Michael Owen McElhanon

United States Air Force
06 January 1934 - 06 February 1979
Fort Worth, Texas
Panel 48W Line 029



USAF Pilot

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

The database page for Michael Owen McElhanon

17 Nov 2002

His sacrifice for our country was great! I wore his bracelet for many years. I lived in the same town and went to school with his two daughters, Kelly and Paige. I know he would have been very proud of them.

Stephanie Wingo
E-mail address is not available.

13 Feb 2003

Mike was my best friend in the Air Force. We were flight instructors together and flew some of the same fighter aircraft. We flew each other's wing on many occasions over the years, and I like to think that we are still each other's wingman.

Our wives are best of friends and Marion and I are the God-parents of Mike and Sandy's daughters -- Kelly and Paige.

Mike was a man's man, a gentle man, a patriot and hero. Those of us who shared friendship with him were truly blessed and we will fondly remember him always. The copper bracelet that I wore that contains his name as MIA is now beside me on my desk.

From his friends,
Clay and Marion Wilkins

22 Sep 2004

My name is Vance and I am 5 years old. My mommy gave me a bracelet that has Col McElhanon's name on it. My daddy and I searched the web and that is how I found this web-site. My mommy got the bracelet at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. My family and I are proud of Col McElhanon's honorable service and ultimate commitment to his country.

(typed by daddy)

02 Jul 2006

(Major) Michael McElhanon is also on my POW/MIA bracelet, the one I wore many years ago. It is really stunning to now finally find out about his bravery and tragic loss. My sympathy to his family. Please know that there were others, like me, praying for you and for him, and thinking about you all these years.

Sue Marshall

25 Jul 2006

Then-2ndLt Michael O. McElhanon was my instructor pilot when I was a student pilot in Class 56-S of what was then called "Jet Fighter Pilot Training" at Webb AFB, Texas. It was then my privilege to have known him closely, and to have met his fiance Sandy at graduation on 28 July 56 when he pinned my pilot's wings on me.

A gentleman of the first order and a fun guy to be around, he was, nonetheless, a tough but fair instructor pilot who was as quick to criticize as he was to praise. What will remain a high point in my life was the day I landed the T-33 and, at his direction, taxied to the ramp whereupon he climbed out and sent me on my first jet solo flight. I had made the grade with Mike! I remember his parting words, "Don't come back with less than 100 gallons of fuel." What with burning 30 gallons per minute had I missed the approach, you can bet that I followed his directions!

The world is a better place because of Mike McElhanon, and I know that I speak for all those privileged to have closely associated with him to affirm that we are better persons because of that association. A loving husband, devoted father, loyal friend and "man's man," I salute Michael O. McElhanon.

From a former student pilot under his direction,
James E. Starnes

01 Aug 2006

I still have his MIA bracelet and will cherish it forever.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Mary Haley

17 Jul 2007

As a 2Lt maintenance officer with the 29th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana, from 1965 to 1967, I got to know then-Capt. Mike McElhanon well and viewed him with great admiration all the time I knew him. I would say that normally, the fighter pilots wouldn't exchange any more than the required debriefing notes to the maintenance officer, especially a second lieutenant. Mike was most generous with his time and took me aside on several occassions to tour the ramp and runway and to discuss the fine points of being a superb pilot. Mike never had a frown on his face, nor did I ever see him down about anything. He was an example for every junior officer in the squadron.

In 1968, I had the good fortune to meet him once again at Clark AB, Philippines, at the officers club. We spent a couple of hours over dinner, discussing mutual friends from the FIS. Mike summarized his new mission as a MISTY FAC and his enthusiasm for the program. A matter of weeks later, I heard that his plane had gone down in Vietnam, and that he was listed as missing in action.

Ironically, several years later when I was serving at HQ, Second Air Force, another officer came to my office with a box full of MIA bracelets to be handed out upon giving a memorial donation. I reached in the box of maybe a hundred bracelets, and came up with one engraved with "Major Michael O. McElhanon". I was shocked and deeply honored that God had seen fit to award me with this incredible gift. If only everyone could have known a Mike McElhanon, this world would be better off.

From a friend,
Larry A. Graefnitz
915 Wadsworth Rd, Medina, Oh, 44256

04 Sep 2007

While cleaning out my father-in-law's home I came across Michael McElhanon's MIA bracelet. It brought back so many memories of that time for me. I wanted to find out about this man and to thank him and his family for their sacrifice to our country. My prayers go out to his wife, daughters and all who knew and miss him.

Eugenia Schleich

09 Jan 2008

My mother received his bracelet in high school and my freshman year gave it to me and I have worn it ever since. This bracelet means so much to the two of us, it has been such a big part of our lives. I found this site trying to find something about the man we have worn for so many years. God bless his family and friends and thank you for the opportunity to say what this means to us.

Elizabeth and June Fay Garrison
Fort Worth, Texas

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The MISTY Forward Air Controllers were "fast mover" FACs flying two-seater F-100F SuperSabres and (later) F-4 Phantoms. On 16 August 1968 Majors Michael O. McElhannon and John F. Overlock, both assigned to the 309th Tac Ftr Sqdn but on temporary duty with the 37th Tac Ftr Wing at Phu Cat, were conducting a MISTY mission over the area of North Vietnam just north of the DMZ in an F-100F (tail number 56-3865) belonging to the 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Phu Cat. The aircraft had completed an in-flight refueling earlier in the mission. The last contact with the MISTY FAC occurred when Major McElhannon advised controllers he was leaving station to go feet wet for another hit on the tanker.

The MISTY flight wasn't missed for about 45 minutes, when an incoming flight attempted to contact it for FAC control. Search and rescue operations failed to locate either aircraft wreckage or crew. It was presumed that the aircraft went down somewhere in the area of Dong Hoi or over water.

Both crewmen were carried as Missing in Action until the Secretary of the Air Force approved Presumptive Findings of death for Overlock (09 Oct 75) and McElhannon (06 Feb 79). During this time McElhannon was promoted to Colonel and Overlock to Lieutenant Colonel.

The Library of Congress has begun digitizing their Vietnam MIA records, making available information previously accessible only to those within striking range of Washington, DC. Several of those records refer to preliminary surveys of a crash site some 13 kilometers north-northwest of Dong Hoi but also cite evidence indicating the aircraft may have crashed offshore. In any case, the remains of the two men have not been recovered.

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 17 Nov 2002
Last updated 08/10/2009