WESTBROOK, DONALD ELLIOT Remains ID 02/14/2007
Name: Donald Elliot Westbrook Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 28 August 1926 Home City of Record: Sherman TX Date of Loss: 13 March 1968 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 202600N 1034300E (UH684598) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A1E Refno: 1083
Others In Incident: Clarence Blanton; James Calfee; James Davis; Henry Gish; Willis Hall; Melvin Holland; Herbert Kirk; David Price; Patrick Shannon; Donald Springsteadah; Don Worley (all missing from Lima 85)
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 2007.
SYNOPSIS: One of the most intriguing cases of the Vietnam war is the Lima Radar Site 85 at Phou Pha Thi and the men who went missing there. Donald Westlake, involved into the incident by the luck of the draw will perhaps never know just how intriguing it was.
Lima 85 was on a peak in the Annam Highlands near the village of Sam Neua on a 5860 ft. mountain called Phou Pha Thi. The mountain was protected by sheer cliffs on three sides, and guarded by 300 tribesmen working for CIA. Unarmed US "civilians" operated the radar which swept across the Tonkin Delta to Hanoi. These "civilians" were actually Air Force personnel who were temporarily relieved of active duty to take jobs with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation serving with Project Heavy Green at Lima 85. The project was so secret that the men's wives were also required to sign secrecy agreements. Absolutely no one was to know about the assignment. Laos was a neutral country and as such, U.S. military presence was internationally prohibited.
For three months in early 1968, a steady stream of intelligence was received which indicated that communist troops were about to launch a major attack on Lima 85. Intelligence watched as enemy troops even built a road to the area to facilitate moving heavy weapons, but the site was so important that William H. Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, made the decision to leave the men in place. When the attack came March 11, some were rescued by helicopter, but eleven men were missing. The President announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam.
Donald Westbrook was flying one of 4 A1E's orbiting on stand-by to search for survivors of the attack at Phou Pha Thi when his plane was shot down March 13. Westbrook was never found. Observers said there was no parachute seen, no beepers heard, and no voice contact made. The wreckage of Westbrook's aircraft was seen scattered over a wide area and smoking. Finding no survivors, the Air Force destroyed Lima 85 to prevent the equipment from falling into the hands of the enemy. Westbrook was declared Missing In Action, with a high probability that the enemy knew his fate - and had perhaps even captured him.
In mid March, the Lima Site wives were notified that the site had been overrun by enemy forces, and that the men who had not escaped had been killed. Many years later, they learned that was not the whole truth.
Two separate reports indicate that all the men missing at Phou Pha Thi did not die. One report suggests that at least one of the 11 was captured, and another indicates that 6 were captured. Information has been hard to get. The fact that Lima Site 85 existed was only declassified in 1983, and finally the wives could be believed when they said their husbands were missing in Laos. Some of the men's files were shown to their families for the first time in 1985.
The Lima Site wives have talked and compared notes. They still feel there is a lot of information to be had. They think someone survived the attack on Lima Site 85. Perhaps Don Westlake survived. They wonder if their country will bring those men home.
==================== National League of Families POW/MIA Update: June 2, 2007
AMERICANs ANNOUNCED AS ACCOUNTED FOR: There are now 1,784 US personnel listed by the Department of Defense as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. The identification of the remains of two American previously listed as MIA in Laos was recently announced. Those identified are Major Donald E. Westbrook, USAF, from Texas, listed MIA March 13, 1968, remains repatriated September 3, 1998 and identified February 14, 2007. The second person was Sergeant First Class John T. Gallagher, USA, from Connecticut, listed MIA January 5, 1968, remains repatriated March 15, 2002 and identified November 13, 2006. The accounting for these two Americans brings to 799 the number of US personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Over 90% of the 1,784 still listed as missing were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam's wartime control.