|Name:||Victor Arlon Smith|
|Rank/Branch:||Captain/US Air Force|
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||28 February 1943|
|Home of Record:||Silver Spring, MD|
|Date of Loss:||17 January 1969|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4D "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Lt. Fegan (rescued)|
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 1100 hours on 17 January 1969, Capt. Victor A. Smith, pilot; and Lt. Fegan, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4D, call sign "Stormy 02," that departed DaNang Airbase on a single aircraft Forward Air Control (FAC)/visual reconnaissance mission. Their target was an active 37mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 23 miles west-northwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam; 3 miles southeast of Muang Xepon, and 7 miles west of Tchepone, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
This area of eastern Laos 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 1405 hours, as the Phantom commenced an attack pass against artillery battery, it was struck by an undetermined amount of AAA fire that severely crippled the aircraft. At this time 1 parachute was seen fully deployed and descending to the ground by a flight of US Navy aircraft who were also operating in this area.
That crewmen was later identified as Lt. Fegan. He made radio contact with the rescue force at 0625 hours on 18 January and was rescued later that morning by a SAR helicopter. During his debriefing, Lt. Fegan said he did not remember details of the incident shortly before or during the time the Phantom was shot down. However, he did report that on the evening of 17 January, he established a "visual beeper signal," but could not identify who initiated it. Further, SAR aircraft found the wreckage of the F4D on a 1200-foot high ridge in an extremely rocky and densely forested area that communist forces had heavily fortified. During the search operation, no trace of Capt. Smith could be found. At the time formal SAR operations were terminated, Victor Smith was Missing in Action.
In addition to helicopters, 2 A1E Skyraiders were part of the search and rescue force. One of the A1Es, call sign Sandy 10 and piloted by Capt. Robert F. Coady, was struck by enemy small arms fire as he passed over Lt. Fegan's position and crashed nearby. His is also immediately listed Missing in Action.
Victor Smith 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.
Victor A. Smith graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1965.