National POW/MIA Recognition Day

By Staff Sgt. Antonio Gonzalez
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

According to the Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, more than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War. In observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we remember some of these brave men and women who served and were listed as Missing in Action or who became Prisoners of War, and we share their stories. To all American military prisoners of war, missing, or unaccounted for…we will never stop searching for you.

Missing in Action:
Tech. Sgt. James R. Thomas
Date: November 25, 1971

TSgt Thomas

Tech. Sgt. James R. Thomas was serving as a pararescueman on board an HH-53 rescue helicopter when his aircraft was shot down shortly after ferrying 13 friendly soldiers from a helicopter crash site to a forward base camp. The helicopter crashed in a river, and three on board were killed, two others were rescued by friendly forces after fleeing the crash site. Eyewitness reports observed Tech. Sgt. Thomas depart the crash site and enter the nearby jungle. He remains unaccounted for.

Prisoner of War:
Capt. Russell E. Temperley
Date: October 27, 1967

Capt Temperley

Capt. Russell E. Temperley was piloting an F-105 during a strike attack against an enemy target in North Vietnam when his aircraft was hit by an enemy surface-to-air missile forcing the F-105 down. Crash landing into a tree, Capt. Temperley was taken prisoner almost immediately, spending the next 5 and half years in captivity in various POW camps in North Vietnam until his release on 14 March 1973 during “Operation Homecoming”. Capt. Temperley returned to active duty and retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1986.

Missing in Action:
Col. Patrick M. Fallon
Date: July 4, 1969

Col Fallon

Col. Patrick M. Fallon was piloting an A-1 during an observation mission over Southern Laos when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and forced down. Reaching the ground safely, Col. Fallon was able to briefly maintain radio contact with friendly aircraft above who were providing cover fire while trying to attempt a rescue. As enemy forces closed in on his position, Col. Fallon’s last transmission was: “Put it all around me, I’m hit.” Col. Fallon was never seen nor heard from again, and he remains unaccounted for.

Prisoner of War/Missing in Action:
A2C Bennie Lee Dexter
Date: May 10, 1966

Capt Dexter

A2C Bennie Lee Dexter was captured by communist forces while driving a jeep near the Vietnamese/Cambodian border. Dexter was placed in POW status after a Vietnamese witness shared the news of his capture. When the war ended, Dexter was not released nor did his name appear on any prisoner rosters provided to the United States. The United States government later declared him administratively “deceased” because no specific information had been received that he was still alive. A2C Dexter remains unaccounted for.

Missing in Action:
Capt. Charles M. Walling
1st Lt. Aado Kommendant
Date: August 08, 1966

Capt Walling

Capt. Charles M. Walling, pilot, and 1st Lt. Aado Kommendant, weapons system officer, were shot down in their F-4C while providing close air support for friendly ground forces engaged with enemy troop concentrations northeast of Bien Hoa Airbase, near Saigon, South Vietnam. No parachutes were seen and rescue forces were unable to reach the crash site due to enemy action. Listed initially as missing, the remains of both Airmen were recovered 44 years later in 2010.