Michael John Masterson

Lieutenant Colonel
United States Air Force
16 May 1937 - 20 November 1978
Ephrata, Washington
Panel 41W Line 061

7TH AF A-1 Skyraider 602ND SOS
USAF Pilot

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

The database page for Michael John Masterson

11 Dec 2001
Then-Captain Michael "Bat" Masterson was flying a night mission near Ban Ban, Laos on October 13, 1968, when his A-1G SKYRAIDER (tail number 52-132542) prop airplane developed gyro indicator trouble and he developed vertigo. Masterson radioed another aircraft that he was bailing out in the vicinity of a Pathet Lao headquarters and nothing has been heard from him since.

The Defense Department maintained Masterson as Prisoner of War, while the Air Force listed him as Missing In Action.

His wife is following his directive, "If I become a POW, I'll just wait for my government to come and get me. But if I become an MIA, I want you to find out what happened to me." Her search has led her to Laos and many times to Washington D.C. She says, "Sometimes I feel that I can't possibly go on another day with this, and then I see that I live in the greatest country in the world. I have the freedom to move about and choose what I do, and what I say; I think of the men that are over there, that they can't speak for themselves...it gives me the strength to work for their release."

The Lao Government claims to have no knowledge of Michael "Bat" Masterson.

From the
POW Network

My dad is Lt. Col. Michael "Bat" Masterson. He was born in Canada and moved to Washington state with his family when he was very young. He had always dreamed of being a pilot and after getting his Engineering Degree, he joined the United States Air Force and learned to fly. Amongst other things, my dad was also a comedian and came in 2nd place in the Air Force, therefore, he would travel throughout the country, where he would be the Master of Ceremonies of talent shows, as well as narrate for the "Thunderbirds". His dream was to become a Thunderbird pilot and after his tour in Vietnam he was to begin flying with them. Well, that was one of his many dreams that never came true. He was a Sandy pilot, stationed in Thailand. On October 13, 1968 my dad was flying an old WWII A1G airplane when it became vertigo. He radioed to the pilot in the plane behind him that he was "losing it and bailing out". He has been "Missing In Action" in the Zing Ping Province in Laos ever since. He told my mom that if he ever became a POW, he would wait for HIS government to come and get him, but if he became an MIA, she will probably have to fight for him to come home. So for 28 years now, my family has been fighting to find out the truth from our government as to what has happened to my father and all of the other men that are still Missing In Action. We have had several live sightings, but not too much cooperation from OUR government. I really miss him, and am embraced by thoughts of him daily. I just want to know the truth. That is all. . .THE SIMPLE TRUTH. My dad's name can be found on Panel 41W Line 61 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

A letter from his daughter, courtesy of Maddy Laffin.

US Flag Canadian Flag
A citizen of the U.S.ABorn in Canada

Please visit our

Hal and Maddy Laffin

07 Feb 2004

I remember Mike from High School. He was our class president. I also lived near him in government housing at the old air base just east of Ephrata. I have thought of him many times in the past and hope for his family that they will get closure some day. God be with you Mike.

From a High School classmate.

04 Jun 2007

As a college student, I wore a copper POW/MIA bracelet with Col. Masterson's name. Many years later, in the mid-1980's, I visited The Wall for the first time. I intended to leave my bracelet below Col. Masterson's name. In some kind of mystical symbolism, when I removed it from my wrist after all those years it broke in half. Although I never knew him I think of him often and always return to his name on The Wall whenever I am in D.C. I had always hoped I would learn something about him and I am grateful for The Virtual Wall and its information because I felt a kinship over these many years. Just learning the anguish of his family over his status, I hope they one day find peace. Col. Masterson is a true American hero.

John Sampier

04 Jun 2007

I received Captain Masterson's bracelet as a Christmas gift from my parents. I have worn it for over 30 years. I was told not to take it off until he comes home, so I still wear it.

Mary M. Smock
P. O. Box 158527, Nashville, Tn. 37215

12 Jul 2007

I was a freshman at Washington State University and a pledge in the Phi Delta Theta house in the fall of 1958. Moose was a respected senior and the owner and curator of "Moose's Museum of Unnatural History". He was guru for aspiring campus politicians, having narrowly lost his bid for ASB President the previous spring.

Moose was also an aviator. A pioneer in the military's ROTC Flight Instruction Program, he regalled us hour on end about his harrowing flights in a vintage Aeronca Champ. It was Mike's leadership that inspired us to lead, his sense of honor and humor that taught us to be honest and laugh at our mistakes, and his discipline that set the example for of us a high standard of excellence.

Bob Gee
Phi Delta Theta Pledge class of 1958
WSU Class of 1962
Lt Col, USAR (Ret)
and Army Aviator (thanks to Moose!)

A Note from The Virtual Wall

It is noted that SAR efforts at the time failed to locate or establish any contact with Captain Masterson, and that a 1993 examination of the crash site did not uncover evidence that Masterson was in the aircraft at impact. It appears that the Defense Intelligence Agency did, at one point, recommend that then-Captain Masterson's status should be changed from "Missing" to "Captured", but records available from the DoD Personnel Missing - Southeast Asia Office do not indicate that the recommendation was accepted and the DIA later rescinded their recommendation. His remains have not been repatriated.

Captain Masterson is remembered on the Chaffey High School (Ontario, Califonia) web site and his name appears on Washington State University's memorial to the students and alumni who died in America's wars. He was graduated from the University with the class of 1960.


The DoD PM-SEA database says that Captain Masterson's remains were repatriated on 04 August 2005 and positive identification approved on 07 Feb 2006.

The August 2006 issue of the Smithsonian magazine contains an article on the excavation of the crash site. It notes that the human remains recovered consisted of bone fragments too small and too damaged for DNA analysis - but it also notes that the recovery team found personal effects, fragments of an unused parachute, ammunition for Captain Masterson's personal sidearm, and both of his dogtags. The article goes on to say

      Since neither teeth nor DNA was available in Masterson's case, it was finally closed, February 7, 2006� on the basis of circumstantial evidence. Later that month, Air Force officers presented the findings, along with Masterson's dog tags, a few coins, other effects and a copy of the case file, to his wife.
      Her reaction was surprising. "I told them I didn't agree with any of it," she said. "It's all based on circumstantial evidence. I still don't know that he is dead or alive. He could be in a POW camp." Fran clings to that hope, based on the 1972 intelligence report that listed Masterson as captured.
      But what about the dog tags, the bone fragments, the unused parachute, the insole matching her husband's foot size?
      "All circumstantial," she said. "They just want to close this case and get it off the books. We've gone all this time. What's the hurry?"
      She has appealed the findings, which will be reviewed by a board of senior military officers from all service branches, and if necessary, returned to the laboratory for further investigation.
      Meanwhile, the remains of Bat Masterson will stay where they have been since last Thanksgiving, locked in a Hawaiian laboratory, halfway between Laos and home.

Copyright Smithsonian magazine
August 2006
Reproduced under 17 USC �107

As of Dec 2007 the full text of the article is available on the Internet.

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index M
WA State Index . Panel 41W
602ND SOS Index

Contact Us

With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 10 Dec 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009