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William F. Mullen


William F. Mullen

William Mullen

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  • Name: William Francis Mullen
  • Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps
  • Unit: H/HS MWHG1, 1st Marine Air Wing
  • Date of Birth: 28 March 1935
  • Home City of Record: Brockton MA
  • Date of Loss: 29 April 1966
  • Country of Loss: Laos
  • Loss Coordinates: 170700N 1060600E (XD170926)
  • Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
  • Category: 2
  • Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
  • Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

SYNOPSIS: The Ban Karai Pass was one of several passageways through the mountainous border of Vietnam and Laos. American aircraft flying from Thailand to missions over North Vietnam flew through them regularly, and many aircraft were lost. The North Vietnamese fiercely protected these supply channels. On the Laos side of the border coursed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail", a series of roads heavily traveled by North Vietnamese troops moving materiel and personnel to their destinations through the relative safety of neutral Laos. The return ratio of men lost in and around the passes is far lower than that of those men lost in more populous areas, even though both were shot down by the same enemy and the same weapons. This is partly due to the extremely rugged terrain and resulting difficulty in recovery.

It is also partly due to the fact that the U.S. never negotiated the freedom of Americans held by the Lao.
Capt. William F. Mullen was a Marine A4 pilot. The aircraft he flew, the Douglas Aircraft A4 Skyhawk was a lightweight attack and ground support aircraft. The design emphasized low-speed control and stability during take-off and landing as well as strength enough for catapult launch and carrier landings. The plane was compact, but in spite of its diminutive size, packed a devastating punch and performed well where speed and maneuverability were essential.
On April 29, 1966, Capt. Mullen was sent on a combat mission near the Ban Karai Pass in Laos. When the time arrived that he should have returned, and he had not, the Marines began to try to find him. Bill Mullen was never found.
Barbara Mullen received a visit and a telegram from the Marine Corps telling her that her husband had been shot down, but that "every effort" was being made to rescue him. Barbara's experiences in trying to find information on her lost husband led to her later book, "Every Effort."
Barbara spoke with notables from Eugene McCarthy, John Kerry, George McGovern to Henry Kissinger and Ross Perot. She found interesting information. Capt. Mullen was identified by other pilots as having been captured. She learned from an Australian freelance photographer who had been held for twenty-nine days by Pathet Lao guerrillas that some 200 Americans were being held in Laos. The guerrillas told him that there was an underground bakery in Sam Neua which made bread especially for the American prisoners, who were not used to a rice diet. The underground complex at Sam Neua was used because of intense U.S. bombing.
During the war years, the Pathet Lao stated publicly that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners. Yet, when peace agreements were signed in Paris ending American involvement in the war in Vietnam, the families of the men lost in Laos were horrified to learn that Kissinger had not included Laos in the peace agreements.
The years passed, and Barbara, with two children to raise, finally remarried and began a new life. Bill Mullen will forever be a part of her family. Her book was written to tell others of the heartbreak she endured as the wife of a missing serviceman.
Today, Barbara and her family do not know if Bill Mullen survived, or if he was captured. But they have watched as over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have poured into the U.S. Government's intelligence community. They believe that Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia -- and they believe that the abandonment of these men is one of our nation's greatest shames.


Thanks to Ron Fleischer.


"All Biographical and loss information on POWs provided by Operation Just Cause have been supplied by Chuck and Mary Schantag of POWNET. Please check with POWNET regularly for updates."


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This page last updated on April 17, 2000