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CASE SYNOPSIS: LAFAYETTE, JOHN WAYNE
Name: John Wayne Lafayette
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: 20th Aviation Detachment (see note in text)
Date of Birth: 01 August 1939
Home City of Record: Waterbury VT
Loss Date: 06 April 1966
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161819N 1064116E (XD803033)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: James W. Gates (missing); Harry Duensing; Larry
Johnson (on another OV1 - both rescued)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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.
SYSOPSIS: On April 6, 1966, Capt. James W. Gates, pilot, and Capt. John W.
Lafayette, observer, departed Hue/Phu Bai airfield at 1540 hours in an OV1A
Mohawk (serial #63-13117) as number 2 aircraft on a visual reconnaissance
mission over Laos. The number one aircraft was an OV1A flown by Capt. Harry
Duensing and observer SP5 Larry Johnson.
At about 1648 hours, the U.S. Air Force airborne command post, Hillsborough,
received a mayday from the two OV1 aircraft, and dispatched two FACs in the
area for an immediate search for the two downed air crews. At 1730 hours,
the air crews were on the ground about 1 kilometer apart. One of the FACs
established radio contact with both crews, who reported that they were all
Duensing's aircraft had been hit by enemy ground fire, and Gates and
Lafayette began flying cover for the other crew. Gates' plane was hit
immediately. All four men safely ejected from their planes in the vicinity
of 502-Charlie and were in radio contact with air cover. Duensing and
Johnson were evacuated safely, and radio contact continued for 1 1/2 hours
before contact was lost with Gates and Lafayette. Their last transmission
reported that they were being surrounded by Viet Cong. It is believed that
both men were captured.
The OV1A was outfitted with photo equipment for aerial photo reconnaissance.
The planes obtained aerial views of small targets - hill masses, road
junctions, or hamlets - in the kind of detail needed by ground commanders.
The planes were generally unarmed. The OV1's were especially useful in
reconnoitering the Ho Chi Minh trail.
When 591 American prisoners were released in 1973, Gates and Lafayette were
not among them. In fact, the Vietnamese deny any knowledge of the two. They
are among nearly 2500 Americans who did not come home from Southeast Asia at
the end of the war. Unlike the MIAs of other wars, many of these men can be
accounted for. Tragically, over 10,000 reports of Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the
U.S., yet freedom for them seems beyond our grasp.
Men like Gates and Lafayette went to Indochina in our name. What must they
be thinking of us now?
NOTE: The 20th Aviation Detachment existed until December 1966, at which
time it was reassigned as the 131st Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation
Battalion (Combat Support). The 131st Aviation Company had been assigned to
I Corps Aviation Battalion since June 1966, when it arrived in Vietnam. In
August 1967, the 131st Aviation Company was reassigned to the 212th Aviation
Battalion where it remained until July 1971, whereupon it transferred out of
There were a large number of pilots lost from this unit, including Thaddeus
E. Williams and James P. Schimberg (January 9, 1966); John M. Nash and Glenn
D. McElroy (March 15, 1966); James W. Gates and John W. Lafayette (April 6,
1966); Robert G. Nopp and Marshall Kipina (July 14, 1966); Jimmy M. Brasher
and Robert E. Pittman (September 28, 1966); James M. Johnstone and James L.
Whited (November 19, 1966); Larry F. Lucas (December 20, 1966); and Jack W.
Brunson and Clinton A. Musil (May 31, 1971). Missing OV1 aircraft crew from
the 20th/131st represent well over half of those lost on OV1 aircraft during
U.S. Army records list both Nopp and Kipina as part of the "131st Aviation
Company, 14th Aviation Battalion," yet according to "Order of Battle" by
Shelby Stanton, a widely recognized military source, this company was never
assigned to the 14th Aviation Battalion. The 131st was known as
"Nighthawks", and was a surveillance aircraft company.
SUMMARY SELECTION RATIONALE
NAMES: GATES James W., CPT, USA
LA FAYETTE, John, CPT, USA
OFFICIAL STATUS: GATES - MISSING
LA FAYETTE - DEAD, BODY NOT RECOVERED
CASE SUMMARY: SEE ATTACHED
RATIONALE FOR SELECTION: Search and rescue forces established radio
communications with both officers, who reported that they were all right,
although the enemy was closing in around them. No correlated reports have
been received subsequent to the incident date to indicate were either that
CPT Gates and CPT La Fayette were either captured or dead.
REFNO: 0297 22 Apr 76
(U) CASE SUMMARY
1. On 6 April 1966, CPT James W. Gates, pilot, and CPT John La Fayette
observer, departed Phu Bai Airfield -RVN at 1540 hours local in an OV1 (
#63-13117), as number two in a flight of two aircraft on a reconnaissance
mission over Laos. At about 1648 hours the USAF Airborne Command Post
(Hillsborro). received a "Mayday" radio transmission from the two OV1's.
Two Forward Air Controllers (FAC) in the area began an immediate search for
the two downed aircrews. (Ref 1)
2. At about 1730 hours the two aircrews were seen on the ground about one
kilometer apart. One of the FAC's established radio contact with both crews
who reported that they were OK. While waiting the arrival of the rescue
helicopters the two FAC's began directing air strikes into the area to
suppress hostile fire. At about 1815 hours Capts Gates and La Fayette
radioed that the VC were closing in on them. Shortly after, radio contact
was lost. (Ref 1)
3. At 1850 hours the crew of the other OV1 was rescued and a visual search
of the last known location of CPT Gates and CPT La Fayette was made by a
rescue helicopter, but neither officer was seen. Both rescue helicopters
received extensive damage from enemy fire. Search and rescue efforts were
resumed the next day from 0638 hours to 1300 hours. They were unsuccessful
and were suspended. (Ref 1)
4. The location of the incident is given as grid coordinates XD 803 033.
5. During the existence of JCRC, the hostile threat in the area precluded
any visits to or ground inspections of the sites involved in this case.
This individual's name and identifying data were turned over to Four-Party
Joint Military Team with a request for any information available. No
response was forthcoming. CPT Gates is currently carried in the status of
Missing. CPT La Fayette is currently carried in the status of Dead, Remains
1. RPT (U), 20th ASTA Det, 12 Apr 66.
2. RPT (U), Adjutant General DD Form 1300 21 Aug 73.
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