|Name:||Charles Joseph "Chuck" Scharf|
|Rank/Branch:||Colonel/US Air Force|
Ubon Airfield, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||20 March 1933|
|Home of Record:||San Diego, CA|
|Date of Loss:||01 October 1965|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action Not Recovered|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4C "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Martin J. Massucci (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 October 1, 1965, Capt. Charles J. Chuck" Scharf, pilot; and then 1st Lt. Martin J. "Marty" Massucci, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4C (serial #63-7712), call sign "Gator 3," that was the #3 aircraft in a scheduled flight of 4. Gator flight was conducting a mid-day strike/road reconnaissance mission against Route 155, which was a primary road used to transport war supplies from China to Hanoi; and the North Vietnamese Army's (NVA) Ban Tain staging area located along that route, Son La Province, North Vietnam. The Ban Tain staging area was a suspected truck park located near the Black River valley between Son La and Van Yen Provinces and slightly north of the North Vietnamese/Lao border.
At 1110 hours, Gator flight departed Ubon Airfield. Almost immediately the lead aircraft, Gator 1, developed mechanical problems and was forced to abort the mission. Capt. Scharf, as the alternate lead, assumed command of the flight and the remaining three aircraft continued to the target area. Capt. Marvin C Quist, pilot; and 1st Lt. Philip M. Ordway, co-pilot; comprised the crew of Gator 4, Gator 3's wingman. Capt. Ralph D. Steele was the pilot of Gator 2. Weather conditions were excellent with no clouds, 8 to 10 miles visibility and negligible winds.
The flight approached the target area at low altitude to avoid detection by a known surface-to-air (SAM) missile site deployed in the vicinity of the truck park. The Phantom's performed a "pop up" maneuver to roughly 15,000 feet to look for their target. Because the Ban Tain staging area could not be identified, Gator 3 and 4 did not drop their ordnance. According to other flight members, "their intelligence was poor" consisting of just "a picture of jungle with a road running through it." The crew of Gator 2 believed they saw the target and dropped bombs on their pass.
All three aircraft were separated after the pop up maneuver. Chuck Scharf radioed Gator 2 and 4 that he was "going up the road." Capt. Steele evidently misunderstood and instead of turning toward the north, he turned south and flew along Route 155 in that direction. Capt. Quist watched as the two aircraft headed in opposite directions, then followed the flight leader to the north. He had closed the distance between them to approximately a mile and a half when Capt. Scharf's Phantom was struck by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire.
Capt. Quist and 1st Lt. Ordway heard Chuck Scharf transmit "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" and saw Gator 3 start to burn. According to Capt. Quist, "The flame was small at first and gradually increased for about 15-20 seconds until it trailed the aircraft approximately one plane length." After hearing the three Mayday calls, Capt. Quist heard an undistinguishable comment. He told Capt. Scharf that his aircraft was on fire and he and 1st Lt. Massucci should bail out. Marv Quist and Phil Ordway observed the lead aircraft as Capt. Scharf jettisoned his external stores. The Phantom was surrounded by flashing debris as the ordnance separated from the aircraft and began to fall away from it. At the same time 1st Lt. Ordway saw a parachute in the midst of the debris field.
According to Phil Ordway, Marty Massucci was a replacement pilot who recently joined the squadron and had flown only a couple combat missions before this flight. 1st Lt. Ordway believed that Capt. Scharf jettisoned the external stores without notifying his new co-pilot of his intention to do so. When external armament is jettisoned, it makes a terrible noise and bump in the undercarriage of the aircraft when the explosive charges go off. He believed that 1st Lt. Massucci knew they were on fire and bailed out thinking the Phantom was coming apart.
After calling the parachute, Gator 4 entered a tight left-hand turn in an attempt to keep it in sight. Unfortunately, the parachute disappeared from sight behind a hill landing in an open flat area. Capt. Quist and 1st Lt. Ordway immediately called for a search and rescue (SAR) operation while they initiated a visual and electronic search for Capt. Scharf and 1st Lt. Massucci. Within minutes Gator 4 flew low over the clearing. Capt. Quist reported seeing "people on the ground firing at us with small arms." The clearing was located 600 meters (a quarter mile) west of the crash site on the side of Phu Soung Mountain, approximately 1 mile from the nearest settlement, 3 miles south of Ban Puoi Airfield, 79 miles northwest of Hanoi and 15 kilometers from the border of China.
After completing a 360-degree turn, Gator 4 saw where the flight leader's aircraft had crashed into the jungle on the side of Phu Soung Mountain 3 to 5 miles southeast of where it caught fire. The Phantom was seen as a small hole in the foliage with a plume of smoke rising through it. According to Capt. Quist, "The time period from when we lost sight of the aircraft until we saw the impact area was 45-60 seconds." Because there was no other fire or smoke observed on the ground, they believed the Phantom remained in tact until it impacted the ground.
While Capt. Quist and 1st Lt. Ordway saw only one parachute, Marv Quist stated in his after action debriefing, "In my opinion, there is a strong possibility that the other occupant bailed out prior to aircraft impact. He had sufficient altitude and it is felt he had sufficient time for a successful ejection." Further, he reported, "the aircraft was in a very steady course toward mountainous terrain. The engines and afterburners appeared to be functioning properly."
During the extensive visual and electronic search, no emergency beeper signals were heard and no sign of either downed crewman was found in or around the area of loss. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Chuck Scharf and Marty Massucci were immediately listed Missing in Action.
In 1967, the North Vietnamese allowed the East German's to make an 8-hour propaganda film consisting of 24 reels of film footage at the Hin Ton Prison Camp near Hanoi entitled "Pilots in Pajamas." The Prisoners of War were all caucasian. There was one North Vietnamese interrogator and one interpreter in the film who questioned the Americans one at a time regarding their biographic information - name, date and place of birth, parents, marital status, religion, rank, military seniority, number of air missions participated, date and place of capture, etc. Of the 150 or so POWs photographed, all were wearing striped pajamas-type uniforms and appeared to be healthy, but unhappy. Further, none of the prisoners were wounded or was an amputee.
The CIA obtained a copy of this film and reported that Chuck Scharf was mentioned in it. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) also reviewed the footage, but stated that the "photo did not correlate with the name" because "the quality of the film was so poor." The Scharf family, along with many other POW/MIA family members, was shown 6 hours of the 8-hour film in an attempt to identify the Prisoners of War who appear in the film. The Scharf family positively identified a specific prisoner as Capt. Chuck Scharf.
Of the Prisoners of War shown in ""Pilots in Pajamas," 10 returned to US control during Operation Homecoming. Unfortunately, none of the returnees were able to positively identify Chuck Scharf or Marty Massucci as prisoners in the Hin Ton Prison Camp during the time the East German film was made.
In the 1980's film footage from "Pilots in Pajamas" was used in several documentaries including Sylvester Stallone's well researched production, "MIAs, Where Are They?" After viewing this documentary, Barbara Lowerison, sister of Capt. Scharf, once again firmly stated, "When I saw the documentary, there were scenes (from Pilots in Pajamas) that led me to believe that Chuck was in that film. I would bet my life on it!"
In April 1991 the US government released a list of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who were known to be alive in enemy hands and for whom there is no evidence that he or she died in captivity. This list, commonly referred to today as the USG's "Last Known Alive" list, included both Chuck Scharf and Marty Massucci.
If Capt. Scharf and 1st Lt. Massucci died as a result of their loss, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, 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.