|Name:||Alan Paul Mateja|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Air Force|
388th Tactical Fighter Wing
Korat Airbase, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||29 July 1945|
|Home of Record:||Louisville, KY|
|Date of Loss:||16 April 1972|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view(4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Orvin C. Jones, Jr. (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The principle Air Force tactical strike aircraft during the Vietnam War was the Republic F105 Thunderchief, nicknamed a "Thud." It was the first supersonic tactical fighter-bomber designed from scratch and the largest single-seat, single-engine combat aircraft in history. Easily recognized by its large bomb bay and unique swept-forward engine inlets located in the wing roots, it was mass-produced after the Korean War. The first Thud to exceed the speed of sound did so on 22 October 1955 in spite of its underpowered Pratt & Whitney J57 stop-gap engine.
Production of the F-105 completed in 1965 with the tandem-seat F model that was designed as a Wild-Weasel Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) attack aircraft and the G model that was designed for surface-to-air missile (SAM) suppression missions. The F-105 served throughout Southeast Asia, particularly during Rolling Thunder operations.
In the cat-and-mouse game to locate and kill SAM sites, one of the Wild Weasels would fly low over the countryside providing the enemy with an inviting target while his wingman held high watching for the SAM site's radar tracking equipment to be turned on in preparation of firing a missile at the trolling aircraft. As soon as the SAM site came online, the wingman could pinpoint its location and attack it before it could fire at their flight.
On 16 April 1972, then Capt. Alan P. Mateja, pilot, and Capt. Orvin C. Jones, Jr., electronic warfare officer; comprised the crew of the #2 RF105G (serial #63-8342), call sign "Suntan 02," in a flight of 2 conducting a night SAM suppression mission over Haiphong Province, North Vietnam. After arriving in their area of operation, the flight leader established radio contact with the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) directing all air operations in this region of North Vietnam. After receiving updated information, Suntan flight was cleared to begin their mission.
At 0310 hours, Suntan flight was trolling for SAM sites located in the densely populated and heavily defended sector northeast of the city of Haiphong. Suntan Lead observed his wingman as he flew low over the countryside. Lead continued to watch as Suntan 02 was struck by enemy fire and crashed into the sand and mudflats on the edge of the Song Da Bach River. The crash site was located approximately 3 miles south of Quang Yen and 7 miles northeast of Haiphong.
Suntan Lead immediately notified the ABCCC of the situation and then initiated an electronic search and rescue (SAR) for Capt. Mateja and Capt. Jones. In the night's darkness, Suntan Lead saw no parachutes and heard no emergency beeper signals emanating from the area of loss. Due to the location of loss being deep within enemy held territory, no ground search was possible. At the time the electron search was terminated, Alan Mateja and Orvin Jones were reported as Missing in Action.
In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 5 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: "Note; possibly shot down by SAM during SAM suppression mission. Unid (unidentified) unit … shootdown of an unid type aircraft at high point 1774 (unloc). A search party had been dispatched to …. Ascertain the situation. MiG-21's out of Phuc Yen …. Shootdown between 0423z-0439z on 16 April, ….the pilot bailed out. Four aircraft reported shot down in the Haiphong area and one pilot reported captured. 232nd AAA Regiment associate (poss. In the DMZ area); an aircraft was shot down … and the pilot captured.
If Alan Mateja and Orvin Jones died in the loss of their Thunderchief, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they were able to eject their crippled aircraft, they most certainly would have been captured 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.