served in the Air Force ROTC in high school. Interestingly, his father was a career infantry officer in the U.S. Army. Parker did okay in academic, even managing to make Dean's List in his senior year. His overriding passion was flying.

Shortly after graduating from The Citadel in 1965, Parker enlisted in the Air Force and began training as a fighter pilot in Laredo, Texas. He would always claim to anyone who listened that his military and aviation training at The Citadel gave him a decided edge over his fellow student pilots. In 1967, Parker engaged in escape and evasion training in Washington State. Then it was on to electronic systems training in Arizona. While stationed there, he elected to fly the two-seater fighter plane, the F4. He became truly a back seat driver, as pilots rode in the rear seat while the weapons specialist sat in the front. Finally, in February of 1968 Parker was shipped overseas and assigned to Da Nang Air Force base in South Vietnam. It was the height of the war.

On the night of April 24, 1968, Parker's crew and another crew were given an important night mission: Locate and destroy a truck re-supply convoy snaking through the jungle under the cover of darkness. The accompanying plane was to drop flares over the suspected route while Parker's was to smash the column with bombs and rockets. Each plane dove three times, each time closer to the ground - and to enemy fire - trying to spot enemy movements. Only seconds after the third pass, the pilot of the flares plane reported seeing Parker's jet erupt into a massive ball of flame. Was Parker killed instantly? Or did he manage to eject from the plane? Finding the answers to those questions took 25 years and combined efforts of the United States and North Vietnamese governments, two DNA labs, the testimony of Vietnamese peasants and the constant goading of Parker's father, retired Army Col. Woodrow Parker of Augusta, Ga.

In the mid-1980's, the Vietnam government, in an effort to reconcile with the United States, turned over vital information it had about America's missing in action. The search for Parker was part of an overall effort spearheaded by Sens John McCain and John Kerry, among others. An anti-aircraft battery log containing coordinates, date and time and a description of the downed plane matched almost perfectly what the Air Force already knew about Parker's mission. Vietnam then opened up its territory to outside investigators and in 1989 a two-man search team, helped by local villagers, discovered the probably crash site and listed it for later possible excavation.

According to Parker's father, a well-equipped excavation team arrived at the site in 1990 or 1991. Because it was the rainy season, their efforts were defeated by the relentless rain and mudslides. The team returned during the 1993 dry season. They dug an enormous crater 10 feet deep. An aged villager living nearby offered to sell teams members bones he had surreptitiously carted off from the crash site 20 years earlier. People pilfering from crash sites were often put to death. Two femur bones were purchased and rushed to the Armed Forces DNA lab in Rockville, Md.

DNA matches were possible only because most mothers of MIA's freely gave samples of their blood to the government in hope of discovering the fate of their missing sons. Parker's mother gave a blood sample at a meeting of the National Organization of Families of MIA's in the 1970's. Initial DNA tests confirmed that the femur bones belonged to Parker and his weapons officer. However, trace findings in the wreckage hinted at a possibility that Parker had ejected from the plane after the explosion and before the crash. DNA tests could therefore be wrong. Parker's father persisted for two years. Finally the elder Parker was able to hire an independent firm to do a second DNA test. The second test was completed in July 1998 by one of the country's top forensic experts, Dr. Mark Stoneking of Pennsylvania State University. It concluded that Parker's bones had been those in the downed 5-4.

Woodrow Wilson Parker II was laid to rest on Sept. 23, 1998 in Arlington National Cemetery nearly 30 years after the first chapter of his life story ended and the second one began. A holly tree and the memorial stone placed near Summerall  Chapel bears the following inscription:

The Freedom Tree
with the vision of universal freedom
for all Mankind
This tree is dedicated to

Major Woodrow W. Parker II

USAF Fighter Pilot
Class of 1965
KIA RVN 1978
*RVN - Republic of Vietnam



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