Name: William Murre Christensen 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander/US Navy 
Unit: Fighter Squadron 143 
USS Ranger (CVA-61) 

Date of Birth: 19 August 1940 
Home of Record: Great Falls, MT
Date of Loss: 01 March 1966 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/ Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 200700N 1062500E (XH480248)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: William D. Frawley (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The F4 Phantom II, which was flown by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance and reconnaissance. This two-man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 to 2300 miles depending on stores and type of mission. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable, and handled well at all 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 1 March 1966, Lt. William D. Frawley, pilot; and then Lt. J.G. William M. Christensen, radar intercept officer; comprised the crew of an F4B fighter/bomber in a section of three aircraft that launched from the deck of the USS Ranger. The flight was to conduct an afternoon armed coastal reconnaissance mission to locate and destroy enemy activity along the North Vietnamese coastline.

After completing a routine aerial refueling from a tanker, the section began its mission in deteriorating weather conditions. At 1612 hours, the three aircraft began a coordinated turn as the section approached the communist coastline. The pilot of the lead aircraft lost sight of Lt. Frawley's and Lt. J.G. Christensens' Phantom as they progressed through the turn.

During the course of making the coordinated turn, a surface-to-air missile (SAM) alert warning was heard on the UHF radio frequency, but other section members saw no missiles lift off the ground. Likewise, none were reported fired at the Phantoms by the airborne command and control aircraft.

Shortly thereafter, the section leader attempted to make radio contact with Lt. Frawley and Lt. J.G. Christensen, but they were unable to establish contact on the UHF or emergency frequencies. The other two Phantoms terminated the rest of the mission and returned to the USS Ranger without further incident. The last known location of the Phantom was approximately 7 miles southeast of the coastline, 10 miles south of Hoanh Dong, 44 miles northeast of Thanh Hoa and 54 miles south-southwest of Haiphong, North Vietnam.

Search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated by surface ships the USS Berkeley and USS Isbell, as well as by HU16 and A1H aircraft. Between the ships and aircraft, they covered an area along the coastline, and from the shoreline out to a distance of 10 miles. No visual or electronic signals were heard from the missing crewmen. The following day search aircraft found wreckage debris and an oil slick just off the North Vietnamese shoreline, but again found no trace of Lt. Frawley or Lt. J.G. Christensen. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, both men were listed Missing in Action.

If William Frawley and William Christensen died in this loss incident, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family friends and country. However, if they were able to safely eject their damaged aircraft, their fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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 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.