Name: Jack Walter Brunson 
Rank/Branch: Chief Warrant Officer 2/US Army 
Unit: 131st Aviation Company, 
212th Aviation Battalion, 11th Aviation Group 
1st Aviation Brigade 

Date of Birth: 14 March 1949 (Jamestown, NY) 
Home of Record: Sinclairville, NY
Date of Loss: 31 May 1971 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 162013N 1065308E (YD014094) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1A "Mohawk"
Other Personnel In Incident: Clinton A. Musil (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The Grumman OV1C Mohawk arrived in Vietnam in 1962 with various models serving continuously throughout the war. It became an increasingly familiar sight from one end of Vietnam and Laos to the other. This twin engine aircraft was handy when only short, rough runways were available and ground units needed almost instantaneous photo coverage. Gradually increasingly effective sensors and radar were produced including side-looking aerial radar (SLAR). Further, surveillance techniques using infrared detection equipment and a forward-aimed camera proved especially useful since the communists relied heavily on darkness to conceal their activities. The Mohawk also had the ability to carry both offensive armament and defensive weapons. This made the sturdy OV1C not only an excellent FAC and intelligence gathering aircraft, but one which could give close air support to ground troops in need of assistance.

On 31 May 1971, WO2 Jack W. Brunson, pilot, and Capt. Clinton A. Musil, observer, comprised the crew of the lead aircraft in a flight of two on a photographic/visual reconnaissance mission approximately 45 miles west-southwest of Hue, South Vietnam; 6 miles northeast of Tavauac and 6 kilometers south-southwest of Phou Ke Dai, Savannakhet Province, Laos. This area of eastern Laos was considered a major artery of 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.

At 1415 hours, the Lead aircraft completed its fifth pass over the target area. At that time his wingman saw the Mohawk execute a steep left turn, then lost sight of the aircraft as it disappeared into the late afternoon shadows. Visual contact was not reestablished with Lead until his aircraft exploded in a huge ball of flame on the side of a mountain. The OV1A was engulfed in flames and totally demolished by the ensuing fire. Prior to the crash, the wingman did not see his flight leader experiencing any problems.

An immediate aerial electronic and visual search was initiated, but no parachutes were seen and no emergency beeper signals were heard. Likewise, no survivors were seen on the ground and all attempts to raise the downed aircrew by radio proved unsuccessful. The search and rescue (SAR) effort was expanded, but was severely hampered by well placed hidden enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) sites. Several low passes were made over the crash site, which was located in the extremely rugged and dense jungle-covered mountains. Likewise, the terrain and heavy enemy presence in the area prevented any helicopters from landing. Due to the hostile threat in the area, no additional SAR operation was possible. At the time the initial search effort was terminated, Clinton Musil and Jack Brunson were immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

Capt. Musil and WO2 Brunson 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.

While the fate of Capt. Musil and WO2 Brunson is in little doubt, they have a right to have their remains returned to their families, friends and country. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos 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.