Name: Donald Lewis King 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Colonel/US Air Force                    
Unit: 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron 
8th Tactical Fighter Wing 
Ubon Airfield, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 28 August 1933
Home of Record: Muskegon MI
Date of Loss: 14 May 1966 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 172900N 1062300E (XE504390)
Click coordinates to view(4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: Frank D. Ralston III (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. 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, nicknamed "Satan's Angles," was one of the first Phantom squadrons to arrive in Thailand during the Vietnam War.

On 14 May 1966, then Captain Donald L. King, pilot; and 1st Lieutenant Frank D. "Brank" Ralston III, co-pilot; comprised the crew of the #2 F4C (serial #64-0760) in a flight of two conducting a night armed reconnaissance mission in Route Package (RP) 1, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The mission identifier was "Rolling Thunder 50" in the sector designated as "Tally Ho," the area between the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam and an imaginary line 30 miles north of the DMZ.

At 0300 hours, the flight departed Ubon Airfield and proceeded east toward their assigned target located in the sector known as Tally Ho. At 0335 hours, while still inbound to the target area, Capt. King initiated a normal radio check with the fight leader. During that transmission, he did not indicate they were experiencing anything unusual.

Radar contact was maintained with Capt. King's and 1st Lt. Ralston's aircraft until it was over the eastern edge of rugged mountain range roughly 20 miles west of the coastal city of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. The crew of the lead aircraft spotted an intense white flash shooting 20 degrees above the horizon in the direction of the number two aircraft. In the pre-dawn night, the lead flight crew observed no crash, fire or enemy automatic weapons or anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire directed at his wingman. Because the flight had not yet reached their target, both aircraft were carrying a full load of armament including bombs.

The area of loss was on the eastern edge of a rugged mountain range approximately 8 miles east of Route 137, 14 miles northwest of the major port city of Dong Hoi and 23 miles northeast of the Ban Karai Pass, one of the two major ports of entry from North Vietnam into the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The entire sector was densely populated and heavily defended since it contained a large number of staging areas for enemy troops and supplies that were destined for this infamous infiltration route.

Lead immediately tried to established radio contact with Donald King and Brank Ralston, but was unsuccessful in doing so. He then notified the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC) directing all air operations in this region. At the same time, Lead initiated a visual search operation for the missing aircraft and crew. During the search, no parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers heard. Because of the loss location being deep within enemy held territory, it was impossible to conduct a search and rescue (SAR) operation for the downed crew. At the time the search effort was terminated, Donald King and Brank Ralston were reported as Missing in Action.

If Donald King and Brank Ralston died in the loss of their Phantom, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they managed to eject from their crippled aircraft, they most certainly would have had little chance of avoiding capture 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.

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.

Donald King was an Air Force veteran with 13 years of service. Regarded as a top pilot, he had been invited to join the Air Force aerial performance team, the Thunderbirds. Further, he was a former test pilot who had learned Russian while attending a Naval intelligence school.