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

Category: 1

Acft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1A

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

the war.

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.










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


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.

(Ref 2)

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

Not Recovered.


1. RPT (U), 20th ASTA Det, 12 Apr 66.

2. RPT (U), Adjutant General DD Form 1300 21 Aug 73.

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