Benjamin Franklin Danielson

United States Air Force
31 March 1943 - 19 July 1976
Kenyon, Minnesota
Panel 15W Line 026

USAF Pilot

DFC, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Benjamin Franklin Danielson

3 Apr 2004

I have worn Captain Danielson's POW/MIA bracelet for many years and just wanted him to be remembered here.

(E-Mail address no longer valid)

30 Oct 2005

Maybe it was your name (Benjamin Franklin has always been one of my favorites in history), possibly your extremely handsome face or just your bravery that made me decide to choose you for my goddaughter, Courtney Harris' MIA bracelet. She will be celebrating her 18th birthday in November; I wanted to give her a special gift that won't be forgotten next week. I want her to look at your name each day with hope and thankfulness and pray that you will return to your home one day soon. She will realize that because you were willing to fight for us that we all enjoy the freedom you so generously bestowed upon us. I thank you for guarding us so honorably and showing us the true meaning of HERO. I wish you God's peace until you return back home.

"They shall not grow old,
as we that are left behind grow old:
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them..."
- from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon -

Rebecca LaRussa

08 Dec 2005

I have been wearing your name around my wrist for almost 14 years now. I picked up your bracelet when I was in the first or second grade on a visit to Washington D.C. I have worn it constantly; it is a little bent and a little faded, but it means so much to me.

Every time I visit the Wall, I say a little prayer for you and take an etching of your name. You are in my thoughts, and your sacrifice and bravery will never be forgotten.

Kelly Stewart
Cherry Hil, N J 08034

24 May 2007

I am a Minnesota State Trooper. In 1994, my brother (active duty USAF at the time) ordered a POW/MIA bracelet with a request of 'Air Force' and 'Minnesota'. He received a bracelet with Captain Danielson's info. When he looked at the bracelet, he noticed that Captain Danielson was listed missing on my birthday. Finding that an interesting coincidence, he sent the bracelet to me.

I put it on in 1994 and have not taken it off since (except for a short stint in surgery. I argued that I wasn't taking it off, but I lost). I resigned myself to the fact that I would likely be wearing this for the rest of my life.

Imagine my surprise (and joy) when I heard the news that he was coming home. It has been such a part of me for 13 years that I will feel a loss when I take it off. I can't even begin to comprehend the feeling of loss the family has endured for 38 years.

God Bless you, Captain Danielson. And God Bless all of the men and women who put themselves on the front lines every day to provide the safety and security to which I have become accustomed.

Don Marose
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 05 Dec 1969 two F-4C Phantoms from the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay were tasked against a choke point on the Ho Chi Minh Trail near Ban Phanop in southern Laos. The wing position was flown by Capt Benjamin F. Danielson, pilot, and 1stLt Woodrow J. Bergeron, navigator, in F-4C tail number 63-7444 using the call sign "Boxer 22".

As Boxer 22 was passing through 6000 feet while pulling off after its first attack the F-4 was hit by 37mm antiaircraft fire. Danielson turned toward South Vietnam but lost aircraft control and the crew was forced to eject a few miles east of the target. Both men reached ground safely but were several hundred yards apart and on opposite sides of a river. Worse yet, they landed in an area heavily populated by well-armed and unfriendly NVA troops. The only good news was that Danielson and Bergeron could communicate with each other and with supporting aircraft using their survival radios.

SAR efforts began at once but the rescue helicopters found themselves flying into a virtual storm of fire. At least 7 helos from Nakon Phanom and Udorn made rescue attempts, and all were shot up with one crewman killed in action: A1C David M. Davison, 40th ARRS, in HH-53C tail number 68-8283. A total of 88 SAR sorties were flown before sundown on the 5th, but to no avail.

The SAR forces returned at first light on the 6th, with fixed-wing aircraft hosing down the area in an attempt to suppress the ground fire. During the morning hours Bergeron advised that he heard shouts and gunfire from the area where Danielson was hiding and that he'd not been able to contact Danielson since. Fixed-wing aircraft laid smoke screens for the helicopters, but repeated rescue efforts ended with shot-up helicopters and no success (one HH-53 got stuck in a tree and was able to break loose only by breaking the tree). A total of 154 sorties were flown on the 6th, but at sundown Bergeron still was on the ground. After sundown, Bergeron could hear NVA troops using dogs in an attempt to find him amongst the bamboo and tall grass in the river valley.

The SAR attempts began again at sunrise on the 7th with fixed-wing strikes on the NVA positions, but the first HH-53 in was driven off by ground fire. Following additional air strikes, another smoke tunnel was laid and an HH-53C was brought in, flanked by A-1 Skyraiders blasting away at everything in sight. Bergeron saw the approaching helicopter and broke cover, heading toward the river. The HH-53C crew spotted Bergeron, dropped a rescue hoist, and reeled him in.

The SAR effort extended over 51 hours and involved a total of 366 aircraft sorties. Although Bergeron's evidence indicated Captain Danielson had been located by the NVA and apparently killed in a shootout, there was no positive evidence of Danielson's death. He was carried as Missing in Action until 19 July 1976, when the Secretary of the Air Force approved a Presumptive Finding of Death. His remains have not been recovered.

The photo above was the cover photograph for Parade Magazine on Sunday, 30 May 1993. The photo at the top of this page and the ones below are courtesy of Sue T., Teresa J., and Carrie S., who posted them on the Find-A-Grave web site.

Bone Fragment Ends Vet's Search For MIA Father

Kenyon, Minn. (AP) -- An old Air Force pilot's sidearm. A set of dog tags. A survivor's recollection of enemy shouts, gunshots, a friend's scream from across a river in Laos, then silence.

A single fragment of bone.

It's enough, the son says. A family and a nation have done all they could.

"It's time. It's time to accept that he's dead and bring him home," the son, Brian Danielson, said of his dad.

Capt. Benjamin Franklin Danielson was 26 when his F4 Phantom fighter jet was shot down over Laos in December 1969 during the Vietnam War. The Air Force listed him as missing in action until 1976, then presumed dead.

Lt. Cmdr. Brian Danielson, 39, a Navy pilot from Kenyon, followed his father into the air, though he was just 1 year old when his dad went to war, 18 months old when Capt. Danielson was shot down.

Last year, after directing operations of a squadron of carrier-based planes in Iraq, Brian Danielson got permission from the Joint POW/MIA Command to join a ground search.

It would be a search along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and he would be the first active-duty service member to participate in a search for an MIA father.

That search and a subsequent visit to another site turned up no new evidence.

But with the weight of what was found earlier, including a "highly probable DNA match" from the bone fragment found in 2003, the in-country experience persuaded Danielson and his mother, Mary, to call an end to the long seeking.

"You could shoot holes in all the investigative work that's been done. You could drive yourself crazy. But we found out what we needed to know. ... We have the certain knowledge that he is dead. And I got to go to Laos and see how the process works," Brian Danielson said.

Now the Navy flier is planning a final flight for his father, with military escort from the DNA lab in Hawaii to Minnesota, and a June memorial in Kenyon. He plans a military flyover there and a reunion of people who tried to rescue his father, many of whom he has met.

He has invited veterans, too, and people who wore a bracelet bearing his father's name.

His mother, still in Kenyon, added a note to the invitation: "If you have known us, walked along with us from afar, or just knew of our journey, you are most welcome to join us."

Brian said his long odyssey taught him much about his father, the man as well as the fellow combat pilot.

"Because I was so young, I don't have that personal relationship or knowledge of him," he said. "But I've learned that he was a good man.

"A lot of people have said my dad would be proud of me. That feels pretty good. That's about as good as it gets for a father-son relationship."

On Dec. 5, 1969, Ben Danielson took off from Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam, to intercept North Vietnamese troops on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Another pilot saw his plane pitch violently, according to military reports. Two parachutes opened. Danielson and 1st Lt. Woody Bergeron, his weapons officer, landed on opposite sides of a river.

Rescue teams made hundreds of sorties trying to save the two downed fliers. They were driven back by enemy fire, and one helicopter crew member was killed.

Danielson and Bergeron could see each other across the river and communicated by radio. But the next morning, Bergeron heard sounds of close fighting from Danielson's position, then silence.

Bergeron was rescued after 51 hours in the jungle. He has talked with Brian Danielson, telling him what he could about those last hours, and he plans to attend the memorial.

In 1990, Brian and his mother established a leadership award in his father's name at St. Olaf College in Northfield where father and son both played football.

A year later, the father's service pistol was found in a Vietnam museum. In 2003, a piece of bone and a set of dog tags were brought to U.S. authorities in Vietnam. DNA testing indicated the bone almost certainly was Danielson's.

As he returned from Laos last year, Brian Danielson talked about living with his father's absence.

"If you aren't careful, life can pass you by," he said. "I believed and still do believe that the last thing my father would have wanted would be for me to miss opportunities in life because I was too distraught over the circumstances of his disappearance."

He's disappointed the team failed to find anything in Laos, but quick to praise the effort.

"This is the most important thing I've ever done," he said. "I was able to go to the area where he was killed. I walked around and did some soul-searching. Mom and I talked and decided it's time to close the books on this and be thankful for what we have."

He is thankful "for all the people who've stepped in because my father wasn't there," and for strangers who cared enough to wear a bracelet.

He said, "I've been contacted by a family who said they had been wearing my dad's bracelet for 23 years." They said there was never a doubt in their mind that we would find my dad and bring him home."

Apr 2, 2007
2007 The Associated Press
Reproduced under 17 USC 107

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wears his MIA bracelet.
E-Mail address not available

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index D
MN State Index . Panel 15W
558TH TFS Index

With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 3 Apr 2004
Last updated 11/15/2007