WEISSENBACK, EDWARD J.
Remains Identified 12/20/18
|Name: Edward J. Weissenback
Unit: Air America
Date of Birth: 09 July 1942
Home City of Record:
Date of Loss: 27 December 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 193357N 1012225E (QB410610)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Roy F. Townley; George L. Ritter (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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 2019
SYNOPSIS: During the Vietnam war, Air America contracted with CIA to fly in
Laos transporting a variety of supplies. Because the United States "was not
at war" in Laos, some AA activities were secret. CIA considered its work
important enough to deceive the U.S. Congress, and obtained a large portion
of its funding through AID dollars that Congress believed were for civilian
help. Although Air America openly spoke of its humanitarian drops of rice,
blankets and medicine, they also conducted many "hard rice" drops -
ammunition, grenades, bombs and weapons to the secret CIA directed
Many Air America pilots were crack pilots from World War II and Korea who
just were not ready to quit flying in the challenging arena of war. Some
took the job because they believed that in doing so, they could help fight
communism. Laos was a tough assignment. Not only were maps antiquated,
forcing the pilots to "eyeball" their way through the countryside, but the
weather and terrain could also be quite unpredictable.
Refugees created by the war depended on Air America, whose planes could
alter weeks of starvation, when the wounded suffered without medical
supplies, in a single drop. Enough food and supplies could be dropped in a
single morning to supply and feed five thousand people for a month. The
secret army depended on the AA materiel drops to such an extent that they
sometimes resorted to trickery to make sure they occurred. On one occasion,
a pilot observed the wind sock at a village strip hanging straight down, but
when he landed found the wind dangerously strong. An amiable native
explained, "We know plane not land when sock flies, so we put rocks in
At the foot of any runway, an AA pilot could encounter armed communist
troops intent on preventing him from ever flying again. Many planes returned
to base peppered with bullet holes, and some were destroyed. Others were
downed and their crews captured.
On December 27, 1971, Captain Roy F. Townley, Captain George Ritter and
Edward Weissenback were flying a mission over Laos in a C123K. The C123K
differed from other C123 models in that it had the addition of auxilliary
turbojet engines mounted in underwing pods. While this addition did little
to increase the speed of the "Provider," it added greater power for quicker
climbing on takeoff and power for maintaining altitude. Townley's aircraft
was shot down about 10 miles south of the city of Hong Sa in Sayaboury
Townley and Weissenback were known to have been captured alive. Records
state that a Pathet Lao communication was intercepted in August 1972 stating
that they had downed and captured all the crew. A Pathet Lao Major defected
and identified Roy Townley and Edward Weissenback from photos.
As late as 1984, reports were being received that Townley and Weissenback
were alive, in good health, and being held in a group of 8 American
prisoners. Four of the original 12 prisoners had died of dysentary, and two
who were still resisting had rings in their noses and were treated like
beasts of burden. Ritter, sources claimed, was being used as a roving
airplane mechanic in central Laos. A private, unauthorized rescue plan was
formulated to attempt to free him in 1984. The attempt was unsuccessful.
Townley's family has a photograph of an American POW lying in a hospital bed
taken prior to October, 1972. They believe the man is Roy Townley. Townley's
daughters met with Admiral Paulsen of the Defense Intelligence Agency in the
summer of 1983, at which time Paulsen told them, "I believe it's your father
(the man in the photo); everybody I show the pictures to believes it's your
father." Paulsen showed them the infrared photos of the man in the POW photo
and matched them with photos of Capt. Townley. The photos showed two moles
on the mouth area that identically match those of Townley.
Over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have
been received by the U.S. Government since 1975. A Pentagon panel concluded
in 1986 that there were at least 100 men still alive. Ackley and Driver are
two of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Although the Pathet Lao publicly
stated that they held "tens of tens" of Americans, NOT ONE MAN returned that
had been held in Laos. The U.S. has yet to negotiate their release.
The daughters of Townley say, "We began getting reports of Daddy working on
airplanes in 1983. At first we were happy because he was still alive. Then
we wondered what he must think of us and his country for not getting him
out. People have got to know there are men alive in Vietnam and Laos. They
need your help."
Duus, Kristen L SFC USARMY DPAA EC (USA) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today Mr. Edward J. Weissenback, 29, of Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, killed during the
Vietnam War, was accounted for on Dec. 20, 2018.
On Dec. 27, 1971, Weissenback, an employee of Air America Incorporated, was
a crewman aboard an Air America C-123K from Udorn A, Kingdom of
Thailand, headed for Xianghon District, Xaignabouli Provinirfieldce, Laos. The
aircraft was on a routine resupply mission for U.S. Agency for International
Development and was last heard from when they were northeast of Sayaboury.
Laos. Search and rescue efforts were continued through Dec. 31, 1971, but
no sign of the aircraft or the four crewmembers were found. Weissenback was
subsequently reported missing.
In October 1997, a Joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.)
team interviewed witnesses in Ban Donkeo, Houn District, Oudomxai Province.
The individuals led the team to the crash site, approximately 400 meters
north of the village. The team recovered various pieces of aircraft
Subsequent field operations in December 2014 and May 2017 led investigators
to additional witnesses and a possible burial site.
In October and November 2017, as well as July and August 2018, Joint
U.S./L.P.D.R. recovery teams excavated the crash site, recovering possible
human remains, personal effects, life support items and aircraft wreckage.
The remains were accessioned to the DPAA laboratory for identification. On
Sept. 25, 2018, the pilot, George L. Ritter, was accounted for. On Dec. 20,
2018, co-pilot Roy F. Townley was accounted for.
To identify Weissenback's remains, DPAA used anthropological analysis, as
well as circumstantial and material evidence. Additionally, the Armed
Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.
DPAA is grateful to the government and the people of Laos for their
partnership in this mission.
Today, there are 1,589 American servicemen and civilians still unaccounted
for from the Vietnam War.
For family contact information, visit CIA.gov and select "Contact Us."
For future funeral information, visit
For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account
for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA
or call (703) 699-1420/1169.
Weissenback's personnel profile can be viewed at
SFC Kristen Duus
Chief of External Communications
Public Affairs NCOIC- D.C. Directorate
Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
2300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C 20301-2300