APODACA, VICTOR JOE "VIC" JR.


Name:  Victor Joe "Vic" Apodaca, Jr.
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit:  389th Tactical Fighter Squadron 
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 31 May 1937
Home of Record: Englewood, CO
Date of Loss: 08 June 1967
Country of Loss:  North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  173900N 1061600E (XE343517)
Click coordintaes to view (4)  maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Jon T. Busch (remains returned)

REMARKS:  POSS DEAD FIR 3170909973

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.

On the evening of 8 June 1967, then Capt. Victor Apodaca, Jr., pilot, and 1st Lt. Jon T. Busch, co-pilot, comprised the crew of the #2 aircraft in a flight of two, call sign "Hambone 02," that departed DaNang Airbase on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. After departure, Hambone Lead was followed by Hambone 02 approximately one mile behind and in trail formation. The two aircraft were flying at an altitude of about 4500 feet over a river valley with rolling to mountainous terrain about 22 miles northeast of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Hambone Lead radioed Hambone 02 that he was encountering heavy and accurate ground fire. Fifteen seconds later, Capt. Apodaca acknowledged the warning and reported that his aircraft had been hit by enemy fire.

Hambone Lead advised Vic Apodaca to exit the area and head for the coast where a safer at-sea rescue could occur. Moments later, Capt. Apodaca reported they were experiencing control and hydraulics problems. The last message from Hambone 02 gave the direction of the aircraft and its altitude, which was 16,000 feet.

Seconds later, emergency beeper signals were received for roughly 25 seconds by Hambone Lead. Because of the short duration of the signals, it was not possible to determine whether one or two radio beepers were broadcasting. Likewise, the precise point of origination of this signal, or signals, could not be determined. Hambone Lead, critically low on fuel, was forced to return to base.

An electronic search was conducted, but suspended due to darkness, bad weather and heavy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. During the search, no electronic or visual contact was made and no evidence of the aircraft was found. At the time search efforts were terminated, both Victor Apodaca and Jon Busch were immediately listed Missing in Action.

On 12 November 1973, a refugee reported the death of an American airman that occurred in Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam at about 1500 hours one day in June 1967. According to the report, an F4 in a flight of approximately five other aircraft was bombing a bridge on Route 1A. The aircraft was hit by 37mm anti-aircraft artillery fire and crashed into Doi Troc Hill in Chanh Hoa II village.

The source of this report further stated that an airman bailed out and landed in a forest near the same village. At approximately 1530 hours, the refugee went to where the airman landed and saw his body lying in the grass. He was told by villagers that approximately 10 minutes after the airman had landed, militiamen from the village found him hiding in a bamboo thicket and captured him. The villagers then watched as the militiamen beat the American to death with hoes and bamboo sticks.

The refugee said he observed the dead American for about 10 minutes from a distance of about 5 meters. He described the airman as a caucasian, about 45 years old, 5' 11" tall, weighing about 220 pounds with fair complexion, short blonde hair, a moustache about one centimeter long and a heavy beard. He was unable to identify the airman from photos of the missing. Even so, JCRC correlated the report to the Apodaca/Busch loss incident.

There are serious discrepancies in the refugee report as it relates to Jon Busch and Victor Apodaca. For example, Jon Busch has red hair, not blonde. Vic Apodaca was balding with black hair. Both men were clean shaven, and were forbidden by the Air Force to grow a beard. The Hambone flight departed at 1700 hours while the CIA report claimed the airman was killed at 1530 hours just following his landing on the ground. The Hambone flight, while armed, was not involved in a bombing mission at all. Jon Busch's status was changed from Missing in Action to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered in 1967. Victor Apodaca's status was also changed to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered three days after the CIA received this refugee report.

The Apodaca family was never given the report by any agency of the US Government as required by regulation and law. They discovered the report through a Freedom of Information Act request they filed in 1985.

On 13 July 1988 remains identified as Jon Busch, a burned map, three pieces of bone, which were identified as non-human by a Vietnamese anthropologist, and a charred and battered nameplate bearing Capt. Apodaca's name were returned to the United States by Presidential Envoy General John Vessey.

Jon Busch's remains were positively identified by the US Army Central Identification Laboratory - Hawaii, based largely on the correlation of the refugee report, which evidently matched information given over by the Vietnamese with the remains. The status of "Box 19", which purportedly hold the effects of Victor Apodaca Jr., are still not identified as belonging to any missing American let alone Victor Apodaca.

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 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 Joe Apodaca, Jr. was appointed to the Air Force Academy in 1957. He was the first Spanish/American/Navajo Indian to attend the Academy. He graduated in 1961.