DANIELSON, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Name:  Benjamin Franklin Danielson
Rank/Branch: Major/US Air Force
Unit:  558th Tactical Fighter Squadron 
Cam Ranh Bay Airbase,
South Vietnam 

Date of Birth: 31 March 1943
Home of Record: Kenyon, MN
Date of Loss: 05 December 1969 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  173100N 1054300E (WE770370)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F4C "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: 1st Lt. Bergeron (rescued)

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 - 2300 miles depending on stores and mission type. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

On 5 December 1969, then Capt. Ben Danielson, pilot, and 1st Lt. Bergeron, weapons systems officer, comprised the crew of an F4C, call sign "Boxer 22." At 1000 hours they departed Cam Ranh Bay Airbase as the #2 aircraft in a flight of two on an interdiction mission in an area approximately 12 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, 1 mile southwest of Ban Phanop and 2 miles northwest of Ban Senphan, Khammouan Province, Laos.

This area of eastern Laos was considered to be a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

At 1127 hours, as Boxer lead observed his wingman commence his target run, they saw Ben Danielson's aircraft making violent pitching motions, then heard him issue the bailout command. Two good parachutes were seen by the crew of Boxer lead. They also saw Capt. Danielson's aircraft impact the ground 2 meters from the target. Capt. Danielson and Lt. Bergeron landed 35 meters apart, but on opposite sides of a river. Ben Danielson landed in a clear area with only a small group of trees that he could hide in. Voice contact was established with both men who reported they were in good shape.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, however, all six attempts to secure the downed crewmen on the first day were driven back by heavy enemy ground fire, and all SAR operations were terminated at dusk. During the first day Lt. Bergeron saw Capt. Danielson twice and had radio contact with him all day and all night over their survival radios. Capt. Danielson advised Lt. Bergeron that he would only transmit by beeper if he thought the enemy was too close for voice transmission. Lt. Bergeron reported upon his recovery that roughly 45 minutes after daybreak on 6 December, he heard several beeper signals notifying him communists troops were in close proximity to Capt. Danielson's position. He also reported that he was close enough to observe several enemy soldiers searching the area that Ben Danielson was down in. The weapons systems officer reported that he believed that his pilot was captured around this time.

About an hour later, he heard several voices, then a volley of automatic weapons fire sounded followed by a scream that Lt. Bergeron believed was made by Capt. Danielson. After the activity across the river subsided, no further enemy searches were observed or heard other than at one point Lt. Bergeron heard what he thought sounded like a seat pack being dropped to the ground. SAR efforts resumed after first light on 7 December and the weapons systems officer was rescued at approximately 1200 hours and after spending nearly 50 hours on the ground in extremely hostile territory.

Ben Danielson is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they
could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.