Name: John Hunter Crews III 
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Air Force 
Unit: 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Ubon Airfield, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 31 December 1941
Home of Record: Asheville, NC
Date of Loss: 22 May 1968 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 173330N 1061815E (XE383416)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: Dean P. St. Pierre (missing) 


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.

On 22 May 1968, then 1st Lt. John Crews, pilot; and Capt. Dean St. Pierre, co-pilot, comprised the crew of an F4D (aircraft #66-0246), call sign "Dipper 2." Dipper flight departed Ubon Airfield at 1900 hours as the number two aircraft in a flight of two conducting a night armed reconnaissance mission along Route 137 near the city of Dong Hoi, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. Route 137 was a primary road used by the NVA to resupply their forces that had infiltrated into South Vietnam and were attacking the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

The weather was clear, but pitch black because there was no moon that night. Even so, the Dipper flight reported visibility of approximately 5 miles.

After they reached the target area, both aircraft dropped flares to light up Route 137, which was located in the jungle covered mountains approximately 22 miles west-northwest of the city of Dong Hoi. The primary road ran adjacent to a large Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) storage area. The POL had been attacked and set on fire earlier in the day. They were unable to identify any new targets in the area, and since they were receiving light, inaccurate 85mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire - roughly 2 to 3 rounds at a time - Dipper Lead made the decision to investigate another area where they might have better luck.

At approximately 2000 hours, an hour after take off, Dipper Flight was unable to locate any other targets of opportunity and returned to the POL storage area. They spotted a convoy of six enemy trucks traveling along Route 137. Dipper Lead rolled in on the convoy through light ground fire and released its ordnance, then cleared Dipper 2 in on the target. Capt. Crews radioed Lead they were rolling in on final approach to the target. Lead saw Dipper 2 release 2 CBU-24 (Cluster Bomb Units - 24 count) that appeared to release and detonate normally. Approximately 5 to 10 seconds later, a fireball appeared on the ground 100 feet short of the target. Lead tried to raise Capt. Crews and Capt. St. Pierre on both regular and guard radio channels, but was unable to get a response.

Dipper Lead orbited the area for roughly 15 minutes trying to establish contact with the downed aircrew. Another flight of F4's arrived on station to relieve Dipper Lead because he was running low on fuel. An aerial electron and visual search was continued without success. No ground search was possible because of the heavy enemy presence in the target area. Dipper Lead believed his wingman was probably struck by ground fire from the identified 85mm AAA site. At the time the search effort was terminated, John Crews and Dean St. Pierre were immediately listed Missing in Action.

If John Crews and Dean St. Pierre 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 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 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.