MIDNIGHT, FRANCIS BARNES
Name:Francis Francis Barnes Midnight m058p
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Air Force
Unit; 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron Ubon Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 11 July 1939
Home of Record: Gary, IN
Date of Loss: 01 March 1969
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:

171800N 1063600E (XE712139) Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D “Phantom II”
Other Personnel in Incident: A. M. Silva (rescued)
REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS::The McDonnell F4 Phantom was flown by Air Force, Navy and Marine air wings and served a multitude of functions including, fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance and reconnaissance. This two-man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 to 2300 miles depending on stores and type of mission. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable, and handled well at all altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronic conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the “hottest” planes around. On 23 August 1967, then 1st Lt. Francis B. Midnight, pilot; and 1st Lt. A. M. Silva, co-pilot; comprised the crew of the #2 aircraft (serial #66-7517) in a flight of two, call sign “Sapphire 02,” that was conducting an armed reconnaissance “Rolling Thunder 57” night strike mission against the Mi Le Ferry Complex located approximately 9 miles south of the major North Vietnamese port city of Dong Hoi, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The ferry complex included military buildings, storage facilities, a single track railroad crossing along side a separate crossing for troops and vehicles traveling on Hwy. 101. Their secondary mission was to attack related targets of opportunity in the greater target area. The Mi Le Ferry complex crossed the Song Dia Glang River, a tributary of the Song Kien Glang River that flowed from the northwest to the southeast and emptied into the Gulf of Tonkin. To the east on the single track railroad line and Hwy. 101 that ran side by side through this sector of North Vietnam lay rice fields dotted with small villages connected by foot paths. To the west lay sparsely populated forested foothills that rapidly rose into rugged mountains. Sapphire flight departed Ubon Airbase at 0200 hours. When it arrived in the target area, the pilot of the lead aircraft established radio contact with the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) who provided Sapphire flight with current mission information before handing the flight over to the Forward Air Controller (FAC) responsible for directing their strike mission. This area of south-eastern North Vietnam was a primary storage and staging area for communist troops and supplies destined for South Vietnam via the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone. At 0233 hours, the FAC cleared Sapphire flight in on target. 1st Lt. Midnight and 1st Lt. Silva rolled in from 10,500 feet for their attack pass on the Mi Le Ferry complex. As they proceeded toward the target, their Phantom was struck by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire from an unknown gun emplacement. Other members of the flight saw a large fireball erupt on the ground just over 1 mile southwest of the ferry complex and 10 miles south-southwest of Dong Hoi. Further, the explosion was located in a fairly flat forested area where hills and mountains rose up sharply to the north, west and south of it. The ABCCC immediately initiated electronic and visual search and rescue (SAR) procedures employing aircraft already on site. As Sapphire lead crisscrossed the area south of the Song Dai Glang River and west of Hwy. 101, its crew heard two strong emergency radio beepers signals emanating from the jungle below. Attempts to establish radio contact with the downed aircrew resulted in voice contact with A. M. Silva. He reported he sustained minor injuries, but was otherwise alright. Throughout the search operation, beeper signals believed to be transmitted by 1st Lt. Midnight were heard, but all attempts to establish voice contact failed. At the same time the ABCCC began the initial search effort, it ordered the US Air Force SAR force orbiting to the east over the Gulf of Tonkin to join in the mission. After driving enemy forces away from the area near A. M. Silva, one of the rescue helicopters was able to extract the wounded co-pilot. The search operation continued for Sapphire 02’s pilot; however, when all attempts to locate Francis Midnight proved unsuccessful, the SAR operation was terminated. Because the area in which 1st Lt. Midnight was lost was under total enemy control, no ground search was possible. At the time the formal search ended, Francis Midnight was declared Missing in Action. If Francis Midnight died in the loss of his aircraft, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he was able to eject prior to the crash as is indicated by other aircrews hearing two strong beeper signals, he most certainly could have been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is no doubt the communists could return him or their remains any time they had the desire to do so. 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY. Fighter pilots 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.