30 November 1957 – Capt Benny Lacombe is killed when he unsuccessfully attempts to bail out of Lockheed U-2A, 56-6704, Article 371, 13 miles SE of Laughlin AFB. Ejection seats had not yet been fitted to U-2s at this point. The history of the U-2 program is fraught with fatalities and crashes. “CIA pilots Wilburn S.
Wayne E. Fullam - KIA
Lt Col Wayne Eugene Fullam was shot down 32 miles from Hanoi, parachuted into the trees and had not been heard from since. He was missing in action over North Vietnam. His family believed for many years that he might have been taken prisoner of war. He remained Missing In Action (MIA) until 1988 when his remains were returned to his family. While MIA he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
If you visit the Virtual Vietnam Veterans Wall of Honor, you will read many stories of Tennessee residents who wore MIA bracelets for LTC Fullam. His friends and neighbors never lost hope.
“In the early 1970’s, families and friends of missing Americans launched a campaign to plant Freedom Trees in honor of the missing men. The first Tree planted at McGhee Tyson Air Base, Alcoa, Tennessee was dedicated to Air Force Major Wayne E. Fullam. Since that time, many of the freedom trees have been removed or forgotten, but many have grown tall in the two decades since their planting, leaving a living reminder of the men America left behind in Southeast Asia.
Major Wayne Fullam was the lead F105D pilot in a group of 20 planes on a strike mission in North Vietnam. Fullam’s plane was shot down about 30 miles north-northeast of Haiphong over Ha Bac Province. Fullam radioed to his wingman that he was “getting out.” In nearby Hanoi, Soviet helicopters were being bombed and destroyed for the first time in the war. Maj. Fullam was observed to eject with a good parachute, and strong emergency beeper signals were received by his flight members. Voice contact was not made, however, after he bailed out.
A rescue helicopter started in after Fullam, but was driven back by heavy fire. When search and rescue teams arrived, Fullam’s parachute was seen hanging in the trees with his beeper still transmitting. The helicopter crew watched as Fullam’s parachute was being pulled from the tree. When SAR made a second pass, the parachute was gone and the beeper had been silenced. At the time, it was assumed that Fullam had been injured or killed during his ejection or had been unconscious and subsequently captured.
Since no proof of either capture or death was obtained, Maj. Fullam was listed Missing in Action.
A subsequent intelligence report indicated that Fullam had been captured in good condition by members of a Chinese anti-aircraft unit operating in Vietnam, turned over the the North Vietnamese, and was last seen being driven away in a jeep. This report was never verified, however, and Maj. Fullam’s status remained Missing in Action.
The Vietnamese are believed to have information about the fate of Fullam. He did not disappear into a vacuum. When 591 lucky Americans were released from North Vietnamese prisons in 1973, Fullam was not among them. The Vietnamese denied all knowledge of him.
By 1985, all the nearly 2500 missing Americans were presumptively declared dead by the U.S. Government, except for only one man, who remains in Prisoner of War status.
In September 1987, twenty-one years after Major Fullam was shot down, the Vietnamese “discovered” his remains and returned them to U.S. control. In January 1988, the U.S. announced that it had verified the identification of the remains, and they were turned over to Fullam’s family for burial.
Wayne E. Fullam was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.”
(Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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 1998.)