Name: Donald Louis Gallagher npa
Rank/Branch: Aviation Ordnanceman Chief/US Navy
Unit: Patrol Squadron 26, U-Tapao Airbase,
TH (TDY from Sangley Point, PI)

Date of Birth: 2 March 1938 (Sheboygan, WI)
Home of Record: Sheboygan, WI
Date of Loss: 6 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 093050N 1040730E (VR040520)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: P-3B "Orion"
Other Personnel In Incident: Roy A. Huss; Donald F. Burnett; William F. Farris; Thomas P. Jones; Lynn M. Travis; Homer E. McKay; James C. Newman, Jr.; Melvin C. Thompson; Armando Chapa, Jr. (missing); Robert F. Meglio and Billy W. McGhee (remains recovered)


SYNOPSIS: In the late 1950s, Lockheed's P-3 Orion was designed as a high-performance, anti-submarine patrol aircraft to counter the Soviet Union's growing submarine threat around the world. The Orion was put into service in 1962. With its state of the art comprehensive search capability, it immediately filled an important roll in naval surveillance. The Orion was also armed with a variety of destructive equipment, including both conventional and nuclear depth bombs.

Since November 1964, US Navy P-3 Orion Squadrons had been based in Southeast Asia on rotation from bases in the Pacific and continental US. These aircraft were used primarily for coastal reconnaissance as part of the "Market Time" campaign to interdict the amount of supplies and enemy forces infiltrating into South Vietnam by sea.

Shortly after 0900 hours on 5 February 1968, Lt. Cmdr. Robert F Meglio, pilot; Lt. Thomas P. Jones, co-pilot; Lt (jg) Lynn M. Travis, crewman; Lt. (jg) Roy A. Huss, crewman; AXCS Donald F. Burnett, senior chief aviation anti-submarine warfare; AOC Donald L. Gallagher, aviation ordnanceman; AMH2 Homer E. McKay, aviation structural mechanic; ADR1 James C. Newman, aviation mechanic reciprocating; AE1 Melvin C. Thompson, aviation electrician; ADJ2 Billy W. McGhee, aviation mechanic jet; AX3 Armando Chapa, aviation anti-submarine warfare technician; and AX3 William F. Farris, aviation anti-submarine warfare technician; comprised the crew of a P-3B (serial #153440), designated "Combat Aircrew 8," that departed U-Tapao Airbase for a 24-hour Market Time shipping surveillance mission over the Gulf of Thailand along the coast of extreme southern and western South Vietnam.

Soon after midnight on the 5 February, the Orion's radio operator reported the first of a small number of surface contacts. The third and last radio contact was transmitted at 0300 hours on 6 February, at which time the radio operator stated they had another surface contact somewhat farther east. The Orion's crew failed to make its scheduled position report at roughly 0400 hours.

Shortly after daybreak, the aircraft was declared overdue. At the same time, an emergency communication alert was issued and an extensive search and recovery (SAR) operation using three patrol squadrons from the Seventh Air Force SAR Command based at Tan Son Nhut Airbase along with multiple surface vessels was initiated. Late in the afternoon the aircraft's wreckage was located in the Gulf of Thailand in 100-foot deep water approximately 17 miles due west of the coastline, 18 miles due west of the village of Ap Nga May and 65 miles southwest of Rack Gia at a point near the general area where the last radio transmission was made.

The on-scene SAR commander reported finding a "raft, two bodies, wreckage, including wheels in the water The aircraft debris indicated severe impact and survivor probability were extremely remote Though intensive efforts were expended, no further remains of the aircrew were recovered." The two bodies were recovered and transported to the US military mortuary at Tan Son Nhut where they were subsequently identified as Lt. Cmdr. Meglio and ADJ2 Billy W. McGhee. The initial search effort was terminated at sundown on 7 February 1968.

An extensive salvage operation employing two minesweepers, two ocean-going tugs and a landing craft repair ship commenced on 11 February and terminated on 21 March 1968. During the salvage operation pieces of aircraft debris, equipment and personal effects were recovered, but no remains of the missing crewmen were located. Likewise, no evidence was found to indicate whether enemy action or mechanical failure caused the crash.

During the time the recovery operation was underway, the US Navy convened a Board of Inquiry to review the facts and circumstances surrounding this loss. On 20 February 1968, the Board issued a conclusive determination of death for Armando Chapa, William Farris, Donald Gallagher, Roy Huss, Thomas Jones, Homer McKay, James Newman, Melvin Thompson, Donald Burnett and Lynn Travis. The 10 crewmen were subsequently listed as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

An over water/at sea casualty resolution operation was conducted during the period of July through September 1973 to determine the feasibility/desirability of expanding such operations to be used in cases such as this. Based on the combined factors of cost and lack of any positive results whatsoever, the at sea operations were terminated. The armed services graves registration office Board of Review concurred with a Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) recommendation that "the remains of the individuals involved in this case are not recoverable at this time, and further directed that search should revert to inactive status and search operations discontinued."

The hard reality is there is virtually no chance that Armando Chapa, William Farris, Donald Gallagher, Roy Huss, Thomas Jones, Homer McKay, James Newman, Melvin Thompson, Donald Burnett and Lynn Travis survived their loss incident or that their remains can ever by recovered. Above all else, each man has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 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 proudly served.