McLAUGHLIN, OLEN BURKE
Name: Olen Burke McLaughlin Rank/Branch: E7/US Air Force Unit: 2nd Bombardment Squadron Date of Birth: 24 December 1927 Home City of Record: Tampa FL Date of Loss: 07 July 1967 Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 094357N 1065858E Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 5 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D
Other Personnel in Incident: George E. Jones; Charles H. Blankenship. On second B52: Paul A. Avolese; William J. Crumm; David F. Bittenbender (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 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.
REMARKS: AIR COLLISION - 7 RESC - N SUBJ - J
SYNOPSIS: Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers have long been the Air Force's most important strategic bomber. Used heavily in Vietnam, the venerable aircraft continued its role throughout the Southeast Asia conflict and played an important role in the Persian Gulf war two decades later.
On July 7, 1967, two B52 aircraft were enroute to a combat mission when they collided in mid-air over the South China Sea. The aircraft were approximately 20 miles offshore at the point of Vinh Binh Province when the accident occurred. Seven crewmembers from the aircraft were rescued, but Avolese, Crumm, Bittenbender, Blankenship, Jones, and McLaughlin were not.
All the missing crewmen onboard the two B52 downed that day were believed to be dead. It is unfortunate, but a cold reality of war that their remains were not recoverable. They are listed with honor among the missing because their remains cannot be buried with honor at home.
Others who are missing do not have such clear-cut cases. Some were known captives; some were photographed as they were led by their guards. Some were in radio contact with search teams, while others simply disappeared.
Since the war ended, over 250,000 interviews have been conducted with those who claim to know about Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, and several million documents have been studied. U.S. Government experts cannot seem to agree whether Americans are there alive or not. Detractors say it would be far too politically difficult to bring the men they believe to be alive home, and the U.S. is content to negotiate for remains.
Well over 1000 first-hand, eye-witness reports of American prisoners still alive in Southeast Asia have been received by 1990. Most of them are still classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe, the men are all dead, why the secrecy after so many years? If the men are alive, why are they not home?
Major General William J. Crumm is the highest-ranking man missing.