Kurt Casey McDonald

United States Air Force
19 August 1934 - 23 August 1982
Seaside, California
Panel 01E Line 080


O-1 Birddog

Kurt C McDonald

USAF Pilot

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

The database page for Kurt Casey McDonald

Kurt was born August 19, 1934, in Salt lake City, Utah, the first of four children born to Hazel Irene and Craig Wyman McDonald. He attended schools in Utah, California, and Washington. He graduated from Santa Maria High School in Santa Maria, California, and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. Kurt received his commission in the US Air Force after graduation in 1957. Prior to his last tour of duty in Vietnam, he was stationed at bases in Texas, North Carolina, Spain and Japan.

Kurt naturally loved flying but also raced cars and motorcycles. He enjoyed music, especially jazz and 50's Rock & Roll. He was unmarried (though never lacking in female companionship) and was a snappy dresser and a "cool" dancer. Kurt was smart, serious and contemplative but he also had a quick, dry sense of humor. He was compassionate and loving - the best "big brother" a kid could have.


Kurt actually was assigned to the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, but he was on temporary duty with the Second Air Division flying the O-1 Birddog when he was lost.

This is the official information: On December 31, 1964, Captain McDonald, a U.S. Air Force pilot, and Sergeant First Class Dodge, a member of the 5th Special Forces Group, took off from Da Nang, Quang Nam Province, in an 0-1F to conduct a visual reconnaissance mission en route to a Special Forces camp in the A Shau Valley, Thua Thien Province. They did not arrive and were declared missing. They were last seen by another aircraft approximately 12 nautical miles northwest of Da Nang while flying over Quang Nam Province.

On the morning of December 31, 1964, one homer beacon was broadcast on an emergency radio frequency, but this could not be correlated to an NRS-8 radio set that Sergeant Dodge was carrying to A Shau to be used in covert operations. A woodcutter reported in April 1965 that during that month he observed two U.S. POWs in Thua Thien Province at a point on the Lao/Vietnamese border. He learned that one of the Americans was a pilot and one was an infantryman. They were said to have been captured in June 1964 and were being marched off to the northwest. In 1966, a report was received from a former North Vietnamese Army soldier identifying a photograph of Sergeant Dodge as an inmate he saw at Hoa Lo Prison. Other reports of sightings of Americans passing through the particular area in which these individuals were lost were placed in their files.

Neither serviceman was ever confirmed alive in the Vietnamese prison system. Captain McDonald was declared dead/body not recovered in August 1982. Sergeant Dodge was declared dead/body not recovered in October 1977.

This is a letter our father received from Captain Glenn Nix, a friend of Kurt's (dated 1 Feb 1965). A year later Captain Nix was shot down and captured. He spent several years as a POW and was returned safely to his family after the war.

Dear Sir,

I count it as a high privilege that your son is my friend. He is a tribute to you and your wife and to our country.

There are few finer things that I can say for a man than that he is a great fighter pilot. If I could choose a wingman, it would be Kurt McDonald.

If there was one thing I could say to Kurt today, it would be from General Lee's final order: "... take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection ..."

It is always the man that does that extra measure, the man that pursues the mission to the end, the man to whom courage and devotion to duty are not words but a way of life that gives us hope for a permanent victory.

I wish to God that there were more Kurt McDonalds in the service of our country.

Please visit my complete memorial to
Kurt Casey McDonald at

From his sister,
Karren Reyburn
15 May 2002

7 Feb 2005

As happenstance would have it, I punched "Kurt McDonald" into my computer and much to my surprise The Virtual Wall came up on my screen. Almost with trepidation, I followed the trail to the information about Col. Kurt McDonald.

In the latter part of 1971 while I was on the staff of a VA hospital in California, I wrote the POW/MIA group and asked to be given the bracelet of an officer. I was both honored and privileged to have been given a copper bracelet with the engraving "Maj. Kurt McDonald 12-31-64." My initial bracelet was lost while water skiing off the coast of my native Massachusetts in the summer of 1973, but I managed to procure its replacement almost immediately and still treasure it immensely and always will.

All too many years ago, I had the privilege to have been put in contact with Kurt's mother and talked with his sister Karren a number of years ago and subsequently a few weeks ago.

Kurt's bracelet is held in a very safe and secure place in a jewelry box in my house, but I always wear it on my right wrist for services each Memorial Day and Veteran's Day and shall now wear it on Kurt's birthday each August nineteenth. Throughout the year and more than occasionally, I place it on my wrist for a few moments while I think of Kurt and how he fought and served to keep us free defending his beloved country before returning it to its special place of sanctuary. Additionally, I wear it continually each Christmas season from Christmas Eve Day to New Year's Day, particularly remembering Kurt on December thirty-first.

I then return the bracelet to its safe harbor, as I will pass it to my two sons who shall wear it in the same manner as I. The elder Thomas wearing it to honor Kurt in odd numbered years as he was born in 1963 and the younger David, Jr., in even years as he was born in 1968. This tradition shall be then be passed on to their sons and subsequently to their son's sons in perpetuity. In this way, Kurt shall never be forgotten and shall be remembered for all eternity by my decendants.

Additionally, although I had never before seen a picture of Kurt, I have had the graphic of Kurt and his medals from The Virtual Wall made into a photograph, framed and now have it hanging in a very special place in my office.

Although we who are not his immediate family can neither experience nor truly feel the loss that his immediate family does, as members of his psychologically extended family we can and do sincerely empathize with those very precious and most sacred feelings.

Please understand also, unequivocally and without any reservation, that Kurt has always been, still is and shall always be on my mind and shall ever and always be in my heart and thus shall continue through the lineage of my sons.

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, the most moving and poignant words of President Abraham Lincoln were spoken in testimony to Kurt and those other fallen heroes that we should never forget and must always remember. In his letter of November 21, 1864, to Mrs. Bixby of Boston, he stated ever so eloquently

"...I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Most sincerely and respectfully,
Dr. David L. McGowan

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