Transcribed by Crist Middaugh
Wellsville Daily Reporter, Monday, September 15, 2003
Remains of Allegany County Vietnam MIA identified
Donald Earl Thompson to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery
By Kathryn Ross
Wellsville - The remains of Vietnam era Missing In Action (MIA) Lt. Commander Donald Earl Thompson, a 1958 graduate of Wellsville High School, have been identified and will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery later this month.
Thompson’s remains were positively identified on May 15, 2003, after they were returned to the U.S. government on Feb. 9, 2001. It was just over 34 years and five days after he flew a Phantom jet fighter off the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk on an armed reconnaissance mission along the coast of North Vietnam.
Thompson was born in Wellsville on Feb. 15, 1940 and was a 1958 graduate of Wellsville High School. He was a son of the late Loyd G. And Ruth E. Thompson, Sr., and he is survived by his brother, Loyd G. Thompson, Jr., and a wife Marylou.
In 1986 he was remembered on the Allegany County Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Belmont, and honored as the county’s only son listed as missing in action (MIA). Vietnam Veteran Wally Harrier, who was instrumental in establishing the Allegany County Vietnam memorial, said that he is pleased Thompson’s remains have been located.
“He was a good man and the only one we knew of who was missing in action,” said Harrier. “We felt then that he deserved to be honored and he deserves to be remembered.”
Thompson was declared MIA in 1973. He is also listed on the Vietnam Memorial (the wall) in Washington, D.C. on Panel 14E - Line 120.
The following information was provided by the MIA/POW Network and compiled by the Homecoming II Project April 1, 1990: “Thompson was assigned to Fighter Squadron 213, aboard the Kitty Hawk. On the night of Feb. 4, 1967, Thompson and his radar operator, Lt. Allan P. Collamore, launched in their F4B Phantom fighter aircraft on an armed reconnaissance mission along the coast of North Vietnam. They were wingman (one plane) for a two plane section. The flight leader crossed the beach and executed a level, flare-dropping run. Thompson’s aircraft was briefed to fly in a six to seven mile radar trail behind the other aircraft.
Approximately one minute after the flare drop, the flight leader observed a large explosion behind him. He immediately initiated a turn back and attempted to contact his wingman with no results.
He then arrived at the scene of the explosion and observed a large fire in the area. He radioed for search and rescue efforts to be initiated. No electronic or visual signals were identified from the area.
“Headlights of trucks were seen along with small arms fire and a red glare. The search was discontinued due to darkness and enemy ground fire. Searches the next day yielded no new information.
“In 1974 intelligence information, possibly related to the crash, told of the downing of a jet where the two pilots were killed and their bodies buried near the crash site. The information was not positively confirmed.”
Thompson and Collamore were listed among the nearly 2,300 Americans designated as missing in action or unaccounted for, from the Vietnam War.
Loyd Thompson told the Daily Reporter that his brother’s status was changed in the early 1990s to died in action.
“The crash site was located back in the early 1990s. It was in an area with a high water table,” Loyd Thompson said from information he has received over the years. “It was the only plane to go down in that area, but buildings had been put up, and they didn’t want to excavate the area. It was in a restricted site.
“About a year ago in November, investigators revisited the site and found that the building was unoccupied. They started digging, but they didn’t find any wreckage from an aircraft or any remains,” Loyd Thompson continued. “Then a guy came along who hadn’t been there when the site was first investigated, but who had been there during the war. He said, ‘I think you’re digging in the wrong place.’ He directed them to a site about 300 yards away.
“They started digging there, and they found some remains. They were taken to Hawaii (the United States Central Identification Laboratory) and then sent to Maryland for DNA testing,” Loyd Thompson added.
He believes that the remains identified as his brother’s will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery later this month.
“The Navy has been really helpful over the years, keeping us informed about what is happening,” Loyd Thompson said.