Name:  William Francis "Bill" Mullen
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Colonel/US Marine Corps                           
Unit:  Marine Wing Headquarters Group 1, 
1st Marine Air Wing
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 28 March 1935 (Brockton, MA)
Home of Record: Brockton. MA
Date of Loss: 29 April 1966 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  170700N 1060600E (XD170926)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A4E "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was a single-seat light attack jet flown by both land-based and carrier squadrons, and was the US Navy's standard light attack aircraft at the outset of the war. It was the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings as well as the only one which required a ladder for the pilot to enter/exit the cockpit. The Skyhawk was used to fly a wide range of missions throughout Southeast Asia including close air support to American troops on the ground in South Vietnam. Flying from a carrier was dangerous and as many aircraft were lost in "operational incidents" as in Combat.

On 29 April 1966, then Captain William F. "Bill" Mullen was the pilot of an A4E Skyhawk (serial # 151047) on a multiple-flight strike mission against enemy targets near the Ban Karai Pass. This pass was located in heavily jungle-covered mountains approximately 9 miles south-southwest of Ban Lobey, 7 miles north of the 17th parallel which separated North and South Vietnam, and 15 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, Khammouan Province, Laos. This area of eastern Laos was considered a major gateway into 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 1235 hours, during a series of attacks by US Marine Corp and US Air Force aircraft on an important communist installation that was known to be protected by a large number of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) sites, ten aircraft were hit and two shot down. The Air Force crew of the other downed aircraft was later rescued. Capt. Mullen, the last man in his flight, was pulling up and away from the target after completing his bomb run. Because of the heavy and accurate AAA flak, the flight leader proceeded to a position about 10 miles away from the target area to rendezvous for the return flight to base. Capt. Mullen was last seen in a normal recovery from his bomb run and was believed to be unharmed until he failed to initiate a normal radio check.

Shortly after the Skyhawk was missed, an emergency radio beeper was heard to come from an area well away from the target and on a direct line toward their base. The on site Forward Air Controller (FAC) immediately initiated search and rescue (SAR) efforts into that area where the signal was emanating from with aircraft from DaNang. However, they were consistently driven away by intense enemy ground fire. Likewise, during the first day, every time rescue personnel requested Capt. Mullen to respond to them in a timely manner by turning his radio off and on in specific pattern for recognition, he did so. It was the opinion of US personnel that Bill Mullen was alive on the ground, communicating through beeper signals, but unable to establish voice contact because of a faulty transmitter. On the morning of the second day shortly after SAR aircraft arrived on station, the emergency beeper came back on the air, but unlike the day before, there was no response to commands. All during the second and third day of the SAR operation, the emergency beeper would come on and go off in a random pattern. When attempts were made by the helicopter to get to the beeper position, a torrent of enemy gunfire would erupt driving them back. It was believed that communist forces were using his beeper to try to lure rescue aircraft into an ambush. At the time SAR efforts were terminated, Bill Mullen was listed Missing in Action.

Capt. Mullen is 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.