29 September 1954 – The North American F-100 Super Sabre entered service with the United States Air Force‘s 479th Fighter Wing. Initially, the new wing maintained tactical proficiency with the World War II-era F-51Ds inherited from the Air National Guard, then in February 1953 upgrading to the North American F-86H Sabre jet aircraft. The wing
Roger W. Carroll, Jr. -KIA
“Roger Carroll Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas and moved to Kansas City, Missouri when he was six years old. The oldest child, Roger was very fond of his younger sister and brother. He was raised in a Christian home, was an honor student, and active in sports. Roger knew from an early age that he wanted to be a pilot.
Roger entered the University of Kansas to study aviation engineering. While at KU, Roger joined the Air Force and became a navigator on B-47 and B-52 aircraft. Wanting to be a pilot still, Roger took pilot training and earned his wings flying T-38 and F-100 aircraft.
After one tour in Vietnam, Roger returned to the States to train other young pilots until he again took training himself, this time on the F-4 Phantom fighter/bomber jet. His second tour of Vietnam began in early 1972. He told his parents, “If anything ever happens to me, don’t come looking for me. You won’t find me. The aircraft is such a bomb that if one hits the ground or something hits it, it just explodes.”
Maj. Carroll was assistant to the commander, and did not ordinarily fly combat missions, but begged for the chance to fly, and was allowed to fly twice-weekly missions. On September 21, 1972, Roger and his backseater, Dwight Cook, were sent on a mission over the strategic Plain of Jars region in Laos.
The Plain of Jars region of Laos had for years been an intense area of struggle between the communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao armed forces. Millions of U.S. dollars had been secretly committed to the strengthening of anti-communist strongholds in the Plain of Jars for some years. About one year before Carroll and Cook were shot down in this area, Nixon’s secret campaign in Laos had become public. The area had been defended with the help of U.S. aircraft; the anti-communist troops, primarily a secret CIA-directed force comprised of some 30,000 indigenous tribesmen, were, in part, kept resupplied by CIA.
Because Laos was “neutral” under the terms of the Geneva convention, and because the U.S. continually stated they were not at war with Laos (although we were regularly bombing North Vietnamese traffic along the border and conducted assaults against communist strongholds thoughout the country at the behest of the anti-communist government of Laos), and did not recognize the Pathet Lao as a government entity, the nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos were never recovered.
During the mission, Carroll’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed. Roger’s prediction was correct. The largest piece of aircraft remaining was no larger than three feet across.
A week after the aircraft crashed, a search party found several pieces of flight clothing and a human hip socket at the site. They found identification that belonged to Cook, but it was evident that the enemy had reached the plane first. Carroll and Cook were classified as having “died in captivity.” It is unclear whether the two were captured and later died, were executed on the spot, or perhaps tortured and mutilated as was sometimes deemed the punishment for captured pilots. Neither Carroll nor Cook were promoted after their loss incident, which seems to indicate the U.S. has positive information that they were killed quickly.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Carroll’s and Cook’s classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 1. Category 1 indicates “confirmed knowledge” and includes all personnel who were identified by the enemy by name, identified by reliable information received from escapees or releasees, reported by highly reliable intelligence sources, or identified through analysis of all-source intelligence.
By 1980, Carroll and Cook had been classified killed in action because there was no verified information that they were alive. But the Department of Defense still believes the Lao hold the answers to their fate.
The Pathet Lao stated that they would release the “tens of tens” of American prisoners they held only from Laos – when agreements were reached with the U.S. to halt their bombing there. Agreements were never made, and no American held in Laos was released, even though nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos.
Tragically, over 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. relating to the men missing in Southeast Asia, and many authorities believe hundreds of them are alive today.
Whether Carroll and Cook are among those said to be still alive is unknown. What seems certain, however, is that our country has a moral and legal obligation to the men who fought in our name. We must do everything we can to bring them home.
Roger Carroll’s mother died in 1986, still believing her son was alive. The Air Force has never fully informed Roger’s family of the events of September 21, 1972.”