Tragedy in Laos: What Happened to Corporal Bruce Edward Kane?

3

Research conducted on Corporal Bruce Edward Kane declared Missing in Action on August 9, 1969.

A few years ago I was preparing to teach my 8th grade Social Studies class about the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC. Part of my preparation process for any lesson is to continue to look for any additional source or lesson plan that may enhance a lesson. During a google search, I came across the Vietnam Virtual Wall. As I navigated the site a thought came across to me. There are 57,939 names of our service members on that wall. How many of them are from Deer Park, New York the district I teach in? A couple of clicks revealed that there were 7 from Deer Park. When you are teaching about the past to middle school children it sometimes helps to find a way for them to connect to the content. I now had 7 connections from their community.

I was pleased with my findings and made mention of it in my lesson and my thoughts were validated when the room came to a silence when I stated that 7 of the people listed on the Vietnam Wall were from Deer Park. Of course, 13 and 14-year-olds were not aware of that because that was something that had happened over 40 years ago. I was later surprised to find that anyone I asked about it in the school district was unaware of this as well.

I did become disappointed in myself for not knowing. A social studies teacher could overlook this fact but I have been in the military for over 13 years with 8 of those years a hospital corpsman serving exclusively with Marines. Shame on me for not even checking. My heart ached for those seven families that lost a loved one in Vietnam. To lose your son at such a young age is devastating. There will always be an empty place at the dinner table. The holidays are never the same. The future and hopes that a parent had for their son will never be realized.

In August of 1969, the family of Corporal Bruce Edward Kane was notified that their son was missing in action. Two years before, he graduated from Deer Park High School. My research on the six other Deer Park military members was able to tell me how they died, where they died, and where I could find their headstone should I want to visit. Kane’s family never received his body and were never given a clear explanation. The unanswered questions about Bruce Kane are what intrigued me.

Corporal Bruce Edward Kane

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, there are 1,681 U.S. servicemen still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 U.S. prisoners of war were returned during Operation Homecoming. The U.S. listed about 1,350 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action and roughly 1,200 Americans reported killed in action and body not recovered. The U.S. official number from Laos is 454. The last time Kane was seen was in Laos.

As I continued my research, I came across great people who were able to recall the events of August 9, 1969, and share them with me. I also came across discrepancies and inconsistencies available to researchers about the event. In the end, I was able to create a lesson plan centered around Bruce Kane to use in my classroom. It will be worth noting that obtaining accurate information on specific events that took place in Vietnam is complex due to the scope, the enormity of the war, and the many secrets that were kept during that time. Especially the secrets that were kept about Laos.

During the Vietnam War, negotiators in Geneva agreed that Laos would remain neutral. But because the United States feared the spread of communism, the C.I.A. directed a covert operation in Laos known as the “Secret War”. It recruited Vang Pao, a charismatic, widely respected general, along with tens of thousands of Hmong boys and men, as fighters. For a decade and a half, Gen. Vang Pao and his Hmong guerrillas fought alongside the Americans. During the war, military personnel participated in numerous classified missions. The reason for these missions being classified was because wide-spread knowledge of them would give the enemy information we did not want them to have. Laos was a denied area. The United States concealed operations conducted in Laos because of the Geneva Accords.

The Central Intelligence Agency began its covert operations in Laos in 1958. The CIA used Meo tribesmen for a guerilla program that was initially supposed to be small but within 10 years that small guerrilla force grew to the size of 8 Marine Regiments at 40,000 fighters. In order to sustain this operation, the CIA used its secretly owned airline called Air America to provide support. When missions required it, air support was provided by the U.S.

Since military forces were working with the CIA in a denied area pilots were asked to change after action reports so as to not show where they actually were. Accurate information as to what happened on missions conducted in this area was hard to come by.

AH-1G HueyCobras in Laos, 1971.

Two families that were affected by the secret war in Laos were the families of Corporal Bruce Edward Kane and 1st Lt. Ronald J. Janousek. Both were members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367). Lt. Janousek was a co-pilot and Corporal Kane was a 6351 Advanced Avionics Technician-Trainee. During their August 9, 1969, mission where they both were listed as missing in action, Kane was the door gunner. The unit was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam at Hue, Phu Bai in December 1966. While there, the unit was redesignated as Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 (HMLA-367) in March of 1969. Its assets consisted mainly of Bell UH-1E Huey Gunships armed with rockets, side mounted machine guns and the TAT-101 machine gun turret. Growing to a total number of 25 aircraft, HMLA-367 was used in support of the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions, the United States Army, and the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Reassigned in October 1969 to Marine Air Group 16 (Forward), HML-367 remained in Vietnam.

On August 9, 1969, the crew comprised of Pilot Major Tom Hill, Co-pilot 1st Lt. Ronald J. Janousek, Corporal J.J. Dean, and Corporal Bruce E. Kane. The crew was assigned to command the extraction of a SOG reconnaissance platoon that was being chased by a large North Vietnamese Army force. The crew was the lead Marine Aircraft flying under the call sign of “Eagle Claw” in their UH-1E tail number 155339. The mission included two UH1E Huey gunships, 4 Army Cobras, several Army Huey slicks, and several VNAF H-34s.

When Major Hill arrived in the vicinity of the reconnaissance team to be extracted he was informed that just a few minutes earlier an Army Cobra, piloted by Captain Mike Brokovick, had taken heavy fire from a ridgeline near the team’s position. Major Hill exposed his aircraft to the same gun positions as he maneuvered to overfly the recon team.

According to an August 12, 1969 statement made by Major Hill at approximately 15:00 his aircraft was hit with a volume of fire that actually lifted the helicopter.

In Hill’s statement he goes on to say that:

as soon as the helicopter was taken under fire, 1st Lt Janousek, Corporal Kane, and Lance Corporal Dean immediately returned fire. I transmitted that we were taking fire from our six o’clock and were taking hits.“I sincerely believe that if they had not returned fire instantly, our helicopter would have been severed in two.” We cleared the crest of the ridge and at approximately one half mile the enemy firing ceased.

At this point Major Hill did a quick check of the fuel quantity gauge and it had indicated that the Helicopter had gone from 1200 pounds to 800 pounds. At 3500 feet, Hill felt that if the fuel flow stopped he could make it to an abandoned fire support base. The helicopter continued to descend and at 2500 feet the engine quit. First Lt. Janousek was constantly advising the pilot of instrument readings as Hill began looking for a place to land.

Major Hill spotted a landing zone that was surrounded on three sides by a fast moving river, and was composed of a cultivated field approximately ⅛ acre in size. Hill figured that they would be able to defend their position on the ground due to the advantage of having water on three flanks (sides). Hill transmitted the location and description of the zone, Lt Janousek was instructed to change the armament panel from machine guns to the rocket position. The use of the rockets was going to allow them prep the zone. Due to the streaming fuel condition Major Hill was afraid the rocket back-blast would ignite the bird. Janousek then switched the rocket switch to a safe position.

At 1500 feet, there was a loud explosion throughout the aircraft, accompanied by fire and black smoke in the cockpit. When the cockpit cleared of smoke Major Hill observed that Lt. Janousek was on fire with a steady flow of fire coming up around him on his left side and through his window. At that moment Major Hill came to the realization that he needed to land the aircraft in water.

Prior to this mission Lt. Janousek had a total of 16 hours in the UH-1E however; he had nine months of H-34 experience in Vietnam. Major Hll and Lance Corporal Dean attribute Lt. Janousek’s ability to keep his composure and not waiver to ultimately leading to a successful landing.

According to Lance Corporal Dean’s statement on August 10, 1969:

1st Lt Janousek was in the worst position in the aircraft as the fire initially broke out under him. 1st Lt Janousek’s flight suit and seat were ablaze. On the rest of the way down 1st Lt Janousek never once panicked, which would have caused the aircraft to go into a spin and would have crashed, as he had complete access to all controls. 1st Lt Janousk was almost completely ablaze when we crashed into the river and still he had not waivered.

Major Hill also credited Janousek for his efforts in securing a successful landing. In his statement on August 12, 1969 Major Hill stated:

Lt Janousek was still on fire and the fire was increasing on his side of the cockpit. My side of the cockpit was relatively free of fire, but there was a lot of smoke and heat. “If Lt Janousek had not made a supreme human effort to stay off of and away from the controls from the time of the explosion to contact with the water, I would not have been able to control the aircraft or hit my intended landing spot. He could have unstrapped and gotten away from the fire, but because of the cramped cockpit configuration, this movement would certainly have caused a control problem. Lt Janousek was fully aware of the escape route and was physically and mentally capable of egressing from the flames and the co-pilot’s position. His decision to remain in the co-pilot’s seat and physical ability to endure the pain made possible a successful landing.

When the helicopter reached the river the pilot pulled the aircraft into a flare to set it into the water. The aircraft at this point was close to the shoreline. In a panic, Corporal Kane jumped from the aircraft. During Kane’s leap the tail boom blew off the aircraft and the rotor head dislodged itself. The aircraft then landed in the middle of the river and began to sink. Both Hill and Dean described the river as deep with a strong current.

Major Hill was able to stay on the surface once he was able to get rid of his helmet and body armor plate. Lance Corporal Dean was also able to get out of the aircraft when it wasn’t submerged too deep. At this point, Corporal Kane was at the shoreline.

Lance Corporal Dean’s account of when he last saw Corporal Kane:

The pilot and myself got out of the aircraft when it wasn’t submerged too deep and instantly realized that the river was very deep and had a savage current. Realizing the trouble Major Hill and I were having keeping our heads above the water, Cpl Kane re-entered the river from the safety of the shoreline. Before Cpl Kane reached us the med-evac Huey came in and hovered over the water at approximately five feet. The three of us then started heading for the Huey. While trying to reach the Huey I had been pulled under numerous times by the savage current. One time I surfaced and saw Cpl Kane pulled under by the current. I watched to see him surface again but he never came up.

Michael J. Brokovich’s paper “A Few Good Men” has a different account of when Kane and Janousek were last seen. Captain Brokovich was Dragonfly lead on this mission commanding the heavy section of four AH-1G Cobras. When Hill’s aircraft crashed into the water the four Cobras provided fire support to a CH-34 Kingsbee Lead, commanded by Dai Uy Ahn. Kingsbee Lead was responsible for picking up Lance Corporal Dean and Major Hill. Kingsbee Lead then hovered up the river to the crash site. Brokovich’ paper states that:

Kingsbee Lead’s Crew Chief hung out of the side of the CH-34 with his monkey straps and determined the pilot and gunner were still belted in and obviously dead. This was an outstanding demonstration of bravery on the part of Dai Uy Ahn as he was under heavy fire the entire time. Since there was no more that could be done for the two KIA’s and the ground fire was becoming quite heavy, we all departed the area to get the two survivors out and for us to refuel and rearm.

As the UH-1E from Squadron 367 was going down Bill Guski with the use of Brokovichs Kodak Instamatic camera was able to get a photo of the crash.

Major Hill struggled to keep his head above water due to the rotor blast and the survival equipment that was causing him to sink At one point he managed to reach up and pull himself aboard the aircraft using one of the skids. The Army UH-1H continued to search for survivors. When it became apparent that there was no one on the surface or in the deep water, Major Hill instructed the pilot to call in for another helicopter to continue the search. Hill felt that if the UH-1H was forced down that neither he or Dean would have enough strength left to fight on the ground.

Major Billy H. Adams was as a wingman for Major Hill on that day. His crew’s assignment was to provide cover for transport helicopters extracting the reconnaissance team. After the crash he stated that his aircraft picked up Dean and Hill. The aircraft then searched the area downstream and adjacent to the wreckage to locate Kane and Janousek with no results. When Adams aircraft had to leave the air due to fuel depletion, another helicopter took up the search and checked each bank of the river, downstream where there were rapids and all around the vicinity of the wreckage. That helicopter was also not able to recover or see any survivors. The helicopter that relieved Major Billy had to evacuate the area due to sporadic ground fire and fuel depletion. Taking its place was a Air Force observation plane that continued the search for 30 minutes only to find no sightings of the missing personnel.

After returning to base to refuel and rearm the mission aircraft were able to successfully extract the SOG platoon. Captain Frank Cuddy, led a flight of gunships to the crash site on the evening of the crash and again on the following morning. The efforts to search the site were met with enemy fire. The HML 367 unit did not conduct any further missions to search the site.

On August 14, 1969, Bruce Kane’s mother received a Casualty Message informing her that her son has been reported Missing in Action. The message does provide a brief account of her son jumping out of the helicopter before crashing and making it ashore. Five days later Kane’s mother received a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Bobby R. Wilkinson indicating that Bruce is MIA and assured her that the search is ongoing. On July 7th just 32 days before going missing the Deer Park graduate from New York turned 20.

A continuation of missing in action status was reaffirmed due to inconclusive proof of death concerning Kane and Janousek on August 25, 1969. On August 27, 1969, an investigation to determine the circumstances of the disappearance of First Lieutenant Ronald J. Janousek and Corporal Bruce E. Kane was submitted to Commanding Officer, Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 from Major Charles M. Lively.

In the preliminary statement the investigator states that because of the enemy situation in the area around the crash site, an on-site investigation was not possible. In addition, due to the hostile enemy situation in the area, no attempts were made to insert a search party. The area has been overflown by the Air Force several times a day with negative results.

Gathering any information from flying over the area was a problem that the United States encountered in its early involvements in Laos. In 1959, CIA station chief Colby found gathering information on the area had been difficult. The Laotian wilderness was largely unmapped, with misty valleys so blanketed by jungle that flyovers and aerial photos disclosed nothing. In order to find out what was there would require putting men on the ground (Plaster pg. 19).

Without a body as proof of death, some of the statements of fact and opinions made by Major Lively may leave investigators or family members to doubt if Corporal Bruce E. Kane died. There were 26 statements of fact in Lively’s investigation here are ones as they pertain to Kane:

9. That Corporal Kane jumped from the aircraft just prior to its contact with the surface of the river.

10. That the river was deep enough at the point of landing to submerge the aircraft to the top of the rotor mast.

11. That the river had a swift current at the point of landing.

12. That the river water was murky green.

13. That squadron policy dictates the wearing of specific items of flight equipment, among which is body armor weighing approximately 20 pounds.

14. That Corporal Kane was observed on the river bank after the crash landing.

15. That Corporal Kane was observed to re-enter the water.

16. That Corporal Kane was last seen being pulled under by the river’s current.

17. That Corporal Kane’s Service Record Book states that he was unqualified as a swimmer.

Research has produced accounts of Kane at the shoreline and reentering the water. Alan H. Barbour’s synopsis challenges item 17 about Kane’s ability to swim. In a synopsis submitted by Alan H. Barbour (historian) in the Task Force Omega File, the author mentions that Kane was a lifeguard before joining the Marine Corp and was known to be an extremely strong swimmer with water life-saving skills.

In Major Lively’s opinions portion of the investigation he makes 6 opinions on the investigation he has three that are pertinent to Kane:

4. That Corporal Kane reentered the river in an attempt to aid the other crew members and was drowned.

5. That neither the body of First Lieutenant Janousek or that of Corporal Kane is recoverable.

6. That, considering the circumstances surrounding the crash landing, the recovery of the two crewmen and the hostile nature of the area, the subsequent search efforts were adequate.

As mentioned earlier Lance Corporal Dean stated that he saw Kane pulled under by the current. In a note from the Virtual Vietnam Wall, it mentions that Hill exited the aircraft and made it ashore. Before making it ashore when Hill made it to the surface when they crashed he saw Corporal Kane re-enter the water to assist remaining crew members. An attempt was made to contact the person that maintains the virtual memorial to shed some light on the information, however; I did not receive a response.

In a full accounting report produced by the Joint Task Force on September 21, 1993, the report includes a circumstances of loss statement dated March 25, 1976. The statement is different from the statement that Hill gave. The report states:

Maj Hill exited the aircraft and made it ashore. At that time he saw three people in the water, but they could have been Army personnel from the Helicopter that followed the downed Aircraft. Cpl Kane jumped from the aircraft just prior to impacting the water and somehow made it ashore. However, as the pilot came to the surface the first time, he saw Cpl Kane re-enter the water to assist the remaining crew members.

There have been sources that claim that Corporal Kane jumped from the aircraft and was last seen either at the shore or entering the river to make a rescue attempt. These statements have been based on Lance Corporal Dean’s statement. Dean was evacuated from the Republic of Vietnam due to injuries he received in the crash and according to Lively’s report was not present at the time of the investigation. The statement that Dean made was made prior to his departure. As the investigation progressed there were several questions that arose which he could have answered. The investigator felt that the questions were not considered vital to delay the report.

Lively’s report included 11 statements from individuals that were involved in the incident. None of the 8 Army pilots involved were interviewed. According to Captain Brokovich, who was at the time commanding four AH-1G Cobras, if Kane did jump none of the pilots of the 8 Army Cobra helicopters saw him jump. Brokovich concluded that Kane would have been jumping from the helicopter when it was at 75 feet in the air. His impact with the water along with the debris of the helicopter would have certainly lead to fatal injuries.

At the time that Major Lively was conducting his investigation, he did not make a trip to Camp Eagle where Captain Brokovich was staying in between missions. Brokovich was not aware that an investigation was being conducted and was never contacted. His analysis and conclusions of the incident could have had a significant impact on the investigation. After reviewing Lively’s report Captain Brokovich had some conclusions that challenge statements and conclusions made in the report such as:

● Major Hill’s helicopter may have been 3500 feet above sea level however; if he were 3500 above the ridge line he would have avoided small arms fire. Captain Brokovich flew over the same ridgeline as Hill at less than 100 feet when his aircraft received fire.

● Hill’s statement about preparing the landing zone he had selected may not have been necessary. With four Army Cobras present carrying a total of 272 rockets and with 28 between the Marine aircraft they could have prepped the landing zone easier given the gravity of the situation.

In regards to Major Billy H. Adams statement Captain Brokovich added:

● It was the mission of the Army Cobras to provide cover for the transport helicopter extracting the recon team. Adams’s stated that it was part of his mission.

● A VNAF CH-34 picked up Major Hill and Lance Corporal Dean. When the crew picked up Hill and Dean they did not see any other persons in the water. They hovered downstream searching for more before going back to the crash site.

● After Hill and Dean were picked up, and Dai Uy Ahn returned to the crash site, they departed the area. The ground fire was heavy, and no other helicopter went down to continue the search.

Captain Brokovich thoughts on Lt. Janousek probably not being able to do anything due to the fact that he was probably unconscious was consistent with the medical statement made by Lt. George E. Wettach:

Lt. Janousek was rendered either unconscious or dead at the time of the first fire flash explosion. The normal reflex during the panic of fire is to take a deep breath and attempt to escape a fire. All animals, including man are afraid of fire and being burned. A deep breath taken at the time of the described flash would obviously sear the mouth, throat, and lungs, burning delicate lung tissue and causing a relative vaccuum which would cause the immediate collapse of both lungs or heavy tracheal secretions which would surely cause rapid suffocation. No man sits, burning, in a seat of fire unless he is unconscious. The normal response is to escape heat and burning in any way possible, including rational movements or frank panic–neither of which Lt. Janousek was noted to have attempted.

Major Lively’s recommendations in his August 27, 1969 investigation is that both First Lieutenant Janousek and Corporal Bruce E. Kane be declared dead.

On September 15, 1969, Bruce Kane’s mother received a letter from Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 informing her that Bruce’s status had been changed from missing in action to killed in action. Lieutenant Colonel Bobby R. Wilkinson indicated in his letter that Bruce was lost in the dark murky waters of the river. Before Wilkinson closes his letter he informs her that a memorial service would be conducted on the 19th of that month for Bruce by Father W.J. Klapps at the Prince of Peace Chapel, Phu Bai, Republic of Vietnam.

On August 2, 1991, the United States Senate approved a resolution introduced by Sen. Robert Smith providing for the creation of a Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs to serve during the remainder of the 102nd Congress. In October, 1991, a Chairman (Sen. John Kerry), Vice-chairman (Sen. Robert Smith), and ten additional Members were appointed to the Committee. A resolution providing funding was approved. The hearings began on November 5, 1991. The Committee’s Final Report was issued on January 13, 1993. The Committee was to investigate events, policies, and knowledge that guided U.S. Government POW/MIA-related actions over the previous 20 years and to do so in order to determine whether there was evidence to support that whether there were troops still in captivity. Twenty-three years after Kane’s family had been notified that he was killed in action they were notified of some changes.

Senators John Kerry and John McCain serving in 1992 on the  Select Committee on POW/MIA affairs.

According to a story written on Kane in 1994 in the Bangor Daily News about the status of Kane, the Department of Defense denied that it had changed the casualty status of Kane. According to Beverly Baker, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Cpl. Bruce Edward Kane’s name was included on a “discrepancy list” of war casualties about whom more information is being sought. A discrepancy list is one about which the U.S. government has convincing evidence that the Governments of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia should have specific knowledge. The three subcategories of discrepancy cases are: listed POW at homecoming, last known alive, and other discrepancy cases in which an Indochinese Government should have knowledge of the incident. The discrepancy list mentioned in the article included casualties whose remains have not been recovered. The list that Kane appeared on was included with casualties in Laos and Cambodia. Bob Jones of Meredith, New Hampshire, chairman of the Northeast MIA-POW Network, said the initial casualty report may have substituted Vietnam for Laos to conceal the presence of U.S. combat operations in that country

Kane’s mother Joan Dunham stated that it was not the first time that her son’s status had been changed. In 1992, the Navy notified her that her son was killed in Laos, not South Vietnam, as she initially was told. Days before the article was printed Ms. Dunham received a two-page letter advising her that Kane’s status had been changed from “killed in action” to “last known alive.”

The information given to Corporal Kane’s mother Joan Dunham was never complete. There are an assortment of reasons as to why an accurate conclusion could not be reached. When special operation units were operating in Laos they did not wear or use weapons that could be traced back to the United States, even the cigarettes they smoked had to be consistent with the brands smoked in that region. In instances when service members were captured in denied areas, the United States had to ignore them. Pilots that flew missions in denied areas had to change locations in After Action Reports to show that they were not operating in denied areas. With those factors in mind, it would be difficult for someone to believe how accurate accident investigations were.

Conducting an investigation on a helicopter accident in a combat zone would for obvious reasons be difficult to accomplish. In many instances, investigators were officers assigned from the unit to conduct an investigation on a helicopter accident. At that time there was no specialized training that investigators received on how to conduct an investigation. Efforts were made to make sure that the officer conducting the investigation on a helicopter crash was the same rank or higher as the pilot. A young Lt. tasked with investigating a Major might become intimidated by conducting an investigation on a Major which could possibly lead to a conclusion that is inaccurate. Then there is submitting that investigation report when it is concluded. Were reports altered? Would an officer write the report in a manner that would protect a fellow officer? When the investigation was complete the investigator completing the investigation satisfied their units requirements in conducting an investigation. If a service member’s body was not recovered that does not mean a family would be satisfied.

The Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command or JPAC led the organized effort to find the remains of missing troops. The unit is military in nature however; its mission is humanitarian. With their success there have been some shortcomings and criticisms of JPAC such as a 2013 report from the Associated Press stating that too much time was spent on each investigation with too few results, and that it is encumbered by a glacial bureaucracy that inflates its own results (http://goo.gl/pzzePb). The Associated Press review described JPAC missions as “military tourism”. During his research for his book Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II, Wil S. Hylton saw how the effect that the agencies bureaucracy had on families of the missing. It can take years for commanders to reveal what their field teams have found on a wreck site. Even the most obvious discovery, like a dog tag, is often kept under wraps until every piece of evidence has been collected, processed and analyzed, including DNA sampling (http://goo.gl/NBsC9B). And while labs are analyzing data and investigators look over their findings the families wait.

Three years after Kane’s family was notified about the discrepancy, his 13-year-old niece Erica Olsen wrote an essay for an English class about how her family mourns and wonders what happened to him on that August day. Kane’s mother Joan made attempts to find answers but was cautioned by the government not to discuss Bruce’s situation with anyone. She was told that if Bruce was still alive, her comments or contacts could reach the enemy and Bruce could pay with his life. Mrs. Dunham was fortunate to get support in her new home state of Maine from a VFW post and a POW/MIA network.

Through Joan’s support network she was able to find a friend in Donald Amorosi. Kane was officially adopted by the Frank L. Mitchell VFW post 3335 in Jay, Maine. Amorosi described Kane’s mother as intelligent, patient, appreciative, and articulate, but fearful, confused, and afraid to reach out to those she didn’t know. Mrs. Dunham was exactly what decades of involvement with Gold Star Mothers has taught me to expect and love. Her quiet demeanor and strength were betrayed by her tears, and at each meeting, I reminded her that there were few things in life for me as precious as a Gold Star Mother’s hug.

In 2010, Joan Dunham took her last breath. From 1969 until her death the Gold Star mother lived her life without knowing what happened to her son.

John Heeg (@dpmrheeg), earned his undergraduate degree in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Secondary Education in 2000 from Dowling College, Oakdale, NY and holds a permanent certification in Social Studies from grades 7-12. He then went on to receive his Master’s Degree in 2006 from Touro College in Special Education and a Post-Graduate certificate in School Administration from Stony Brook University in 2009.   John began his teaching career at the Lenox Academy in Canarsie, Brooklyn where he taught English Language Arts and Social Studies for grades 6-8.  In 2003, he began teaching 8th grade Social Studies in the Deer Park School District where he has held the role of a Mentor for first-year teachers, Mentor Coordinator, and a Teacher Leader for the 8th grade Social Studies Department.  Heeg’s work has appeared on The Vietnam War site  http://thevietnamwar.info/, Simplek12 site http://www.simplek12.com/, and he has contributed a chapter to Scandal on the South Side: The 1919 Chicago White Sox.  Outside of the classroom, Heeg served as a U.S. Naval Hospital Corpsman from 2001-09 with all unit assignments with the Marine Corp.  In 2011, he enlisted in the United States Air National Guard where he continues to serve as a Aviation Resource Manager.   Heeg resides in Mattituck, NY with his wife Gia and son Colin.

 

Share.

About Author

3 Comments

  1. I’m currently reading a book by George Veith (had it in my large library here for mebbe 10 or more years – can’t remember how i acquired it – VA or one of my firearm collecting clubs???) titled “Code Name Bright Light” – the story of attempted POW rescues during the VN War. The US never really did get its sh*t together during the war with regards to rescuing POWs….problems with the perceived importance of keeping the ‘secret’ war in Laos a secret (even though it was well known among the combatant countries and their political – and military – representatives); lack of dedicated equipment and specially trained forces for that particular purpose; and most of all collecting and receiving timely, actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of the lst or captured personnel all conspired to make the recovery of those ‘missing’ or known to be POWs next to impossible…even the success of the well planned (and executed) raid on Son Tay prison in November of 1970 was doomed by the stale intelligence the planners had – Son Tay turned out to be a ‘dry hole’ (the raid, brutalized in the biased press, turned out to be the greatest morale booster for the POWs – and the North Vietnamese, fearing another (perhaps successful) raid pulled all of the POWs from their scattered locations to Hanoi – meaning that for many of the captives, they finally had contact with other Americans for the first time in many years)…the blame for the lack of knowledge should be placed on the Communist forces and or governments of North Vietnam, Laos & Cambodia who used the missing and POWs as pawns in their propaganda & proselytizing wars against the US…most likely we WILL never know his fate. Check the book out…

    • Thank you Chris for the recommendation. I certainly will check the book out when I get time. I was fortunate to have been in contact with members of the POW/MIA organization during my research. Can not even begin to tell you how helpful they were in helping me acquire resources for my research and resources to use in my Social Studies instruction. One of the articles I did encounter about archaeologists and other professionals looking for our guys indicated that these ventures to find the remains of those who were missing over seas has turned into military tourism for those involved. It was unfortunate to hear it phrased in such a manner. All politics aside families need closure. If someone serves in our military and does not come home we owe that family to do all that we can to bring them back. Thanks again for reading and commenting Chris.

    • Excellent and very informative. Would like to know where other such articles exist to read. We cannot and will not forget such brave Americans. Thanks for a valuable read.

Let us know what you think: