BROWN, WILBUR RONALD

Name: Wilbur Ronald Brown
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit: 311th Air Commando Squadron 
DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 22 July 1936
Home of Record: Wilmington, NC
Date of Loss: 03 February 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163000N 1064000E (YD008434)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C123C "Provider"
Other Personnel in Incident: James Carter; Edward Parsley and Therman Waller (all missing)

REMARKS:  NO RAD CNTCT-REK SITE UNCONF-J

SYNOPSIS:   Though it had been declared obsolete in 1956, the Fairchild C123 Provider, which was a converted WWII glider, became one of the mainstays of tactical airlift in the Vietnam War. In 1962 the Provider was fitted with special equipment to spray defoliants. Later, it was modified with a pair of J-85 jet engines that increased its payload carrying capability by nearly one third. The first of these modified C123s arrived at Tan Son Nhut on 25 April 1967, and this venerable old aircraft proved to be among the hardest working aircraft throughout Southeast Asia.

On 3 February 1966, Major James L. Carter, pilot, then Captain Wilbur R. Brown, co-pilot, Sgt. Edward M. Parsley, loadmaster, and Sgt. Therman M. Waller, flight mechanic, comprised. the crew of a C123C Provider (tail #55-4537) which was on a multi-legged combat airlift support mission over Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. There was an unconfirmed report that four foreign nationals may also have been aboard this aircraft.

The Provider departed DaNang at 1320 hours and arrived at Khe Sanh Special Forces Camp at approximately 1410 hours. It then departed Khe Sanh and flew to Dong Hai, then returned to Khe Sanh. The aircraft again departed Khe Sanh at 1655 hours and headed southeast of the base on a supply shuttle mission. During this portion of their flight, contact was lost with the aircraft and crew. An immediate communications search was conducted with negative results.

The area where the Provider was believed to have gone down was thoroughly searched by air, but no trace of the aircraft or its crew was found in the extremely dense mountainous jungle. During the search, 25 sorties were flown over a period of 74 hours and were finally suspended at 1400 hours on 10 February 1966. Because this area was known to be under the total control of the Viet Cong (VC), it was believed there was a good chance the crew had been captured.

The location in which this aircraft disappeared was on the north side of a rugged mountain with a long, narrow jungle covered valley just to the north approximately 2 miles south of Highway 9 and 5 miles northeast of Khe Sanh. The extended search area was bordered by the DMZ 23 miles to the north and the Vietnamese/Lao border 21 miles to the west. In March 1966, wreckage thought to be that of the C123C was located in this area and photographed from the air. However, after the photos were evaluated by US intelligence, that wreckage proved to be that of a missing helicopter and not the Provider.

In April 1969, a Communist rallier identified a number of photographs of missing Americans as men he believed to have been captured. Wilbur Brown's photo was among those the rallier selected. After the war, CIA analysts questioned the rallier's identification of Major Brown's photo because no returned POWs reported having seen any of the Provider's crew in any of the POW camps.

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.

Pilots and aircrews 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.