Last Known Activity|
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On 7 October 1966, then Capt. James A Treece, pilot, and 1st Lt. Larry D. Knight, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an RF4C (tail #65-0885) which departed Tan Son Nhut Airbase on a single aircraft night photo reconnaissance mission. Their target is described as being "3 specified strips" in the vicinity of the major South Vietnamese port city of Hue, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam.
Their assigned flight path took the RF4C from Tan Son Nhut Airbase to Ban Me Thuot, to Plieku, to the target area, and return to Tan Son Nhut. The weather conditions during this mission ranged from rain showers to scattered thunderstorms.
At 2143 hours, the Phantom crew was approximately 45 nautical miles northeast of DaNang on a heading of 195 degrees when they established their last radio contact with "Panama COI," the radar air control tower/site located at DaNang Airbase. The air controller tracked the RF4C over the Gulf of Tonkin as it initiated a left turn, passing through 240 degrees and beginning its target run. The air controller then turned his attention to another aircraft with the RF4C was 20 miles from the shoreline heading toward land and its photo run. Because of this fact, there is no way to know for sure if James Treece and Larry Knight disappeared over water where they were last traced, or if they were over land in their target area where they were heading.
By 2350 hours, Capt. Treece and 1st Lt. Knight failed to return to Tan Son Nhut Airbase and they were declared overdue. The next morning an extensive search and rescue (SAR) effort was initiated and continued through 12 October. The first day 100% of the off shore area was searched by 2 UH16 aircraft. The land search was delayed until 10 October due to poor weather. Once it cleared sufficiently, the shoreline and inland area were also searched using 2 A1Es, 2 O1Es and 2 Army helicopters. During this time none of the aircrews participating in the search found any trace of the missing aircraft or its crew. Likewise, no emergency beepers were heard. At the time the formal SAR effort was terminated, both James Treece and Larry Knight were listed Missing in Action.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.