Name:  Neil Stanley Bynum
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Air Force
Unit:  497th Tactical Fighter Squadron             
Ubon Airfield, Thailand

Date of Birth: 29 August 1943
Home of Record: Vian, OK
Date of Loss: 26 October 1969 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  171300N 1060800E (XE212041)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F4D "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Gray D. Warren (missing)


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 26 October 1969, Capt. Gray D. Warren, pilot and then 1st Lt. Neil S. Bynum, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4D, call sign "Wolf 05," that departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on an armed Forward Air Controller (FAC) mission near the Ban Karai Pass.

This area of eastern Laos was considered a major gateway into 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.

Approximately 35 minutes into the flight, they contacted another FAC, call sign "Nail 30," who was working a target along Route 912 on the side of a hill where the terrain rises south to north. Nail 30 was waiting for ordnance to arrive on station when Capt. Warren contacted him and requested permission to fire at a bulldozer. Permission was granted and the pilot of Stormy 01, a third aircraft operating under the overall control of Nail 30, marked the target, then gave Wolf 05 corrected coordinates from his mark to bulldozer. Capt. Warren acknowledged the new information and said he was "going in on the target." The other pilots observed Gray Warren and Neil Bynum rolling in on target from south to north on a run-in alignment along the rise in terrain, firing a pod of high incendiary rockets at the bulldozer and hitting it, then impacting the ground about 100 meters above it. The large fireball was easily seen as well as aircraft wreckage scattered as much as 300 meters from the first point of impact.

Search and Recovery (SAR) operations were initiated at 0630 hours. When no contact could be established with the downed aircrew, those efforts were terminated at 0745 due to no valid SAR objectives. The location of loss was in the rugged, jungle-covered mountains approximately 2 miles northeast of Ban Lobey and 4 miles southwest of the Laos/North Vietnamese border, Khammouan Province, Laos; and 33 miles southwest of the major port city of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. The weather was good, and up until Wolf 05 rolled in on the bulldozer, there had been no enemy ground fire directed at the various American aircraft. However, after the crash small arms fire was seen by Nail 30 and Stormy 01, and anti-aircraft artillery fire was reported by the SAR aircraft. Both Gray Warren and Neil Bynum were immediately listed Missing in Action.

The National Security Agency (NSA) regularly monitored enemy communications throughout Southeast Asia. They intercepted a communiqué, which they correlated to Wolf 05. They stated one pilot parachuted from the aircraft and was probably captured. Gray Warren and Neil Bynum are 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 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.