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[Spacer] [Air Force - .8K] Henry Elmer MacCann
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[POW - .3K]  Missing In Action   [POW - .3K] 

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  • Name: Henry Elmer MacCann
  • Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
    (Promoted to O6 while in Missing status.)
  • Unit: 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Takhli AFB, Thailand
  • Date of Birth: 11 December 1931
  • Home City of Record: Marblehead MA
  • Date of Loss: 28 March 1968
  • Country of Loss: North Vietnam
  • Loss Coordinates: 173200N 1062900E (VD600980)
  • Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
  • Category: 2
  • Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F111A
  • Other Personnel in Incident: Dennis L. Graham (missing)
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    [Up - .1K] [Spacer] SYNOPSIS [Spacer] [Down  - .1K]

    SYNOPSIS: The F111 was first used in Southeast Asia in March 1968 during Operation
    Combat Lancer and flew nearly 3,000 missions during the war despite frequent periods of
    grounding.  From 1968 to 1973, the F111 was grounded several months because of excess
    losses of aircraft.  By 1969, there had been 15 F111's downed by malfunction or enemy
    fire.  The major malfunctions involved engine problems and problems with the terrain
    following radar (TFR) which reads the terrain ahead and flies over any obstructions.

    Eight of the F111's downed during the war were flown by crews that were captured or
    declared missing.  The first was one of two F111's downed during Operation Combat
    Lancer, during which the F111 crews conducted night and all-weather attacks against
    targets in North Vietnam.  On March 28, the F111A flown by Maj. Henry E. MacCann
    and Capt. Dennis L. Graham was downed near the airfield at Phu Xa, about 5 miles
    northwest of the city of Dong Hoi in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam.  Both
    MacCann and Graham were declared Missing in Action.  The crew of the second F111
    downed during March 1968 was recovered.

    On April 22, 1968 at about 7:30 p.m., Navy LCdr. David L. Cooley and Air Force LtCol.
    Edwin D. Palmgren departed the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Air Base,
    Thailand to fly an attack mission against the Mi Le Highway Ferry over Dai Giang
    along Route 101.  They were to pass over very heavily defended areas of Laos at rather
    low altitude.  Although searches continued for four days, no wreckage was ever found.
    The loss coordinates are located near Quang Bien, in Laos, although the two men are
    listed as Missing in Action in North Vietnam.

    As a result of the loss of the Cooley/Palmgren F111A, the Air Force suspended use of
    the aircraft for a limited period to investigate the cause of the losses and make any
    necessary modifications.  After the aircraft returned to the air, the crashes resumed.
    When the 15th F111 went down in late 1969 because of mechanical failure, all F111's
    were grounded and the plane did not return to Vietnam service for several months.

    In September 1972 F111A's were returned to Southeast Asia.  On September 29, 1972,
    the F111A flown by Maj. William C. Coltman and commanded by 1Lt. Robert A. Brett, Jr.
    went down in North Vietnam on the Red River about 10 miles southwest of the city of Yen
    Bai.  Inexplicably, the National League of Families published a list in 1974 that indicated
    that Robert A. Brett had survived the downing of his aircraft, and that the loss location
    was in Laos, not North Vietnam.  Both men remain Missing in Action.

    Between October 17, 1972 and December 18, 1972, four more F111A's were downed and
    their teams were reported missing in action.  The last missing F111A team to be shot
    down was Capt. Robert D. Sponeyberger and 1Lt. William W. Wilson. Sponeyberger and
    Wilson were flying a typical F111tactical mission when they were hit - flying at supersonic
    speed only a few hundred feet altitude.  They were declared Missing in Action.

    In 1973, however, Sponeyberger and Wilson were released by the North Vietnamese,
    who had held them prisoner since the day their aircraft was shot down.  Their story
    revealed another possibility as to why so many F111's had been lost.

    Air Force officials had suspected mechanical problems, but really had no idea why the
    planes were lost because they fly singly and out of radio contact.   Capt. Sponeyberger
    and 1Lt. Wilson had ruled out mechanical problems.  "It seems ogical that we were hit
    by small arms," Wilson said, "By what you would classify as a 'Golden BB' - just a lucky
    shot."  Sponeyberger added that small arms at low level were the most feared weapons
    by F111 pilots.  The SAM-25 used in North Vietnam was ineffective at the low altitudes
    flown by the F111, and anti-aircraft cannot sweep the sky fast enough to keep up with
    the aircraft.

    That a 91,000 pound aircraft flying at supersonic speeds could be knocked out of the air
    by an ordinary bullet from a hand-held rifle or machine gun is a David and Goliath-type
    story the Vietnamese must love to tell and retell.

    As reports continue to be received by the U.S.Government build a strong case for belief
    that hundreds of these missing Americans are still alive and in captivity, one must wonder
    if their retention provides another David and Goliath story for Vietnamese propaganda.
    The F111 missions were hazardous and the pilots who flew them brave and skilled.  
    Fourteen Americans remain missing from F111 aircrafts downed in Southeast Asia.  If any
    of them are among those said to be still missing, what must they be thinking of us?

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