ALWAN, HAROLD JOSEPH


Name:  Harold Joseph Alwan
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Colonel/US Marine Corps                         
Unit:  VMA 121, Marine Air Group 12
Date of Birth: 04 August 1934 (Peoria, IL)
Home of Record: Peoria, IL
Date of Loss: 27 February 1967 
Country of Loss:  South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates:  150500N 1085100E (BT930320
Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A4E "Skyhawk" 
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
REMARKS:

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 and Marine Corp'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.

Harold Alwan graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1956. There, he participated in ROTC and graduated as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps with a degree in engineering. He decided to make his career as a Marine pilot, and served at bases in Quantico, VA and Cherry Point, NC before he being assigned to Vietnam.

At 0812 hours on 27 February 1967, then Major Harold J. Alwan was the pilot of an A4E (serial #152051), call sign "Oxwood 501," that departed Chu Lai Airfield, South Vietnam to conduct a routine operational test flight. If the flight was successful, he was to contact an airborne control aircraft for assignment to a helicopter escort mission. Once contact was established with the airborne controller, Major Alwan was informed of his secondary mission and that there were some holes in the overcast in the target area.

The last communication with Harold Alwan was with the airborne controller 28 minutes after take-off, at 0840 hours. At that time he reported he "….was looking for an opening in the cloud overcast over the target." Five minutes later all contact with the A4E was lost. At the time of last contact, according to the "Resume of Circumstances," report, Harold Alwan was "in the vicinity of BT9332 on bearing 060 degrees." Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated. According to information provided to the family, US Air Force search and rescue (SAR) aircraft "heard an emergency beeper, flares were seen and pieces of debris spotted," but SAR personnel were unable to locate the downed pilot. These emergency signals were tracked for the next three days in an area covered by dense jungle between DaNang and Chu Lai. Maj. Alwan's Skyhawk was the only aircraft missing in that area. SAR efforts continued until 6 March, but failed to locate the downed pilot or the main wreckage of his aircraft. At the time the formal search operation was terminated, Harold Alwan was listed Missing in Action.

Over the next few years Maj. Alwan's family was given four different loss locations where the Marine Corps and various US government agencies believed his aircraft vanished. Two of these locations were over land and the other two over water and ranging up to 35 miles inland to 35 miles out to sea. All of these locations of loss are in the region south-southwest of DaNang to north-northeast of Chu Lai, Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam.

In an attempt to identify pictures of unidentified American prisoners, families of POW/MIAs were shown post-capture photos of men in captivity. During one of these US government sponsored photo review sessions, Maj. Alwan's family identified a prisoner of war in Hanoi from a Christmas propaganda film released by the North Vietnamese as being their son and brother. After Operation Homecoming, in an attempt to negate the family's positive identification of the photograph, the US Government told them that a returned POW identified the same photo as himself. When government representatives were asked to provide the identity of returnee, the officials declined to do so sighting the man's "right to privacy." Ironically, several years later that same photo was provided once again to the Alwan family as being an unidentified POW who was never released from North Vietnam.

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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots in Vietnam were call 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.