Name: Donald Emerson Shay, Jr.
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit: 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron 
Udorn Airfield, Thailand 

Date of Birth: 16 March 1946
Home of Record: Linthicum Heights, MD
Date of Loss: 08 October 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 155000N 1061000E (XD420688) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: William A. Ott (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.

The RF4 version of the Phantom II is a reconnaissance aircraft outfitted for photographic and electronic reconnaissance missions. Other RF4s were equipped with infrared and side-looking radar that helped advance the technology of reconnaissance during the war. They were also used to fly target detection and bomb damage assessment missions throughout Southeast Asia.

On 8 October 1970, Capt. William A. Ott, pilot, and then Capt. Donald E. Shay, weapons systems officer, comprised the crew of an RF4C on an afternoon photo reconnaissance mission. Capt. Ott and Capt. Shay first flew to Saigon's Ton San Nhut Airbase, South Vietnam for a briefing before conducting their photo reconnaissance mission. After completing the photo run, the Phantom refueled from an airborne tanker, then began their return flight to Udorn Airfield. At 1740 hours, the last radio contact with Capt. Ott was received by the command center. Capt. Ott reported they were approximately 30 minutes flying time from Udorn. Further, he did not indicate they were experiencing any problems at that time.

At 1740 hours, when it was determined that William Ott and Donald Shay's aircraft was overdue, search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated. All attempts to locate the downed aircraft and crew using both visual and electronic search methods proved unsuccessful in the extremely rugged, mountainous area they were believed to have gone down in. The last known location placed the RF4C approximately 12 miles west of the Vietnamese/Lao border and 3 miles southwest of Muang Xepon near the village of Ban Hap. At the time SAR efforts were terminated, both William Ott and Donald Shay were listed Missing in Action.

According to a rumor/report received by the men's squadron shortly after their loss incident, and later provided to their families, both men ejected safely from their aircraft after it was damaged by unknown means. One parachute was hug up in a tree when the crewman landed and both men were captured by local militia who reportedly shot both of them.

In recent years a US team researching information pertaining to missing Americans in the Vietnamese War museum in Hanoi found pictures of four items of identification belonging to William Ott in pristine condition. Three of them were his pilot's license, Geneva Convention card and his military ID card.

Since the end of the Vietnam War 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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called 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.