HOFF, MICHAEL GEORGE

Name:  Michael George Hoff
Rank/Branch: Commander/US Navy 
Unit:  Attack Squadron 86 (Sidewinders) 
USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) 

Date of Birth: 11 September 1936 (Baker, OR)
Home of Record: LaGrande, OR 
Date of Loss: 07 January 1970 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  164300N 1055100E (XD158627)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A7A "Corsair"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   The A7 Corsair was the US Navy's single seat, light attack jet aircraft which featured advanced radar, navigation and weapons systems, and could carry a 15,000 pound bomb load. The A7E with its more powerful TF-41 turbofan engine, was the most advanced version of the Corsair to fly combat missions in Southeast Asia. The Corsair was also flown by Air Force and Marine air wings.

On 7 January 1970, then Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hoff was the pilot of an A7A in a flight of aircraft that launched from the deck of the USS Coral Sea. The flight section's mission was an armed reconnaissance over an area of eastern Laos that was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

At 1300 hours, the weather in the target area was clear with visibility of 10 miles. Lt. Cmdr. Hoff was completing a strafing run on an enemy target when he radioed that he had a fire warning light and was going to have to eject. The flight leader could not see the aircraft at the time of the radio transmission, however, Lead did catch sight of the Corsair just as it impacted the ground in a flat area with dense vegetation and high trees just west of mountain foothills approximately 59 miles northwest of Quang Tri, South Vietnam; 3 miles northeast of Ban Namm, 10 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) 14 miles northwest of Muang Xepon and 31 miles west of the Lao/Vietnamese border, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

The pilot of another aircraft in the flight reported sighting Michael Hoff's aircraft below him and at approximately 2,000 feet above the ground, when the Corsair commenced a roll. Just prior to it reaching an inverted position, a bright flash was observed which was thought to be the ejection seat leaving the aircraft. Immediately thereafter, the aircraft impacted and exploded. No parachute was seen, nor were emergency transmissions received by the other pilots.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated. During the ensuing visual and electronic search operations, the participating aircrews reported they received heavy enemy automatic weapons fire coming from the area of loss. Two aircraft were able to make repeated low passes in the crash area looking for a parachute and/or the down pilot, but neither was found. At the time all formal SAR efforts were terminated, Michael Hoff was declared Missing in Action.

Michael Hoff is one of 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 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.