July 29, 2023, I began a two week trip, eight days in Vientiane, Laos, and six days traveling to and from the United States. The itinerary: Cincinnati, Ohio to Paris, France; Paris, France to Hanoi, Vietnam; Hanoi, Vietnam to Vientiane, Laos; Vientiane, Laos to Phanom Penh, Cambodia; Phanom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); Ho Chi Mingh City (Saigon) to Paris, France; Paris, France to Cincinnati, OH.
The airline, which is important, were: to and from Paris Delta; Paris and return Paris was via Vietnam Airlines. The Vietnamese aircraft and aircrew were extremely professionalism additional support as I am handicapped confined to use a walker to walk, stand, etc.
Note: an example of the airlines professionalism and compassion occurred at the Vientiane Airport where the airport did not have an aircraft walkway and required a stairway entrance to the aircraft parked on the ramp. To this end, the airline personnel physically carried me up the stairway and led me to my seat. (I had saved enough money to fly Business Class to assure myself leg room required for my injured legs and spine.)
The Crown Plaza Hotel in Vientiane was an outstanding example of Asian food and hospitality. The Saigon Holiday Inn Hotel and staff was equally outstanding. The Marriott Hotel in Paris did discredit to the Marriott Hotel chain. I intend to place a formal charge at noon, Monday, August 14. 2023.
Note: The Saigon layover was extremely heartbreaking as many of the employees at the hotel and airport appeared to be the offsprings of members of the US Armed Forces during the Vietnam War era. I was ashamed of the armed forces members. Several of the individuals looked as if they wanted to make a comment but did not. (I went to Laotian Court where I was awarded custody of my son whereas he and I returned to the United States on January 7, 1973.)
Now to the reason for the travel:
In September 1968, I was attached to the Air Attache’s Office, US Embassy, Vientiane, Laos to support the Air Attache·s Mission of training the Royal Laotian Air Force personnel in Air Operations terminology, etc and, later, I was assigned Supervisor of the Air Attache’s (AIRA} Command and Control Center.
Due to the classified nature of the attached assignment, air force members were required to turn over all military related personal items such as military ID Card, Dog Tags, etc whereas we were issued an AIRA Identification Card and assumed the title of Mister.
Housing was provided by the US Embassy through leases with wealthy French and Laotians landowners. The residences were of different level of living space for example: a two bedroom, with maid’s quarters (my residence along with a rifted USAF Captain but now the senior Mister at AIRA, there were homes in a compound normally with four homes with each possessing four bedrooms and maid’s quarters (residence of AIRA Command Post Controllers. The officer misters had a larger house with more than four bedrooms.
There was no US military installation nor US aircraft other than the US Embassy’s C-47 aircraft to which I was often assigned as a crew member to fly with the Air Attache, the Assistant Air Attache, and the crew chief. (Remarkably, on one such Defense Intelligence Agency directed flight, we landed at a Laotian Government site where the runway was ran down the side of a mountain; there were no aborts on takeoff.
The cited site was in northern Laos not far from a Chinese government construction project building a superhighway from China to the Royal Thailand border. The Air Attache attended a meeting with local officials while I was tasked to travel further inland to write a report on the areas munitions/weapons storage. We completed our diplomatic tasking and didn’t abort takeoff.
On 24 December 1972, I gave the scheduled duty controller the day off to join with the other three controllers and their lady friends for the holiday. My son, born out of wedlock, and his mother, nanny, and maid had their own routine. (Unfortunately or fortunately, my duties came first which created domestic situations throughout my military career. In fact, today my son is angry that I did not spend more time with him.
After settling in for the day’s Command & Control Duties, a Raven Forward Controller, Captain Paul Vernon (Skip) Jackson called me airborne from the Vientiane Airport en-route to the combat working area. Later in the afternoon, around one or two p.m., I heard Jackson communicating with other USAF resources in the area however, unfortunately, soon afterward, an Airborne Command & Control Center (ABCC) Controller contacted me via either VHF or UHF advising Jackson had a mid-air collision with an A-7 strike aircraft. Within seconds of the initial call, the controller advised a large object had fallen from the aircraft and landed in high elephant grass not in the vicinity of the enemy’s anti-aircraft location. Immediately, there was a trail make by human to the site where the object impacted. At he conclusion of the incident, I wrote a report which was never questioned by the senior staff.
Of the 191 Raven Forward Air Controllers that served in Laos, I learned recently from a Internet posting that 31 had been killed in the line of duty. However, I know from first hand knowledge, other pilots were injured during their shoot down and rescue incidents by either Air America resources, the Royal Laotian Air Force helicopter aircrews, and the USAF Jolly Green Air Rescue personnel. (We had one Raven whose nickname was “LEAD ASS” due to the number of bullets that struck his aircraft in flight.)
In 1998, the Department of Veterans Affairs medically retired me with a rating of one hundred percent for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) thereby Disabled and Unemployable. To this end, the rating is based upon I can not get the war, deaths, destruction out of my head. Moreover, I provided the air force and government with the information where Captain Jackson’s body could be but yet on August 13, 2023, his remains have not been recovered.
Regarding Jackson’s remains, I have over the years spoken with the US government’s designated recovery team members in Washington, DC and made one call to the US Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. To this end, during one call to a recovery team member, the individual advised “a team had found the aircraft but there was no body found to which I responded that I had written an incident report citing the information the ABCCC Controller had told me.
For years I intended to travel to Laos to speak with embassy personnel but my health and lack of adequate funds to travel Business Class, decreased mobility of both legs, colitis, spine, right arm & shoulder plus increased dementia difficulties caused me to delay the trip however possibility of not being able to resolve the remains case forced me to travel to Vientiane, Laos and the US Embassy.
The first or second day of arrival Vientiane, I hired a guide and driver to take me to the new US Embassy Compound whereas, during the drive, the driver told me due to extreme security at the embassy, I may not be able to gain access to the embassy staff. Indeed the security was tight with contracted Laotian Guards and six US Marines I was led to an outside telephone that reached a local national telephone operator who in turn transferred me to a US embassy employee and transferred again to a member of the US Recovery Team.
The recovery team member advised that he would be out to accompany me into the embassy structure. The members of the team who spoke with me were a retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel and a retired US Marine E-7. (The Marine was a Laotian/Muang (Meo) who had joined the US Marines, retired and employed by the US government to assist in the remains recovery program.)
The meeting between the recovery officials lasted around thirty minutes ending with a thank you and God Bless from the Lt. Col, plus the promise they would contact the Laotian Government and travel to the nearest Moung village to the objects landing site, to learn if the villagers had knowledge of the 24 December 1972 incident. Lastly, the Lt. Col, told me he would send me a fax advising of any information; I’m still waiting.
Hopefully, Jackson’s remains will be recovered and my mind will find rest.
CHANGE OF SUBJECT: The Communist Government of Laos has destroyed what the United States accomplished domestically and have made Laos a rudderless nation. In fact, the Chinese, Russians, Vietnamese and Thais are assuming complete control of the former Kingdom. See more in my additional blog posts.
With Respect, I remain,
Billy Ray Wilson
Defender of the US Constitution