Tales From The Ho Chi Minh Trail Pt1 (Crash Sites)
Mia Crash Sites In Southern Laos
Time on my hands, bookings getting cancelled, and the future is uncertain. So it’s the right opportunity to put into action something a long time in the planning; time for the Ho Chi Minh Trail. My good friend Mr Rudi fly’s into Vientiane and I shipped a bike down to him ready for his arrival. I’ll drive down on the 6th and meet him outside of Vientiane near Tabok. From there we head to the Sainamhai resort near Ban Nahin in Khammoune province, a long drive ,but spirits are high and we’re on the move.
First thing was to get to Vilabouly find a guest house and plan the rest from there. Next morning, we would make our way to the village of Ban Kokmak and make contact with the village head to seek his help in our search for 2 F4 Phantoms shot down in the area back in the War.
On March 10, 1969, Lieutenant Colonel Luna and Captain Aldis P. Rutyna were in one of a flight of two F-4D aircraft on a combat mission over Laos. Their aircraft was hit by hostile ground fire while over the Route 9112/9116 road junction. The JCRC currently carries them as lost over Savannakhet Province and the Defense Intelligence Agency carries them as lost over Khammouane Province.
Capt. James E. Steadman & 1Lt. Robert D. Beutel ( back seater) were on an F4D Phantom jet assigned to the 497th TFS at Ubon, Thailand. On November 26, 1971, the two were flying a mission out of Thailand and over Laos. Just inside Laos, in Savannakhet Province, their plane disappeared. No one knew for sure if it was hit, or had mechanical trouble – it just
vanished. No remains or wreckage of the plane was ever found. We now believe the crash site is the one we visited.
The sites are very close to Ban Laboy and the Ban Kari pass. POL lines, men, and munitions flowed into the area via the pass over mountains and deeper into Laos, a hot spot indeed. Charlie, Alfa, and Bravo choke points were close by so it got a lot of attention from the air. Both crash sites have been dug by the US MIA teams, Luna back in 2014 and Steadman last year. All the information about these incidents can be found on the internet. We were just helping a family member locate the area for their visit later in the year.
On arrival in the village we produced a letter outlining who and why we are there and that we needed help, the Nai Ban (head of Village) was very accommodating and within 15 mins we were on our way to the sites. We spent a few hours there, the sites are all within meters of each other. Whilst there we saw a 3rd site of a FAC that was also shot down in the same area, Alva Krogman.
1Lt. Alva R. Krogman was a FAC assigned a mission over Laos on January 17, 1967. At a point west of the DMZ in the extreme northern portion of Savannakhet Province, Laos, his aircraft was shot down. Krogman, who was believed to have died in the crash of the aircraft, was never found. Although he is listed as killed, he is also counted among the missing
because no remains were ever recovered to return home.
After taking some pictures and way points etc., we went back to the village, bought a case of beer for the villagers, we paid the handsomely, and left the village. Next we went to check out some areas that Luna Carter was last seen. This was pretty difficult as the Jungle has taken over, but for sure there is signs in the area, such as clearings which do not look natural. After looking around at two areas we called it a day. Interesting indeed, but not to wise to go walking around in the countryside here. UXO remains.