George Duncan MacDonaldCaptain
16TH SPEC OPS SQD, 8TH TFW, 7TH AF
United States Air Force
02 September 1948 - 21 December 1972
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The database page for George Duncan MacDonald
In all the years George was listed as missing in action,
Notes from The Virtual WallAbout 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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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009