WHEELER, EUGENE LACY
Name: Eugene Lacy Wheeler
Rank/Branch: O4/US Marine Corps
Unit: VMO 12, MAG 11
Date of Birth: 30 January 1937
Home City of Record: Ashville OH
Date of Loss: 21 April 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 152501N 1073127E (YC709059)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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
SYNOPSIS: The OV10 Bronco was among the aircraft most feared by the Viet
Cong and NVA forces, because whenever the Bronco appeared overhead, an air
strike seemed certain to follow. Although the glassed-in cabin could become
uncomfortably warm, it provided splendid visibility. The two-man crew had
armor protection and could use machine guns and bombs to attack, as well as
rockets to mark targets for fighter bombers. This versatility enabled the
plane to fly armed reconnaissance missions, in addition to serving as
vehicle for forward air controllers.
On April 21, 1970, Maj. Eugene L. Wheeler was the pilot of an OV10 aircraft
on a mission in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam near the border of Laos.
During the flight, the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and shot down. Maj.
Wheeler survived the shoot down and was on the ground alive and in radio
contact with other Americans in the area.
An enemy patrol in the area neared Wheeler's position and commenced
shooting. Wheeler's fate remains uncertain. The Marine Corps believes there
is a good possibility that Wheeler survived to be captured, but that
certainly, the Vietnamese could tell us what happened to him on that day.
When the war ended and 591 American POWs were released from Vietnam, Wheeler
was not among them. The Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of him since
Mounting evidence indicates that some Americans are still alive being held
prisoner of war in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese pledged to return all
prisoners of war and provide the fullest possible accounting of the missing
in the peace accords signed in 1973. They have done neither, and the U.S.
has not compelled them to do so.
The United States government pledged that the POW/MIA issue is of "highest
national priority" but has not achieved results indicative of a priority.
Mitchell and the nearly 2500 Americans who remain unaccounted for in
Southeast Asia deserve our best efforts to bring them home, not empty
The Columbus Dispatch
Sunday, January 4, 1998
LOVED ONES STILL SEEK ANSWERS FAMILIES OF MIAS QUESTION
GOVERNMENT'S RESOLVE ON ISSUE
Ann Fisher Dispatch Staff Reporter
A new year of hope and labor to learn the whereabouts of her father awaits
Mitch McGouldrick Guess.
Nearly 30 years ago, Air Force Col. Francis McGouldrick Jr. was lost in a
midair collision over Laos during the Vietnam War. A few years later, Guess,
then 12, bought her first MIA bracelet and began in earnest a search that has
spanned the balance of her life.
She gladly would search another 30 years, the 40-year-old Guess said. So it
hurt when she read a recent newspaper report that interest in MIAs in Vietnam
has waned in Washington's political and diplomatic circles.
"My husband was reading the paper on Sunday, and he looked at me and said,
'Oh boy, I don't think you're going to want to read this,' " said Guess, of
Of course, she read it.
"It was like a knife in my heart. I thought, it's been 29 years of what? All
of this waiting and waiting, and then they tell us we're done," she said.
Mike Sasek, a spokesman for the Pentagon MIA/POW department, disputed the
"The search continues at the same pace that it has been," said Sasek, of the
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Affairs Office, adding that the
government devotes about $100 million a year to the effort.
As many as 135 are employed in the Washington office, and another 170 work
in the Hawaii-based Joint Task Force Accounting field office.
The fate of 2,099 Americans involved in the Vietnam War is unknown, Sasek
said. Of those, 113 are from Ohio.
About 8,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, and 78,000
are unaccounted for from World War II.
"It's a very large, very important priority and a very dedicated group of
people," Sasek said.
John Wheeler of Reynoldsburg said the money and the personnel of which Sasek
spoke are part of an elaborate public relations front.
Wheeler has followed the government's progress for years, since his brother,
Marine Corps pilot Eugene Wheeler, was declared missing in action in Vietnam
on April 21, 1970.
"The monies they say they've spent to obtain data is misleading. That money
has been spent on PR and people who sit in Washington, just to have the
families of MIAs appeased as best they can without obtaining information,"
said Wheeler, 59.
Reaction to the newspaper report runs a gamut of emotions among some
families of service personnel still missing in action and among those whose
loved ones' remains have been found since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.
"I have two feelings," said Patricia Zook, 65, of West Liberty in Logan
County. "I think a lot of the families are going to be very distressed because
it's their loved one.
"I also agree that it's been long enough. Our loved ones, as far as I'm
concerned, are in heaven, and they're taken care of."
Zook, a retired schoolteacher, has her own stake in the issue. On Oct. 4,
1967, contact with Air Force Maj. David H. Zook Jr., 37, was lost when the
small, unarmed plane he was flying north of Saigon to drop leaflets collided
with a larger U.S. plane.
The Air Force eventually promoted him to colonel, and, in 1978, declared him
"presumed dead." Two years ago, Mrs. Zook learned the Air Force thought it
might have her husband's remains. They're still not sure, however, she said.
The government spends about $47,640 per Vietnam MIA every year in its
attempt to find them.
Liz Flick said it's been worth the effort. Reports that politicians are
losing interest in the fate of MIAs angers her.
"My first reaction was I wanted any of those (people) who say we should stop
looking to face a family and tell them that," said Flick, state and regional
coordinator for the National League of Families of Prisoners Missing in
"All you have to do is go to a funeral of a loved one who's been returned,
and you realize how much that means to the family. Until you have something
definitive, there's no closure."
Helen Purcell, 85, of Mount Gilead, said she knows that feeling.
The remains of her 30-year-old son, Air Force Capt. Howard Philip Purcell, a
B-26 bomber pilot, were identified in 1996 through DNA and dental records.
Word came 33 years after he was reported missing on Sept. 3, 1963.
Purcell said she was astonished at the crowd that gathered Nov. 3, 1996, at
the Trinity United Methodist Church in Mount Gilead for a belated funeral for
"It has made a difference because we all feel that it's finished," Purcell
Since the Vietnam War, closure has become more important to Americans, Flick
said. Her organization, founded in 1969, still sells $5.50 stainless steel
bracelets that bear the name, rank and date the MIA was lost.
Before then, families had nowhere to turn but the government for support and
During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, government officials referred concerned
families of troops to the league, Flick said. The military also publicly vowed
not to leave anyone behind in that war, she said.
Ella May Cates remembers the feeling of not knowing a loved one's fate when
her granddaughter was reported missing in action in the Persian Gulf War. Army
Maj. Rhonda Scott Cornum, a flight surgeon and pilot in the 101st Airborne
Division, was in a helicopter that was shot down during a search-and-rescue
mission for an injured U.S. pilot. Five of the eight crew members were killed.
For four days, Cates didn't know whether Cornum, since promoted to
lieutenant colonel, was dead or alive. She originally was listed as MIA then
reclassified as a prisoner of war before her release after four days.
"It was horrible," Cates said of the interlude before learning Cornum was
alive. If the military had abandoned efforts to find her, "I would have been
furious," she said.
Still, Cates said she is of two minds about whether efforts should continue
on behalf of MIAs from a war that ended 23 years ago.
"Sometimes people have to accept things. I know it would have been very hard
for us. Of course you would be angry. But this many years afterward, what good
would it do anybody? Sometimes I think closure is in your mind."
Public pressure to solve the remaining mysteries of the Vietnam War is
largely what spurred those promises to quickly find MIAs and POWs during the
Gulf War, Flick said. "If our group has done nothing else but that, it will
be an achievement," she said.
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