Name: Joseph Edwin "Joe" Davies 
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force 
Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron
 Ubon Airbase, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 08 April 1940 
Home of Record: Alexandria, VA
Date of Loss: 19 May 1968 
Country of Loss: Laos 
Loss Coordinates: 174200N 1062800E (XD207687)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F-4D "Phantom II" 
Other Personnel In Incident: Glenn D. McCubbin (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.

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.

Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley. Highway 92 ran along the west side and Highway 919 along the east. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.

More American aircraft were downed in this sector than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center and contained the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees and were expertly camouflaged. Oscar Eight also favored the enemy because the only suitable landing zones were located in a wide bowl surrounded by jungle covered high ground containing AAA guns and bunkered infantry.

On 19 May 1968, then Capt. Joseph "Joe" Davies, pilot; and  1st Lt Glenn McCubbin, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4D, call sign "Blackjack 01," that was the lead aircraft in a flight of two conducting a night armed reconnaissance mission over Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The briefed flight route was from Ubon Airbase to the mission area and back to Ubon. Weather conditions included a clear sky with visibility of 6 miles and Karsts at 4,000 feet.

Blackjack flight's mission area was listed as "21 miles northwest of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam" and their target was "a bridge at coordinates 1745N 10625E." Both aircraft were working in these coordinates at a distance of up to 5 miles separation. At approximately 0250 hours, Blackjack 02 began having UHF radio transmitter difficulties. Capt. Davies directed his wingman to expend the rest of his ordnance on the target and return to base. He also advised Blackjack 02 that they would catch up on the return flight to base.

No further voice or visual contact was made with the lead aircraft. On climb-out from their bomb run, the crew of Blackjack 02 observed 3 explosions in the vicinity of "Delta Point 13," which are at coordinates 1742N 10628E. They were believed to be Lead expending the rest of its ordnance on the target. The wingman saw no ground fire emanating from enemy positions, saw no fireball and heard no emergency radio beepers at that time.

Blackjack 02 arrived back at base at 0333 hours. At that time it was discovered that Lead had not followed his wingman and was missing. Immediately Carter flight was ordered to begin an electronic search for Joe Davies and Glenn McCubbin in the target area and along the return flight path to Ubon and search and rescue (SAR) aircraft were placed on alert. During their initial search, Carter flight found no sign of either missing crewman.

The loss location was in the hotly contested jungle covered mountains that were heavily populated by NVA troops and villagers approximately 6 miles north-northeast of Binh Tram 34 on Highway 19. It was also 14 miles north-northwest of Tchepone, 26 miles south-southwest of the Ban Karai Pass and 28 miles due west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Saravane Province, Laos.

Later another aircraft heard a beeper signal emanating from the dense jungle in the vicinity of approximately 7 miles north of Tchepone Airfield. Carter flight immediately initiated a second electronic search and rescue (SAR) effort. Upon entering the area in which the beeper had been heard, Carter 01 was able to establish voice contact with the downed crewman. Carter 01 asked if it was "Alpha" or "Bravo, " with Alpha being Joe Davies and Bravo being Glenn McCubbin. The response was Alpha. Communication between Carter 01 and the crewman on the ground was erratic. Even though Joe Davies and Glenn McCubbin were the only men missing during this timeframe and in this location, the SAR pilot was unsure who the downed pilot actually was, or if he was from Blackjack 01.

Carter flight turned control of the search over to SAR aircraft from the Search and Recovery Air Service at the time he ran low on fuel and was forced to return to base. When no additional contact could be established with either Capt. Davies or 1st Lt. McCubbin, the search operation was terminated. Joe Davies and Glenn McCubbin were immediately listed Missing in Action.

After Operation Homecoming in 1973, all returned POWs were extensively debriefed regarding other prisoners known or believed to be in captivity who were not released. According to information provided by James A Mulligan during his debriefing, Joe Davies was "believed to be alive according to prison communication."

In 1988 a joint US/Vietnamese team under the auspices of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) visited Bo Trach District and interviewed witnesses concerning this incident. Some villagers described the crash of an aircraft correlating to this loss and the wartime recovery of human remains from the crash site. One witness also described the recovery of two dog tags of Capt. Davies. However, no remains or dogtags were shown or given to the team.

In August 1991, the crash site was excavated and "Biologic evidence" was recovered. That unidentified material was transported to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. The results of that examination yielded no identification for either missing crewman.

In October 1991, US investigators forwarded information found in Bo Trach District combat records recording the downing of an "F-4C on 18 May 1968 and the death of two crewmen." In spite of the fact that an RF-4C was shot sown on that date and in that district, and Blackjack 01 was documented much further west in Laos; according to US personnel, "This record is believed associated with this loss incident."

While some US government records indicate Blackjack 01 was lost in North Vietnam, other USG records show they were in reality lost in Laos. There is a very real probability that Capt. Davies and 1st Lt. McCubbin 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 that ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

If Glenn McCubbin and Joseph Davies 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 survived, 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 and fight 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.