|Name:||Joseph Francis Shanahan|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/ US Air Force|
Udorn Airbase, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||15 October 1936|
|Home of Record:||Clinton, IA|
|Date of Loss:||15 August 1968|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||174800N 1062000E (XE450450)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4D "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Terrin D. Hicks (missing)|
REMARKS: 730314 RELEASED BY DRV
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 15 August 1968, Capt. Terrin D. Hicks, pilot; and then Capt. Joseph F. Shanahan, navigator; comprised the crew of an RF4C that departed Udorn Airfield, Thailand on an early morning single aircraft photo reconnaissance mission over the heavily fortified enemy territory northwest of the major port city of Dong Hoi, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam.
This area of North Vietnam was, in large part, where communist men and material were assembled for transport through Laos along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail, then into selected areas of South Vietnam that were under communist control. It contained an extensive network or roads, trails and a single-track railroad line as well as storage and repair facilities of various sizes.
At approximately 0805 hours, Capt. Hicks established radio contact with the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC) reporting situation normal. At that time the Phantom descended below the level at which US radar could continue tracking it.
At 0930 hours, the Phantom was struck by enemy ground fire while making a photo run approximately 7 miles southwest of Quang Khe, 13 miles northwest of Dong Hoi, 11 miles due west of Ly Nhon Thon and 12 miles from the North Vietnamese coastline. When the RF4C failed to make radio contact or return to base at the time the aircraft's fuel would have been exhausted, an aerial visual and electronic search and rescue (SAR) was initiated. However, the SAR aircrews found no trace of the aircraft or its aircrew. At the time the formal search was terminated, Terrin Hicks and Joseph Shanahan were listed Missing in Action.
Subsequent information received by US authorities confirmed that Capt. Shanahan was in fact a Prisoner of War and his status was changed accordingly. He returned to US control on 14 March 1973 during Operation Homecoming. During his debriefing, Joseph Shanahan reported that after the aircraft was struck by ground fire, he and Terrin Hicks both safely ejected from their disabled jet. Joseph Shanahan landed in the backyard of a hut in Cu Nam village, Bo Trach District, and was captured almost immediately. However, once on the ground and before capture, he saw Capt. Hicks' parachute on the ground, was in communication with him over his survival radio and heard him radio a "Mayday" call.
As Capt. Shanahan was led away, he heard continuous small arms fire from the direction where Capt. Hicks had landed. The next day Joseph Shanahan was given Terrin Hicks' boots to wear as his boots had been taken from him after his capture. Later an interrogator told him that "Capt. Hicks was alive and being treated in the Dong Hoi hospital for a broken leg." While skeptical, Capt. Shanahan had no reason to disbelieve the information provided by the interrogator.
During 13-16 November 1985, personnel from the Joint Casualty Recovery Center (JCRC) attended a technical meeting in Hanoi. During that meeting, Vietnamese officials passed information about several Americans including Terrin Hicks. Capt. Hicks' military identification card and Geneva Convention card were given to US officials stating that his remains were "no longer available," but provided no further information about him. This ID card and Geneva Convention card were two of the first 19 pieces of material evidence provided by the Vietnamese government to our government on missing Americans.
On 4 December 1985, the Vietnamese released seven sets of remains reportedly belonging to American servicemen to US control claiming that one of these sets of remains was associated with Terrin Hicks. Shortly thereafter these remains were transported to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination and identification. Although the Vietnamese claimed that one set of remains belong to Capt. Hicks, the forensic experts at the lab determined that none of the seven, in reality, was his.
On 17 and 19 June 1989, the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) sent a US/Vietnamese investigative team to Cu Nam village, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province to follow up on loss of Terrin Hicks. The team interviewed a witness who stated "that an RF-4C aircraft was shot down over the village in the fifth Lunar month of 1968." The witness added that "both pilots ejected; one was captured immediately, the other was shot to death when he resisted capture, and he was buried near where he fell."
The team surveyed the burial location and used a metal detector to attempt to locate the specific burial site, but was not successful in locating it. On 5 May 1990, a second team returned to Cu Nam village to discuss excavation of that earlier reported burial site.
At this time the village officials claimed not to know if the repatriated remains that were unilaterally turned over on 4 December 1985, and that could not be identified as those of Capt. Hicks, had been taken from the reported burial site that was surveyed in June 1989. The Vietnamese then suggested three other possible burial locations from Quang Binh Province records that might correlate to Terrin Hicks. However, as with the first identified burial site, no trace of Capt. Hicks' remains have been found in any of the other suggested locations either.
If Terrin Hicks died in an exchange of gunfire with the North Vietnamese, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived the reported gunfight and was captured as is indicated by the intelligence record and Joseph Shanahan's debriefing; his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Likewise, the search for his burial site near the village of Cu Nam is nothing more than an exercise in futility and a cruel hoax perpetrated by communists.
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.