Name:  Edgar Lee Hawkins
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit:  67th Tactical Fighter Squadron 
Korat Airbase, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 03 May 1929 
Home of Record: Lamesa, TX
Date of Loss: 20 September 1965
Country of Loss:  North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  205300N 1033700E (UJ561096)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F105D "Thunderchief"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The principle Air Force tactical strike aircraft during the Vietnam War was the Republic F105 Thunderchief, nicknamed a "Thud.". Mass-produced after the Korean War, it served throughout Southeast Asia, particularly during Rolling Thunder operations.

On 20 September 1965, then Capt. Edgar L. Hawkins was the pilot of the #2 aircraft in a flight of two, call sign "Elm 2," that departed Korat Airbase on a strike/armed reconnaissance mission, identifier "Rolling Thunder 32C-4." Elm flight's intended target were a military storage area and a bridge located in the extremely rugged mountains approximately 6 miles north of the Vietnamese/Lao border, 12 miles southwest of Bang Bang and 47 miles southeast of Dien Bien Phu.

Further, this area of northwestern North Vietnam was considered a major stronghold used by the communists to move men and material by the North Vietnamese throughout this region and into Northern Laos. While sometimes no more than paths cut through jungle-covered mountains, US forces used all assets available to stop the communists from moving men and supplies throughout this region.

At 1030 hours, the Elm flight spotted the bridge and Capt. Hawkins followed Elm 1 in for a rocket attack on it from a base leg altitude of 7,000 to 8,000 feet with a dive angle of 30 degrees. The flight leader saw Capt. Hawkins' rocket fire, but could not be sure of his wingman's altitude because of the recovery angle of his own aircraft. Elm 1 then observed Edgar Hawkins rotate for recovery as his aircraft crossed the river and approached the mountain on the other side. As he continued to watch Elm 2, Lead saw him clip the tops of trees, throw up a stream of dirt and then explode as the Thunderchief slid along the ground.

In his debriefing, the flight leader said he did not see an ejection, but probably could not have seen Capt. Hawkins eject in any event as he was at least 3 miles away at the time. The pilot of Elm 1 tried repeatedly to raise the downed pilot on his emergency radio, but no voice contact could be established. Likewise, no emergency beeper signal was heard. By the time search and rescue (SAR) aircraft arrived on station to conduct an electronic search, the weather conditions had deteriorated to poor at best.

Because of the intense enemy presence in the region, no close visual inspection of the Thunderchief's crash site was possible. The Air Force believed there were ample circumstances by which Edgar Hawkins was able to safely eject and parachute into an area where capture could have easily occurred. Because there was a reasonable change for survival, Edgar Hawkins was immediately listed him 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.

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.