HOLLAND, LAWRENCE THOMAS

 
Name: Lawrence Thomas Holland 
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force 
Unit: 615th Tactical Fighter Squadron Eglin AFB, Florida 
TDY to APO San Francisco, CA 
DaNang Airfield, South Vietnam 
Date of Birth: 15 May 1934
Home of Record: Alhambra, CA
Date of Loss: 12 June 1965 
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113431N 1065341E (YT088795)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F100D "Super Sabre"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:  EJECTED: KILLED IN SHOOTOUT

SYNOPSIS:   The North American F100D Super Sabre, nicknamed "Hun", was a single seat jet fighter that first came into service during the Korean War.  During the Tonkin Gulf Crisis, which catapulted the US head long into the Vietnam War, the first Air Force F100 squadrons arrived in DaNang Airfield, South Vietnam in August 1964.  Interestingly, during both wars, the Hun's most valuable uses were in close air support for ground troops, and as principle strike aircraft.  This was because it could deliver its ordnance on target at treetop level at full speed.

On 12 June 1965 Major Lawrence T. Holland was the pilot of an F100D Super Sabre conducting a tactical mission in Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam.  His aircraft was the lead in a flight of two.  The mission flight path took them from DaNang to Ban Be Thuot, and then on to Dong Xoai Military Camp, which was located on the north side of Highway LTL13.  The return leg of their flight was to take them back to Ban Me Thuot, and on to DaNang Airfield.

After arriving in the target area, Major Holland established radio contact with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) who was directing this strike mission.  The FAC provided Lawrence Holland and his wingman with relevant current information about the location of VC forces, and then cleared both aircraft into the attack.  After making several passes on positions located in double canopy jungle, Lawrence Holland transmitted that his aircraft had been hit by hostile fire, and shortly thereafter, he safely ejected.

Both the FAC and his wingman observed his parachute descend and land in 100-foot tall trees near the runway at Thuan Lo and the village of Bon Luan.  The loss location was also just east of Highway LTL1A, 2 miles north of the junction of Highways LTL1A, LTL13 and 14; 26 miles southeast of Loc Ninh and 52 miles north-northeast of Saigon, Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam.

A Thanh Loi Rubber Plantation bordered LTL1A to the west.  Double canopy jungle dotted with small clearings, groves of bamboo and laced with roads, trails, rivers and streams of all sizes lay to the east of highway LTL1A.  Small hamlets and villages were scattered throughout this hotly contested region.

Lawrence Hollandís wingman immediately called in a nearby search and rescue (SAR) helicopter that had been orbiting a short distance away.  It landed in the nearest clearing and several members of the SAR aircrew proceeded on foot into the woods in search of the downed pilot.  As the helicopter remained on the ground, it was fired upon by Viet Cong (VC) soldiers.

During the ensuing firefight that raged between VC and the Americans both on the ground and aboard the helicopter, SAR personnel observed enemy troops dragging the limp body of Major Holland into a nearby ditch.  The helicopterís crew was unable to reach Major Holland before the communists pulled him from view.  Further, the Americans were unable to determine if he was dead or merely unconscious.  With nothing else for them to do, the SAR personnel returned to the helicopter.  As soon as they were on board, the aircraft lifted off and returned to base.  At the time SAR efforts were terminated, Lawrence Holland was reported as Missing in Action.

On 30 August 1971 information was received by the US government that was sufficient to determine that Lawrence Holland died trying to escape his would be captors.  Reportedly, he was shot and killed, and then buried in the immediate vicinity of his incident.   No information or remains, however, have ever been turned over by the Vietnamese to support their report of his death.

Prior to the formation of the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA), a refugee reported to US personnel that in 1980 he was on a work detail to bring coffin boxes for remains he saw exhumed.  He reported that he saw eight skeletal remains removed from graves in the area of the Thanh Loi Rubber Plantation.  When questioned, a cadre told him the remains were of communist soldiers.  However, he discounted this statement as false believing that such an effort would be made only to retrieve American remains and not those of NVA or CV dead.

US intelligence personnel believed this report might well correlate to Lawrence Holland and seven Americans who were lost at the Thanh Loi Rubber Plantation on 10 June 1965.  Joseph Compa, Craig Hagen, Walter Hall and Donald Saegaert comprised the aircrew of an UH1B helicopter that was inserting ARVN troops and their American advisors into a landing Zone on the plantation when it was shot down. Bruce Johnson, Fred Owens and Robert Curlee were the three American advisors.

In October/November 1992 and again in June 1993, joint teams under the auspices of the JTFFA traveled to Phuoc Long Province to investigate the losses in and around the Thanh Loi Rubber Plantation.  They interviewed local residents and former/current government officials regarding these missing men.  The results of those interviews indicated the bodies of the Americans were removed from the immediate area and buried either together or side by side.  Further, at a later date, the American remains were exhumed and removed to another undisclosed location.

In October/November 1993, another JTFFA team used ground penetrating radar (GPR) to attempt to located a mass grave, or multiple mass graves, where the Americans and/or ARVN dead where buried.  The team members identified only one area where an anomaly was detected that showed the ground had been disturbed and might be a gravesite.  That area was extensively excavated, but found absolutely no trace of remains, clothing or other artifacts that are commonly associated with graves.  Because nothing at all was uncovered, experts believe it was not, and never had been, a burial site.

If Lawrence Holland in fact died in a shootout with enemy soldiers, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country.  However, if the report of his death was a fabrication, his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.  Either way, there is no doubt that the Vietnamese know what happened and could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

For other Americans lost during the Vietnam War their fate is less certain.  Since the end of the 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 or War remaining throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots 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.