STEWART, PETER JOSEPH

Name: Peter Joseph Stewart 
Rank/Branch: Colonel/US Air Force 
Unit: Headquarters 8th Tactical Fighter Wing
Ubon Airfield, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 12 August 1918 (Glasgow, Scotland)
Home of Record: Winter Haven, FL
Date of Loss: 15 March 1966 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212300N 1030000E (TJ928640)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: Martin R. Scott (missing) 

REMARKS:  POSS DEAD IR 1516032672

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 March 1966, Capt. Martin R. Scott, pilot; and then Lt. Col. Peter J. Stewart, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F4C, call sign "Boron 02," that was the #2 aircraft in a flight of two conducting a late afternoon armed reconnaissance mission along Route 19, south of Dien Binh Phu, Lai Chau Province, North Vietnam.

The briefed flight path was from Ubon Airfield to the target area and back to Ubon. Weather conditions included broken to overcast clouds with bases at 17,000 feet, visibility of 5 miles with little to no haze and winds slight to variable. The terrain in the target area was a flat valley for 2 miles on each side of the plainly visible road. The prominent land features consisted of open treeless fields in all directions across the valley. The region in which the target area was located was also heavily defended and densely populated with communist forces and civilian villages of various sizes.

Once in the target area, Boron Lead contacted the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC), call sign "Crown." Boron flight was directed to reconnoiter Route 19 from south to north for signs of enemy activity. As the flight progressed northward toward Dien Bien Phu, Boron 02 was flying in trail behind the lead aircraft when Lead saw two trucks on the road. After reporting sighting enemy traffic, Lead initiated a left-hand turn and requested that Capt. Scott and Lt. Col. Stewart to also identify the trucks.

At 1812 hours, Boron 02 confirmed the enemy trucks and Capt. Scott transmitted his intention to strafe them. Approximately 5 seconds later the aircrew of Boron 01 observed a bright orange explosion on the ground covering an area 600 feet long by 100 feet wide. Boron 01 completed a 300-degree turn while attempting to contact his wingman. When no contact could be established, he contacted Crown with a status report. Crown asked if they saw any parachutes and Lead replied that they had not.

Approximately 2 minutes after impact, the pilot of Boron 01 saw a red double star flare, which rose about 25 feet above the terrain, indicating that at least one of Boron 02's aircrew was alive on the ground and free at least for the moment. Boron 01 remained in the area conducting an electronic search for approximately 20 minutes when they were relieved by Steel flight. During the time Boron 01 conducted the electronic search, no emergency radio beepers were heard. No formal organized search and rescue (SAR) mission was initiated because the loss was deep within enemy-held territory and subject to extremely hostile ground fire. At the time the electronic search was terminated, Peter Stewart and Martin Scott were declared Missing in Action.

The location of loss was roughly in the center of the valley, approximately 1½ miles due south of Dien Bien Phu, 8 miles due east of the North Vietnamese/Lao border and 72 miles south of the North Vietnamese/Chinese border. Route 19 was located just east of the Nam Youn River and Highway 191 was located just west of it. The Phantom's wreckage was located roughly ¼ mile west of Highway 191.

In 1972, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) received an intelligence report stating that a refugee reported he had been "shown a crash site (of an American aircraft) and the graves of the two pilots." The refugee further stated "this was the only aircraft shot down in that area," but he could not specify the date or year of the shoot down. A US Government analyst added the comment: "Poss dead IR1516032672" to both Capt. Scott and Lt. Col. Stewart's records based on a cursory evaluation of this unconfirmed refugee report.

In 1986, that intelligence report was proved to be false by other intelligence analysts who documented the fact that several American aircraft had actually been shot down in this general area, not just one as the refugee claimed. That erroneous remark remained unchanged in both men's records in spite of the fact it had been proven to be wrong.

In 1975, US casualty personnel showed the families of POW/MIAs the US government's "post-capture photo album of unidentified Prisoners of War" in an attempt to identify these men. During their examination of the album, the Stewart family identified one specific photo of a prisoner in captivity as Peter Stewart. Later Air Force representatives assured the Stewart family that the photo they identified as being Lt. Col. Stewart was really another officer who returned to US control during Operation Homecoming.

When the family showed another returned POW the photo of the unidentified prisoner and asked "is the man in the photo and the man the US government claimed to be the same person," the returnee said, "there was 'no way' it was the officer in question." It was later learned that the officer in question had never been shown that photo for identification purposes and he never identified it as being himself.

Over the years Peter Stewart's family continued to follow every lead possible in their search for him. In 1985, they talked to a returned POW who told the family he recalled Peter Stewart's name being passed around the prison camps in which he was held prior to his own release. While this returned POW was able to provide very sketchy information about Peter Steward, he could provide no information about the fate of Martin Scott.

If Capt. Scott and Lt. Col. Stewart died in the loss of their Phantom, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, 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. Either way, the communists have the answers and could return them 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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight 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.