Vietnam Wall history
Before departing for Vietnam 51 years ago, Army Sgt. 1st Class Raymond “Bill” Myers left behind his ID, dog tags and a gold ring he had never taken off before. He told his brother-in-law that he had a bad feeling about the mission and didn’t think he would be coming home. He asked him to watch over his wife and children after he was gone.
Myers then boarded a military-chartered Flying Tiger Airline Lockheed Super Constellation aircraft at Travis Air Force Base in California. After several stops, the plane disappeared over the Pacific and the 93 American soldiers, three South Vietnamese military men and 11 crewmembers onboard were never heard from again. They were declared dead less than two months later.
Myers’ son, Tommy Joe — like the families of the other lost Americans — has no answers about his father’s fate. Adding to that pain is how his father and the others have been forgotten. Their names are not on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and no government agencies — Army, Air Force, Defense Department, National Archives, State Department, CIA — admit to possessing records related to the soldiers and their mission. None could provide Stars and Stripes with a list of the deceased, although they are mentioned in a Civil Aeronautics Board crash report from 1962.
A petition has been launched to get the names added to the wall. Proponents face an uphill battle and need to prove that the plane was headed to Vietnam for a combat mission — which has been impossible without documentation — or through the special intervention of elected officials.
“They were flying into harm’s way, ” said Frank Allen, the Massachusetts man who started the change.org petition in October. Allen is related to one of the men, Sgt. Howard Gallipeau Jr., by marriage. “Had they survived and landed, they might have died under different circumstances. The military treats it like a car accident. They should be honored for what they did.”
Allen’s petition calls for 1, 000 signatures, although they are hoping for many more. The petition will be sent to Defense Department officials after it closes in October.
Tommy Joe Myers said after years of being turned away and threatened when pressing for answers and recognition, he has lost all hope.