Larry C Thornton

Chief Master Sergeant
4TH ACS, 6250TH CSG, 13TH AF
United States Air Force
03 March 1932 - 22 January 1974
Idaho Falls, ID
Panel 04E Line 038

USAF Aircrew

DFC, Purple Heart, Air Medal, AF Good Conduct, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Larry C Thornton

The database page for Larry C Thornton

3 Dec 2001

Chief Thornton was an aerial gunner on the AC-47D ("Spooky") and a proud member of the United States Air Force. He left behind three sons and a wife, along with other family. I recently recieved a letter from his mother, a wonderful lady, and would like to spread the word about the "losses" in Vietnam, hoping more will be done to bring our soldiers home! For 36 years, she and his sons have waited for any word, but nothing yet!

Below is an exerpt from the synopsis of his flight. The correct date that the Spooky was shot down is 24 December, 1965, even though some sites/articles list his "casualty" date as 22 January, 1974!

The Douglas AC-47D, nicknamed Puff the Magic Dragon or Spooky, was a nocturnal savior to American and South Vietnamese troops at besieged outposts deep in Viet Cong and Pathet Lao-held territory.

On 24 December 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced a weeklong bombing halt over North Vietnam in honor of the Christmas holiday. At 0728 hours the same day, an AC-47D gunship, call sign "Spooky 21," departed DaNang Airfield, South Vietnam on an armed reconnaissance/strike mission over the panhandle of Laos. They were to monitor enemy activity moving through this region known to contain several arteries of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. The crew was comprised of

  • Lt. Col. Derrell B. Jeffords, pilot;
  • Capt. Dennis L. Eilers, co-pilot;
  • Maj. Joseph Christiano, navigator;
  • then TSgt. William Kevin Colwell, flight engineer;
  • MSgt. Larry C. Thornton, aerial gunner; and
  • SSgt. Arden "A. K." Hassenger, aerial gunner.
The crew was due to return to base at roughly 1330 hours.

As the gunship made its way westward, it was diverted to a second location 18 miles east-northeast of Saravane. Shortly before contact was lost with the gunship at 1050 hours, one of the crew broadcast "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Spooky 21" over the UHF emergency frequency. The aircrews of two separate aircraft who were also operating in this sector heard the gunship's final radio transmission.

At 1448 hours, an extensive search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated. During the entire search effort, SAR aircraft were subjected to intense enemy ground fire emanating from the jungle below . The search was terminated at 1500 hours on 26 December when no trace of the aircraft or crew was found.

CMSgt. Thornton and his crewmates are still waiting to return from their mission. The Spooky's crew are among 600 Americans who never returned from Laos!

My full memorial to
Chief Master Sergeant Larry C Thornton
is at

From a newfound friend,
keeping CMSgt. Thornton's memory alive!,
Maria Hill

26 May 2003

In 1996 when I was in the 8th grade I bought a MIA bracelet. I chose a man the same rank and the same branch of military as my father was. Every day I thought about who and where this man was, without ever knowing what had happened to him or even knowing him.

Today I found out 7 years later.

Sometimes my life moves so fast and I wear this bracelet to remind me to slow things down and to be grateful to the people that have allowed me to live here and be free. I'm grateful to his family for allowing him to fight for us, and I will continue to support his cause by wearing the bracelet until he is found.

Thank you.
Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The Secretary of the Air Force approved Presumptive Findings of death for SPOOKY 21's crewmen; for CMS Larry Thornton, that Finding was issued on 22 January 1974. At that time, his status was changed to "Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered". As of 11 Feb 2003 his remains have not been repatriated. Current status for all servicemen listed as "Missing in Action" is available on our Personnel Missing - SE Asia pages.

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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