SMITH, HARRY WINFIELD

Name: Harry Winfield Smith
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit: 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron 
Korat Airbase, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 30 June 1941
Home of Record: Baton Rouge, LA
Date of Loss: 12 November 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 172800N 1054000E (WE743330)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Jon K. Bodahl (missing)

REMARKS:

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.

At 0130 hours on 12 November 1969, Capt. Jon K. Bodahl, pilot and then Capt. Harry W. Smith, weapons systems officer; comprised the crew of an F4E, call sign "Packard 01," that departed Korat Airbase, Thailand as the lead aircraft in a flight of 2 on a Search and Rescue (SAR) mission. The mission's objective was to recover a 2-man helicopter crew, call sign "Owl 07," that had been shot down the day before.

The location of loss was approximately 60 miles due west of the major communist port city of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam; 1 mile south of Ban Senphan and 15 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, Khammouan Province, Laos. Another description of the loss location placed it 6 kilometers south-southwest of Ban Phanop, 600 meters southeast of Ban Senphan and 300 meters east of Route 23. The Nam Mo River ran parallel to and approximately 1 mile south of Route 23. To the west of the loss location, a tributary of the Nam Mo River branched off and meandered to the south-southeast through the jungle covered valley.

The highest terrain feature within 5 miles of the loss location was 2,300 feet with 6,000-foot mountains to the north, then the mountain range wrapped around to both the east and west. The area in which the downed helicopter crew was hiding was relatively level and densely forested surrounded by villages. In the early morning hours, low stratus clouds collected around the mountaintops. In the valley it was clear with only a slight haze existing in the immediate target area. Visibility was 8 to 10 miles.

The on site Forward Air Controller (FAC), call sign "King 07," directed Packard flight to attack an enemy helicopter operating near the area where the rescue attempt to recover the first of the two downed airmen was in progress. The fighter crews reported sighting the enemy aircraft on two passes, but neither Phantom was able to get an unobstructed shot at it. Flying low over jungle tree tops, they continuously maneuvered to gain an acceptable angle of attack while dodging intense enemy 37mm anti-aircraft artillery ground fire.

Packard flight was forced to break off the attack to refuel from an orbiting airborne tanker. When the flight returned, they were again cleared in to attack the enemy helicopter. This time Capt. Bodahl followed his wingman in on the target. At 0455 hours as they pressed through their pass, the recovered crewmen of Owl 07 who was now safely onboard the rescue helicopter, "Jolly Green 09," reported that Packard 01 "seemed to explode in midair" as it continued to draw enemy AAA fire on its last pass. Another report received from a different vantage point stated that "the fighter exploded after either being hit by ground fire or impacting the ground." In the early morning light and confusion of the battle, no parachutes were seen and no beepers heard.

All SAR efforts to rescue the second crewman of the downed helicopter were temporarily suspended while an initial search for the missing F4E Phantom crew commenced. The wreckage of the fighter was found 2 meters south of a ford along the Nam Mo River. Both visual and electronic searches continued throughout the day. No trace was found of Capt. Bodahl or Capt. Smith. An electronic search continued for several more days, but all proved unsuccessful. In spite of the witness statements, the Air Force believed there was a possibility that one or both men could have survived only to be captured immediately. Because of this, both men were listed Missing in Action.

All during the SAR efforts for Owl 07 and Packard 01, other aircraft under the control of the FAC assaulted communist AAA sites, automatic and heavy weapons positions, and troop concentrations hidden in the dense jungle. US aircraft used bombs, rockets, CBU-22s (cluster bomb units) and strafing runs in an effort to contain the communists' ability to further interfere with overall US operations. These efforts were successful enough that another rescue attempt to recover the second crewman from Owl 07 was attempted. He was successfully extracted; however, in the process of doing so, an A1H was shot down and it's pilot, Major Gerald R. Helmich, was also listed Missing in Action.

Jon Bodahl and Harry Smith 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 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.