|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Air Force|
Cam Ranh Airbase,
|Date of Birth:||09 August 1941|
|Home of Record:||Lakewood, NJ|
|Date of Loss:||08 August 1966|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4C "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Charles M. Walling (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.
On 8 August 1966, Capt. Charles M. Walling, pilot; and then 1st Lt. Aado Kommendant, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4C, call sign "Boxer 06." They departed Cam Ranh Airbase as the #2 aircraft in a flight of 2 on a scramble mission to provide close air support for friendly forces who were in contact with a suspected Viet Cong (VC) troop concentration. The battle site was located approximately 19 miles north-northeast of Bien Hoa Airbase, Binh Duong Province, South Vietnam.
Boxer flight arrived on station in the target area without incident and prepared to make bombing runs on entrenched enemy positions. Other aircraft reported intense enemy ground fire in the target area. Dive-bombing was impossible because of the 1800 to 2000-foot broken cloud ceiling over the battlefield that lowered to the south and made it necessary to make level bomb runs over the target area at an altitude of 1500 feet. Boxer O6 made a total of four passes over the target, but did not release its bombs on the first three passes, as they were not properly aliened with the target. On their fourth pass, 1st Lt. Kommendant delivered their ordnance and Capt. Walling pulled up with wings level as they entered the clouds. A few seconds later the Forward Air Controller (FAC) saw an explosion about 1 ½ miles southeast of the target.
When no contact could be established with the crew of Boxer 06, both the on site FAC and Boxer lead proceeded to the area of the explosion to initiated a search and rescue (SAR) operation. During this initial search phase, no parachutes were seen or emergency beepers heard. Within minutes 4 rescue helicopters and several A1E Skyraider's arrived onsite. They covered the entire area thoroughly until dark including one of the helicopter's hovering over the crash site at treetop level, but could find no evidence of the missing men in or around the wreckage, alive or dead. Terrain in the area was flat and covered with dense jungle. It was also located near the juncture of Binh Duong, Bien Hoa, Long Khan and Binh Long Provinces, approximately 40 miles northeast of Saigon. Formal SAR efforts were terminated on 10 October 1966. At that time both Charles Walling and Aado Kommendant were listed Missing in Action.
Later in the day of shootdown, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) in Okinawa monitored two radio releases from Radio Hanoi regarding the downing of an F4 in the area of Boxer 06's loss and the "killing of two Yankees on board." Because Capt. Walling and 1st Lt. Kommendant comprised the crew of the only F4 lost that day and in that specific area, intelligence felt that if the releases were true, they related to this aircrew. Interestingly, the Walling family discovered this report in 1973. Further, these documents were not given to either family by the Air Force Casualty office or Defense Department prior to 1973.
If Charles Walling and Aado Kommendant died in the loss of their Phantom, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family friends and country. However, if they were able to safely eject they certainly could have been captured by enemy forces openly operating in this region 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 call 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.