Lee became involved in the MIA/POW issue when one of her dear childhood friends went MIA in Vietnam in 1970. This page is dedicated to Larron "Bucky" Murphy as well as to Dennis Eads, who disappeared in the Cobra helicopter on April 23, 1970.
This is a map of Vietnam during the War.
Also, in the mid 1990s Lee adopted an MIA from Texas.
Capt. Townsend's body was found in 1999 and returned to Texas. A funeral held for him in the Tyler area. Bucky and Eads are still missing.
On Mother's Day 2010, Lee visited "The Traveling Wall" when it was brought to Ennis, Texas. After returning home, Lee wrote an article about Dennis Eads and sent to his hometown newspaper, The Prophetstown Echo in Wisconsin. She also wrote an article about Bucky and sent to his hometown newspaper in Dalton, GA.
Bucky and Eads were members of the Blue Ghosts. Click either icon to go to their website. Blue Ghosts are the F Troop, 8th Cavalry of the U.S. Army. They no longer ride horses - they ride helicopters. Bucky flew a Cobra.
My understanding is these are the medals Bucky would have received. If this is incorrect information, someone please enlighten me.
There is an article on the Blue Ghosts site about Kim, Bucky's daughter. She grew up with her mother and step-father and knew very little about her dad. Lee's website for Bucky (on Yahoo in the 1990s) led Kim and Lee to be in contact in 2001. In a telephone conversation, they discussed Bucky's family. Kim later contacted her uncle and aunts and they have become close over the years. The article details Kim's feelings and experiences regarding her dad.
MURPHY, LARRON DAVID Name: Larron David Murphy Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Unit: Troop F, 8th Cavalry, 123rd Aviation Battalion, 16th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry Division (Americal), Chu Lai, South Vietnam Date of Birth: 05 October 1944 (Atlanta GA) Home City of Record: Dalton GA Date of Loss: 23 April 1970 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 153607N 1075801E (ZC180270) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AH1G Refno: 1603 Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998. Other Personnel in Incident: Dennis K. Eads (missing) REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: On April 23, 1970, Capt. Larron D. Murphy, aircraft commander; and WO Dennis K. Eads, pilot; were flying an AH1G (serial #67-15612) in the wingman position in a flight of four aircraft conducting an emergency night mission to extract a long-range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP). The aircraft crashed in the vicinity while en route to recover the patrol. The two UH1H helicopters on the flight aborted the mission because of adverse weather conditions. However, the two AH1G aircraft continued in order to provide fire support for the patrol to allow them to break contact with the enemy. The aircraft flew north until they were sighted by the patrol. The lead ship made several radio contacts with Capt. Murphy. The last transmission instructed him to turn to a heading of 90 degrees. About 30 seconds later, Capt. Murphy called, "20, this is 28. I'm crashing." This is the last contact or communication with Capt. Murphy. Members of the patrol reported that they had observed a very bright flash to the southwest, which was presumed to have been one of the aircraft. The remaining helicopter returned to Chu Lai, unable to search for the downed aircraft because of the inclement weather. The following morning, members of the patrol were flown to inspect the crash site where they conducted a detailed serach of the area, but there was no trace of either the downed aircraft or the crew. The presumed site of the crash was about 10 miles southwest of the city of An Hoa in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. When Dennis Eads' mother died in 1976, she died believing that her son survived the crash. The rest of his family is not so sure, but there is always the question, "Was there enough time for him to get out?" There are several reasons why "MIA's" from the war in Vietnam cannot be thought of, as in other wars, "ashes on the mountainside"; tragically irrecoverable losses of humanity. The most compelling is the nearly 10,000 reports that have been received by the U.S. Government since the end of the war relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Some critics say the families of the missing want to believe their man is alive because of "false hopes" that won't die. Others say it is because we "didn't win" the war. According to many government officials who have no "false hopes", the evidence is overwhelming that there are, indeed, Americans still held against their will in Southeast Asia. The real question is, "When and how will we bring these men home?
This is a Phantom jet, like the one in which Capt. Townsend was assigned to.
This photo was sent to Lee from the Air Force Academy.
TOWNSEND, FRANCIS WAYNE Remains Returned 07/13/99 ID 06/13/2002
Name: Francis Wayne Townsend Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: 14th TRS Date of Birth: 24 April 1948 Home City of Record: Rusk TX Date of Loss: 13 August 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 165835N 1965910E (YD135778) Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
Other Personnel in Incident: William A. Gauntt (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2002.
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
Capt. William A. Gauntt was the pilot and 1Lt. Francis W. Townsend his systems officer on the reconnaissance version of the Phantom, the RF4. On August 13, 1972, Gauntt and Townsend were sent on a mission which would take them to the area of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). As they were over the DMZ, about 10 miles southwest of Vinh Linh in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, the RF4 was shot down.
Military officials at the time were uncertain as to the fate of Gauntt and Townsend. However, on March 27, 1973, William A. Gauntt was among 591 Americans released from POW camps in Vietnam. Francis W. Townsend was not. Officials at the time were heartened to learn that Gauntt had been captured and released, but horrified that hundreds of others who had been thought to be captured were not.
Evidently Gauntt gave the U.S. information that Townsend had also been captured, for in 1973, Townsend was classified as a Prisoner of War. The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded this classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source intelligence. The fact that Townsend was never classified Category 1 indicates that the information relating to his possible capture was probably not conclusive.
Since American involvement in Southeast Asia ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials who have examined this largely classified information have reluctantly concluded that many Americans are still alive in captivity today.
Whether Francis W. Townsend survived to be captured, was executed, or is among those thought to be still alive is unknown. What is certain, however, is that as long as there is even one American held against his will, we owe him our very best efforts to bring him to freedom.
Francis W. Townsend graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970.
IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 2, 2002 (703)428-0711(public/industry)
VIETNAM WAR MIA IDENTIFIED The remains of an Air Force servicemen previously unaccounted for from the war in Vietnam have been identified and are to be buried today in Rusk, Texas.
He is Capt. Francis W. Townsend, of Rusk.
On August 13, 1972, Townsend and his pilot were flying their RF-4C Phantom on a photo-reconnaissance mission over Quang Tri Province, North Vietnam. The aircraft was struck by enemy fire, and the pilot was unable to maintain control. He ordered Townsend to eject. Seconds later, the pilot ejected from the burning aircraft and was able to establish radio contact with rescue forces. Unfortunately, he was captured before a rescue could be made.
Following the release of U.S. POWs in 1973, the pilot stated he learned in captivity that Capt. Townsend had perished in the crash though he initially believed he had ejected.
Between 1999 and 1997, joint U.S. and Vietnamese teams, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, conducted four investigations in the area where Townsend's plane had crashed. They interviewed dozens of villagers, including one who claimed to have buried some remains near a flooded crash crater in the area. He also stated that he had found two military ID tags at the crash site. During one of the investigations, the team members were shown the tag of Capt. Townsend by a local national.
In July 1998 and May 1999, two full-scale excavations were carried out in Quang Tri Province, where team members of the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) recovered aircraft wreckage, personal crew member artifacts, and human remains. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from one of the fragments, and was found by CILHI to match the DNA of two of Capt. Townsend's maternal relatives.
Approximately 1,900 American servicemen remain missing in action from the Vietnam War, while the remains of nearly 700 have been located, identified and returned to their families since the end of the war.From: "Sandy Branske" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: 1LT Francis Townsend
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2005 17:21:57 -0800
These love letters have made me feel so much better. I got my bracelet when I was 16 (I'm 49 now) it had a little hole in it which I was told meant that my guy was a MIA. That was the first time I ever really remember being afraid. I felt very attached to Lt Francis Townsend, in fact at night when I would be going to sleep I would talk to him. Tell him to be strong and stay safe. I would also tell him about my life things that were going on etc. I know it sounds crazy but in reading these letters I realize that many people became attached to their faceless names that they wore daily.
At first I would watch names scrolling on the TV news at night, but his name was never on it. After a while some of my friends pow's started to be found or come home. I can't even explain how that felt, watching them be excited and happy, as I continued to wait. I'm sure his family knows even better then I do how that felt. I received two letters from his family when I first got the bracelet, and I wrote to them but received my letter back saying they could not be located. That's when I think I went into a shell about it, and hid from anything that might tell me what had happened to my dear companion LT Francis Townsend. I felt sure that he had returned to his family, lived in a beautiful house, had wonderful children. I like dreaming about that for him and found such comfort in my fantasy. However, in my heart I knew it wasn't true, and that has haunted me all of these years.
In 1980 my mother passed away, and a few months later my apartment was broken in to, and much of my mother's jewelry was taken along with my POW/MIA bracelet. I could not believe that someone would steal a bracelet like that, it held no monetary value. It meant the world to me, I had held that close through thick and thin, and it felt like a piece of me was gone.
Anyone who has known me through the years has heard about 1LT Francis Townsend, including my kids. My husband has encouraged me to find out about him and the truth about what happened to him, and I have backed out every time. Today was going to be the day. The memory wall is here (in Las Vegas) just for the last few days, and we have been planning to go, but this morning I again backed out. Then finally a strength came over me and I looked it up on the computer, and there it was, the truth that I have been afraid to find out all of these years. I cried all day, I can't even begin to know the pain of his family, and I feel for them. Even my daughter shed a tear as she knew how important this man has been to me all of these years.
To the family, please accept my deepest regret for not having the same courage as Francis Townsend had. I saw his picture for the first time today. I have printed it out and I am going to frame it and place it next to my Grandfather (my other hero) who was a Col in the army in WWII. Col Paul B Baker. My two heroes will be side by side.
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