Frederick William J Hess

390TH TFS, 366TH TFW, 7TH AF
United States Air Force
20 October 1943 - 22 May 1979
Kansas City, MO
Panel 28W Line 081


F W Hess

USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Frederick William J Hess

390th Tactical Fighter Squadron


To the friends and family of Major Frederick W. Hess:

I have had Major Hess's POW/MIA bracelet since 1970. He has been on my mind more often than normal lately and I just wanted to let you know that he is not forgotten. If I'm not wearing his bracelet, it sits within my sight every day. His picture hangs on the wall of my office as a constant reminder that he is more than just a name engraved in metal or stone. I pray for him, his wife and daughter and hope someday we all have closure on his sad and unfortunate loss. I welcome his family, or anyone that knew him, to e-mail me.

God's richest Blessings to you,
Mary Wayman

Virtual Wall Note

Frederick William Hess was a 1966 graduate of the Air Force Academy. Following graduation, he trained in the F-4 Phantom and received orders to the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang AB, RVN.

The C-123 Provider aircraft that were used in defoliant spraying were increasingly vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As a result, the Air Force decided to test using "fast mover" aircraft in the spray mission role. The 390th TFS at DaNang AB was selected as the test squadron and several F-4D aircraft were fitted with modified under-wing tanks to carry and spray the defoliant. Tactics involved three F-4Ds flying in a "V" formation at 500 knots and 100 to 200 feet above ground, allowing a swath ten miles in length and 300 feet in width to be sprayed in little over a minute's time. After test trials combat spray missions began on 25 January 1969. The seventh mission was flown on 29 March 1969.

Captain W. J. Popendorf, pilot, and 1LT Hess, copilot, flying F-4D tail number 66-8809, were on that mission, targeting an area of Highway 915 near Ban Topen about 15 miles south of the Ban Karai Pass. The three aircraft made their first pass successfully, but as they came around for a second pass Popendorf's aircraft was hit by enemy fire. As he pulled up the F-4D began an uncontrollable roll and both Popendorf and Hess made a high-speed, low-altitude ejection. Although injured in the ejection, Popendorf was picked up by a SAR helicopter about three hours later. Despite a ten-hour SAR effort no trace of Hess was found. He was classed as Missing in Action at termination of the formal SAR effort.

The combination of frequent spray tank failures and this loss terminated the "fast mover" spray mission tests.

On 22 May 1979 the Secretary of the Air Force approved a Presumptive Finding of Death for now-Major Frederick Hess. As of 02 Jan 2003 his remains have not been repatriated.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wore his MIA bracelet,
Mary Wayman 
19 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 01/02/2003