Name:  William Renwick Austin II
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit:  555th Tactical Fighter Sq. Known as the "Triple Nickel" Ubon Airfield, Thailand 
Date of Birth: 18 December 1937 (Greenville, SC)
Home of Record: Simpsonville, SC
Date of Loss: 07 October 1967
Country of Loss:  North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  204000N 1050800E (WH156796)
Click coordintaes to view (4)  maps

Status in 1973: Returned Prisoner of War

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F4D "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Ivan D. Appleby (remains returned) 


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 7 October 1967, Major Ivan D. Appleby, pilot; and then Capt. William R. Austin, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4D that departed Ubon Airfield as the lead aircraft on an evening photo reconnaissance escort mission over North Vietnam.

At 1800 hours, Maj. Appleby's aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). It immediately lost hydraulics and the Phantom started to roll. The aircrew tried to control the roll with rudder and ailerons, but when that failed, Ivan Appleby order Capt. Austin to eject. One parachute was observed by other flight members prior to the Phantom crashing into a hill in the extremely rugged and heavily forested mountains. The crash site was approximately 33 miles east of the North Vietnamese/Lao border, 6 miles north of Lang Ke Man, 25 miles southwest of Hoi Binh and 53 miles southwest of Hanoi, Hoi Binh Province, North Vietnam. Other flight members immediately initiated an electronic search for the missing crew, but no emergency beepers were heard. At the time search efforts were terminated, both Ivan Appleby and William Austin were listed Missing in Action.

Subsequently, additional intelligence information was received by the US government documenting the fact that William Austin was captured and a Prisoner of War of the North Vietnamese. His status was upgraded from Missing in Action to Prisoner of War. He was repatriated to US control on 14 March 1973 during Operation Homecoming. During his debriefing, he recounted that after he ejected, did not see if Maj. Appleby also got out of the crippled Phantom. However, as he descended in his parachute, he saw what he believed to be his aircraft impact the ground approximated 3 to 5 miles from where he landed.

On 13 February 1995, the Vietnamese returned Ivan Dale Appleby's remains to US personnel without explanation. These remains were positively identified on 23 October 1995. He was buried with full military honors on 8 December 1995 in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife and three children were in attendance.

While the fate of Ivan Appleby is finally resolved and his family and friends have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved one now lies, for other Americans who remain unaccounted for, there remain only unanswered questions.

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 and fight 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.
William Austin graduated from Clemson University in 1959.