Charles Frederick FenterMaster Sergeant
16TH SPEC OPS SQD, 8TH TFW, 7TH AF
United States Air Force
01 October 1953 - 21 December 1972
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The database page for Charles Frederick Fenter
Fred Fenter, or "Freddy", as most people called him, was my best buddy at Sunnyside High School in Tucson, Arizona. He always loved aircraft and joined the U.S. Air Force right out of high school in 1971.
The Vietnam war was still raging at that time, and Freddy volunteered as a gunner aboard an AC-130 Spectre Gunship. He had flown many missions, but on the evening of December 21, 1972 his plane was shot down over Pakse, Laos while en route to Vietnam from Ubon Air Force Base in Thailand where he was stationed. This is where you see him standing in the picture.
He was listed as missing in action for 13 years when, in 1985, his remains along with the remains of other crew members were recovered from the crash site in Laos by a Laotian excavation team. Although Fred was an Airman First Class at the time his plane was shot down, he progressed to the rank of Master Sergeant during his 13 years of missing in action status.
His mother, Mattie Fenter, requested that Freddy be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. And he was, with full military honors. A memorial service was held in Tucson 2 weeks later.
Fred was well-liked by all who knew him. He was honest, hard working, and always there to lend a hand to those in need. He always laughed raucously at the cartoon satires that I would draw about certain high school teachers and co-workers at Sandy's Restaurant where we both worked in our last year of high school. I would also good-naturedly lampoon him in many of my strips. He laughed at those the hardest. He was always a good sport about it. I am working on a comic strip concept right now which will feature Fred as a main character.
Fred was the closest thing I had to a brother. He will be missed always.
From a friend,
REMEMBEREDby one who wears his bracelet.
Susan E Layng
Notes from The Virtual WallThen-Airman Fred Fenter was assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon AB, Thailand, and flew as an aerial gunner on AC-130 Spectre gunships.
About the only things agreed on with respect to the last flight of AC-130A 56-0490 are that it departed Ubon RTAFB on the night of 21/22 Dec 1972 for an armed recon mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail with 16 men were aboard, that it was shot down, and that two crewmen were recovered alive.
According to the POW Network and Task Force Omega (TFO) sites, the aircraft was enroute to its target area when it was hit by enemy fire. It then attempted a return-to-base, remaining in stable flight for about ten minutes before exploding and crashing in flames. According to Hobson's Air Losses in Vietnam, the AC-130A was actively prosecuting a small truck convoy near Ban Laongam when it was hit by 37mm AAA fire, exploded, and crashed. Oddly, the map provided on the TFO site supports Hobson's account rather than the POW Network/TFO account.
All sources agree that two men - Sgt Richard Williams and Sgt Carl Stevens - parachuted from the aircraft and were picked up by a USAF HH-53 from the 40th ARRS. The POW and TFO sites both say bloody bandages and five deployed parachutes were sighted in the area (TFO says by a ground team), and both agree that the partial remains of one crewman - Captain Joel Birch - were recovered. The fourteen men not recovered, including Captain Birch, were classed as "Missing in Action".
In early 1985 a joint US-Lao team excavated the crash site, recovering numerous small bone fragments. In time, the US Government announced that the recovered materials were sufficient to account for the remaining crewmen. Several of the families involved refused to accept the government's identification of individual human remains, while others did accept the findings. A successful court case temporarily overthrew the USG identifications but was itself overturned on appeal.
As matters stand, the US Government considers that the following men died in the crash and that they have been accounted for:
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17 Feb 2001
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/14/2004