|Name:||Michael Leo Donovan|
|Rank/Branch:||Captain/US Air Force|
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||09 November 1944 (Huntington Park, CA)|
|Home of Record:||Norton, KS|
|Date of Loss:||30 September 1971|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view (4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4E "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Ronald L. Bond (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 - 2300 miles depending on stores and mission type. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
On 30 September 1971, Capt. Michael L. Donovan, pilot, and 1st Lt. Ronald L. Bond, navigator, comprised the crew of an F4E, call sign "Stormy 3," on a daylight visual reconnaissance mission in southern Steel Tiger East - that portion of Laos which bordered South Vietnam. The flight departed DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam at 0643 hours with a planned flight path that took them from DaNang to their target area, then return to DaNang.
Operation Steel Tiger was a limited interdiction effort against North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao troop/supply movements within the panhandle of southern Laos. This route, known as the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, consisted of numerous winding roads and pathways through jungle covered mountains and valleys which served for many years as an infiltration route from North Vietnam, through neutral Laos, then into selected areas of South Vietnam under Communist control.
At 1130 hours, after refueling twice from a KC135 airborne tanker, Capt. Donovan called another Forward Air Controller (FAC) in the area reporting they were proceeding from Sectors 8 and 9 to their final assigned area, Sector 5. This area was approximately 2 kilometers east of the town of Muang Nong, Savannahket Province, Laos.
When it was determined that Stormy 3 was overdue, visual and electronic search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated. On 6 October, a SAR aircraft found the scattered wreckage of what was believed to be an F4 toward the southern end of a long, narrow jungle covered valley located between mountain ranges approximately 1500 meters northwest of Ban Pepten, Saravane Province, Laos. The wreckage was also located roughly ½ mile west of a north-south running primary road, 4 miles due north of Ban Tong Alai Xoukoutoua, 13 miles southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, 26 miles southwest of Khe Sanh and 115 miles west-northwest of DaNang. Because of intense enemy activity in the area, no ground team could be inserted to search for the crew or to confirm the wreckage was that of the aircraft flown by Capt. Donovan and 1st Lt. Bond. Both men were immediately listed Missing in Action
Michael Donovan and Ronald Bond are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
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. Fighter pilots in Vietnam and Laos 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.
Michael L. Donovan was a 1966 graduate of Fort Hays State College.