CLAFLIN, RICHARD AMES

Name: Richard Ames Claflin   
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force 
Unit: 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron 
Ubon Airfield, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 02 July 1939
Home of Record: Kansas City, KS
Date of Loss: 26 July 1967 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 175500N 1055000E (WE882810)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: Richard Brazik (missing) 

REMARKS:  SURVIVAL UNLIKELY

SYNOPSIS:  The McDonnell 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 (Mach2) 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.

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.

On 26 July 1967, then  Capt. Richard A. Claflin, pilot; and 1st Lt. Richard Brazik, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an F4C (aircraft #64-0848), call sign "Buick 2," as the number two aircraft in a flight of two. Buick flight departed Ubon Airfield at 2100 hours to conduct a night armed reconnaissance mission along Route 15. This primary road ran through the Mu Gia Pass, located on the border of North Vietnam and Laos, and was one of the two main ports of entry from North Vietnam into Laos along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail.

As Buick flight investigated the target area, the pilots spotted a convoy of 6 to 10 trucks moving south along Route 15 as it wound its way through rugged jungle covered mountains. The location of the convoy was approximately 18 miles north-northeast of the Mu Gia Pass, 5 miles south-southwest of Thanh Lang Xa and 9 miles southwest of a single track railroad line running from the major cities of Vinh and Dong Hai. The railroad line carried men and material to a storage depot where they were transferred to vehicles ranging from trucks to bicycles for the arduous trip into the acknowledged war zone. This location was also 52 miles south of Vinh and 61 miles northwest of Dong Hoi.

At 2140 hours, Buick 1 and 2 rolled in on a rocket attack pass on the NVA truck convoy. Immediately thereafter they initiated a second pass. During the second rocket firing pass, Buick 2 was damaged by its own ordnance exploding directly below the aircraft. The crippled Phantom failed to pull out of the dive and impacted the ground in a fireball on the west side of Route 15.

Buick Lead immediately notified the airborne command and control aircraft of the situation and visual and electronic search procedures were initiated. All attempts to raise Capt. Claflin and 1st Lt. Brazik on regular and guard radio channels were met with silence. Likewise, no parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers heard emanating from the jungle below. No formal search and rescue (SAR) operation was possible due the location of loss being deep in enemy held territory. At the time the Buick Lead's search effort was terminated, Richard Claflin and Richard Brazik were listed Missing in Action.

If Richard Claflin and Richard Brazik died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they managed to eject their damaged aircraft their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, the Vietnamese could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.