WESTBROOK, DONALD ELLIOT
Name: Donald Elliot Westbrook
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
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
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.
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.
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