BURNHAM, MASON IRWIN
Remains identified 11/03/99
Name: Mason Irwin Burnham
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 19 September 1943
Home City of Record: Portland OR
Date of Loss: 20 April 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 152900N 1073100E (YC699138)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Thomas H. Amos (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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.
SYNOPSIS: Lockheed's versatile C130 aircraft filled many roles in Vietnam,
including transport, tanker, gunship, drone controller, airborne battlefield
command and control center, weather reconnaissance, electronic
reconnaissance, and search, rescue and recovery.
The AC130, outfitted as a gunship, was the most spectacular of the modified
C130's. These ships pierced the darkness using searchlights, flares, night
observation devices that intensified natural light, and a variety of
electronic sensors such as radar, infared equipment and even low-level
television. On some models, a computer automatically translated sensor data
into instructions for the pilot, who kept his fixed, side-firing guns
trained on target by adjusting the angle of bank as he circled. The crew of
these planes were, therefore, highly trained and capable. They were highly
desirable "captures" for the enemy because of their technical knowledge.
Captains Thomas H. Amos and Mason I. Burnham were pilot and co-pilot of an
AC130 on a mission near the border of South Vietnam and Laos on April 20,
1973 when their plane was shot down by enemy fire. Because there existed the
possibility that the two safely ejected the aircraft, they were declared
missing in action. The fate of the rest of the crew (some 8-12 men) is not
indicated in public records. The aircraft went down in Quang Tin Province,
about halfway between Ben Giang, South Vietnam and Chavane, Laos.
[NOTE: 1999 update: Some records, and Burnham's widow indicate that Amos
and Burnham were the crew of an F-4 (#0602) on support mission for the
C-130, not in the C-130 itself.]
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Amos' and Burnham's
classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2
indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been
involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1
(confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that
they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected
with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy
news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through
analysis of all-source intelligence.
When the war in Vietnam ended, and 591 American Prisoners of War were
released, Amos and Burnham were not among them. As time passed, reports
amassed, to a current number of over 10,000. Many authorities who have
reviewed this largely-classified information have concluded that hundreds of
Americans are still alive in captivity today.
The United States Government seems unable to decide whether or not men are
still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, preferring the less
controversial (and less liable) position of operating "under the assumption
that one or more" are alive.
Whether Thomas Amos and Mason Burnham survived the crash of their aircraft
to be captured has never been determined. Whether they are among those
thought to be still alive is uncertain. What is clear, however, is that if
there is even one American being held against his will in Southeast Asia, we
have a legal and moral responsibility to do everything possible to bring him
From - Tue Nov 09 12:29:49 1999
Subject: re: Thomas H. Amos
I have information of a MIA, whose bracelet I have been wearing, and now
returned. Maj (capt) Thomas. H. Amos's remains have been located, and his
funeral was held in Springfield Missouri, Nov 6, 1999 with full military
honors. I returned my bracelet to his daughter and she was glad to have it
back and know that someone had not forgotten about him. She also informed
me that the synopsis of his shoot down were inaccurate. He way flying a F-4D
Phantom II with his back seater, Mason I. Burnham and crashed into the side
of a mountain while escorting a AC-130A gunship on a mission over the
Maj. Amos's daughter told me that the dog tags and a leg bone were ID's as
her fathers, and the remaining remains will be buried at Arlington National
Cemetery in Washington DC next spring.
Defense POW/MIA Weekly Update
November 9, 1999
MISSING IN ACTION SERVICEMEN IDENTIFIED
The remains of seven American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from
Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to their families
for burial in the United States.
They are identified as Major Thomas H. Amos, USAF, of Springfield, Mo.;
Captain Mason I. Burnham, USAF, of Portland, Ore; Sergeant First Class
William S. Stinson, US Army, of Georgiana, Ala.; and four other servicemen.
Their names are not being released at the request of their families.
On April 20, 1972, Amos and Burnham were flying escort to an AC-130 on a
night mission over Quang Nam Province near the Vietnam-Laos border. As
another aircrew marked a target, Amos radioed that he was lining up his F-4D
Phantom aircraft for the ordnance run. Shortly thereafter, the crew of the
AC-130 reported seeing a large fireball on the ground. Subsequent attempts to
contact Amos and Burnham were unsuccessful. Search efforts were continued for
three days but proved unsuccessful.
In May 1993, a joint US/Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) team
traveled to Quang Nam-Da Nang Province and interviewed two local villagers
who claimed to have possession of remains collected from the crash site of a
jet aircraft. At that time, the men also produced material evidence,
including identification tags for both Amos and Burnham.
Two months later, a second team reinterviewed the two villagers who
added that the remains in their possession had been turned over to the
Vietnamese government the previous May. In January 1994, a third joint team
took possession of those remains.
Other teams traveled to the supposed aircraft crash site in 1994, 1995,
and 1998 to obtain additional evidence to support identification. Additional
remains were recovered as were numerous crew-related items and aircraft
wreckage. On June 1998, the site was closed to further excavation because of
the presence of large amounts of unexploded ordnance.
From - Fri Apr 21 18:03:47 2000
Daughter of MIA will finally lay him to rest
Friday, April 21, 2000
The Seattle Post Intelligencer
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- The daughter of an Air Force navigator listed as
missing in action after his jet crashed in Laos 28 years ago plans to
finally lay her father to rest with a full military funeral service next
month at Arlington National Cemetery.
"Your mind tells you there's no way he could be alive, but you hold out
hope," said Kim Heddinger. "He died in 1972, but it still feels like
Now 34, Heddinger was just 6 years old when she was told her father's F-4D
Phantom jet crashed in Laos near the Vietnam border.
Capt. Mason Burnham had been listed as "missing in action" until about 1975,
when he was declared dead at the request of his second wife. Last August,
the Air Force released papers documenting a seven-year investigation that
finally identified his remains.
The May 25 service in Washington, D.C., also will honor Maj. Thomas Amos of
Missouri, the pilot, who also died in the crash. It will include a 21-gun
salute and a fighter jet flyover in "missing man" formation.
Burnham joined the Air Force in 1969 after graduating with a business degree
from the University of Oregon.
He was a 29-year-old navigator on the plane when he and Amos were shot down
near the Ho Chi Minh Trail, used by the North Vietnamese to transport troops
Amos and Burnham were escorting an AC-130 gunship and had just begun a
bombing run when the gunship crew abruptly lost radio contact with them,
according to Air Force documents.
Witnesses saw a fireball but no parachutes.
The wreckage wasn't discovered until 1989, when two Vietnamese brothers
stumbled on it as they searched for incense wood in a steep area of Quang
It took several years for the news to reach the Air Force, which sent a team
to interview the brothers in May 1993. Recovery efforts began a year later.
Because of the rugged terrain, the excavation was slow and dangerous. The
search was called off in June 1998 after several unexploded bombs were found
in the area, but by that time, searchers had recovered enough bone
fragments, teeth and clothing to make positive identification of Amos and
Among the recovered items were a piece of Burnham's fighter jacket and his
dog tags, returned to Heddinger last summer. She has worn the tags almost
every day since.
At the May service, she plans to give one of the tags to her half brother
from her father's second marriage.
Another service for her father is planned for June 17 at Restlawn Memorial
Gardens in Salem.
Heddinger, a real estate agent, has drawn some comfort from a box filled
with mementos collected by her grandmother.
Inside are poignant letters and silly cards; her father's Purple Heart,
Third Oak Leaf Cluster and Distinguished Flying Cross medals; and the Air
Force telegrams and subsequent letters announcing his disappearance.
Monday, June 12, 2000
Seattle Post Intelligencer
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
EUGENE, Ore. -- A pilot who died during the Vietnam War 28 years ago will be
laid to rest in Salem this week.
It will be the second funeral for U.S. Air Force Capt. Mason Burnham. His
unidentifiable remains were buried during a May 25 ceremony at Arlington
National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
The identified remains, along with all the medals the pilot earned, will be
"If it's anything like the one in Arlington, it'll just be awesome,"
Burnham's daughter, Kim Heddinger, said Friday.
Burnham died when his F-4D Phantom jet was shot down over Laos while flying
escort on a bombing run near the Vietnam border in May 1972. The wreckage
wasn't discovered until 1989, and attempts to recover the remains of Burnham
and a second pilot stretched from 1993 to 1998.
Heddinger flew to Arlington for the service honoring her father and the
jet's other pilot, Maj. Thomas Amos of Missouri.
"Taps" was played at the grave, an honor guard fired a 21-gun salute and
four F-16 jets performed a flyover in the "missing man" formation.
"When the guy played 'Taps,' this light mist came down on us," said
Heddinger, who was 6 when her father's aircraft disappeared. "But it only
lasted like 10 or 15 seconds and then stopped, so we all knew it was like
tears from heaven."
Burnham was born Sept. 19, 1943, in Okmulge, Okla. He lived in Salem,
Vancouver, Wash., and Roseburg before moving to Eugene in 1964. He received
a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Oregon in 1968.
In addition to his daughter, Burnham is survived by his wife, Judy Thomas, a
son, brother and one grandchild.
Use your Browser's BACK function to return to the PREVIOUS page