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US Air Force

James A. Preston, USAF

   NAME: James Arthur Preston RANK/BRANCH: E5/US Air Force
UNIT: 4th Air Commando Squadron, DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam
DATE of BIRTH: 10 August 1939
DATE of LOSS: 15 May 1966 COUNTRY of LOSS: Laos
LOSS COORDINATES: 165800N 1060400E
STATUS (in 1973): Missing In Action CATEGORY: 2
OTHER PERSONNEL In INCIDENT: William L. Madison; Kenneth D. McKenney; George W. Jensen; Lavern G. Reilly; Marshall L. Tapp; George W. Thompson; and James E. Williams (all missing)
SYNOPSIS: Maj. George W. Jensen was the pilot of an AC47 aircraft which departed Ubon Air Base, Thailand, on an armed visual reconnaissance mission over Laos on 15May 1966. His crew that day consisted of Major Lavern G. Reilly, spare pilot; Capt Marshall L. Tapp, co-pilot; 1Lt. George W. Thompson, navigator; SSgt. James A. Preston, load master; Sgt. James E. Williams, flight engineer; Airman 1st Class Kenneth D. McKenney and Sgt. William L. Madison, gunners.
At 1745 hours, Jensen radioed his position,and again at 2100 hours, Jensen radioed situation normal, with no position given, nor was the target area specified. The aircraft's last location was over the Laotian panhandle about 15 miles due east of the city of Ban Muong Sen in Savannakhet Province.
When the aircraft failed to return to base as scheduled, an aerial search was conducted during the daylight hours of 16May, with negative results. The aircraft was not found, and no evidence of the crew surfaced.
The crew of the AC47 is among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos during the war with Vietnam. Although the numbers of men actually termed "prisoner of war" are quite low, this can be explained in understanding the blanket of security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the public perception that we were "not in Laos", details of many loss incidents were "rearranged" to show a loss or casualty in South Vietnam. Only a handful of publicly exposed cases were ever acknowledged POW, even though scores of pilots and ground personnel were known to have been alive and well at last contact (thus increasing the chance they were captured alive).
The Lao communist faction, the Pathet Lao, stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but the Pathet Lao were not included in the Paris Peace agreements ending American involvement in the war. As a consequence, no American POWs held in Laos were negotiated for. Not one American held in Laos has ever been released. As thousands of reports continue to flow in regarding Americans still captive in Southeast Asia, the fates of the crew of the AC47 become more intriguing. It is entirely possible, with no evidence to the contrary, that they survived to be captured. Whether they survived or not, they were abandoned to the enemy.

Prepared by Homecoming II Project 01December 1989

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