Name: Thomas Albert Dolan 
Rank/Branch: Specialist 5th Class/US Army                      
Unit: 220th Aviation Company
212th Aviation Battalion, 
11th Aviation Group
1st Aviation Division 

Date of Birth: 15 August 1948
Home of Record: Baltimore, MD
Date of Loss: 10 August 1971 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165158N 1064301E (XD829654)
Click coordinates to view  (4) maps 

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1G "Bird Dog"
Other Personnel In Incident: Paul J. Bates, Jr. (missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The low, slow and vulnerable Cessna O1 Bird Dog Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft were inherited by the Air Force from the Army when the Army lost command of this fix-wing observation fleet during 1965. In spite of that, the US Army maintained a small contingent of Bird Dog's for its own use. These O1s were under the control of the 1st Aviation Division.

The aircraft itself usually only carried white phosphorous target marker rockets that were mounted beneath the wings. The aircrews, however, carried their own personal weapons, which added a limited degree of armament to the daring crew of this little aircraft. The Bird Dog was not only vulnerable to enemy ground fire, it was also at risk of being accidentally hit by friendly fire because its shape and speed helped it blend into its surroundings. Later in the war the Bird Dog's upper wing was painted white or orange to emphasize the slow-moving FAC's position to friendly strike aircraft.

On 10 August 1971, Capt. Paul J. Bates, pilot; and then SP5 Thomas A Dolan, observer; comprised the crew of a Cessna O1G (serial #51-2267) that was conducting a visual reconnaissance mission over rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 12 miles west of the village of Thon Khe Xeng, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

At 1455 hours, Capt. Bates was attempting to show the pilot of the accompanying strike aircraft a target in the area. The target was located on a dirt trail that paralleled a small river and ran northeast to southwest through a very narrow valley. A few minutes later, the other pilot saw Paul Bates' and Thomas Dolan's aircraft appear to fly into the trees and disappear from sight.

The pilot of the strike aircraft immediately made an emergency radio call requesting a search and rescue (SAR) mission be initiated for Capt. Bates and SP5 Dolan. Minutes later he flew over the crash site and observed the wreckage of the Bird Dog lying on a rugged slope. He saw no one moving about the area, nor did he see any bodies in or near the wreckage. Shortly afterward the Bird Dog caught fire and burned. At the same time, the pilot made repeated radio calls to Paul Bates and Thomas Dolan, but received no reply from them.

The crash site was located approximately 10 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), 10 miles east of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 18 miles north-northwest of Khe Sanh and 19 miles west-southwest of Firebase Vandergrift.

Several SAR aircraft arrived a short time later, but were able only to conduct an aerial search for survivors due to the burning aircraft being located on a steep slope in difficult terrain. Further, no ground team was inserted into the crash site to search for the downed aircrew due to the lack of visual indication of survivors and heavy enemy activity in the area.

In their debriefing statements the pilots and aircrews witnessing the crash and conducting search operation believed that it was possible, but highly unlikely that Capt. Bates and SP5 Dolan could have survived the crash and/or escaped the fire that engulfed their aircraft. The cabin section, half of the wings, and part of the tail of the Bird Dog were completely destroyed by the crash and fire. At the time the search operation was terminated Paul Bates and Thomas Dolan were listed Missing in Action.

If Capt. Bates and Thomas Dolan 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, there is a good chance they could have been captured and 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.