Name: Scott Winston McIntire m161p
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Colonel/US Air Force
Unit: 17th Wild Weasel Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, Korat Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 07 July 1924
Home of Record: Albuquerque, NM
Date of Loss: 10 December 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 174200N 1054500E (WE786552) Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105G
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert Belli (rescued)


SYNOPSIS: The principle Air Force tactical strike aircraft during the Vietnam War was the Republic F105 Thunderchief, nicknamed a "Thud." It was the first supersonic tactical fighter-bomber designed from scratch and the largest single-seat, single-engine combat aircraft in history. Easily recognized by its large bomb bay and unique swept-forward engine inlets located in the wing roots, it was mass-produced after the Korean War. The first Thud to exceed the speed of sound did so on 22 October 1955 in spite of its underpowered Pratt & Whitney J57 stop-gap engine. Production of the F-105 finished in 1965 with the tandem-seat F model, which was designed as a Wild-Weasel Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) attack aircraft. The F-105 served throughout Southeast Asia, particularly during Rolling Thunder operations.

At 0924 hours on 10 December 1971, Major Robert Belli, aircraft commander; and Lt. Col. Scott W. McIntire, pilot; comprised the crew of an F105G aircraft (serial #63-8326), call sign "Ashcan 1," that was the lead aircraft in a flight of 2. Ashcan flight was conducting a morning Arclight/Iron Hand support mission for a cell of B-52s performing an airstrike against the Mu Gia Pass and NVA supplies entering the Ho Chi Minh Trail through it. Weather conditions in the target area included a solid overcast of clouds with bases at 300 feet and tops at 7,500 feet. Winds were 30 knots and greater through the pass making the mission additionally hazardous.

The mission identifier was Steel Tiger, Cricket Area 4," a region that included the portion of North Vietnam bordering Laos that included the Mu Gia Pass, one of the two primary gateways into the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail via Route 15. Between 17 April 1965 and 31 December 1971, 43 American airmen were lost and listed as POW/MIAs in a 33.3-mile square window of the world known as the Mu Gia Pass.

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.

Ashcan lead expended two AGM-45 missiles against enemy Fan Song radar that had acquired a lock on their aircraft. The NVA fired a surface-to-air (SAM) missile at them, striking Ashcan lead at the rear of the Thud. Major Belli was knocked unconscious by the force of the SAM explosion. When he came to, he successfully ejected both Lt. Col. McIntire and himself from the burning aircraft.

The crew of Ashcan 2 saw two good parachutes and was able to establish voice contact with Robert Belli. The location of loss was in the rugged jungle covered mountains heavily populated with enemy troop concentrations approximately 2 miles north-northwest of Mu Gia Pass, Khammouan Province, Laos.

Search and rescue (SAR) aircraft were immediately called in and arrived onsite shortly after the loss. Due to the deteriorating weather, high winds and intense, accurate ground fire, SAR personnel were not able to enter the loss location during the remainder of that day.

At first light on 11 December 1971, another SAR helicopter returned to the area of loss. At 0715 hours, they were able to locate and rescue Robert Belli. They were also able to locate Scott McIntire hanging limp in his parachute in a tall tree.

As the SAR helicopter hovered as close to Scott McIntire as possible, a flight surgeon observed him from a distance. He stated that the pilot appeared lifeless. He also stated that in his professional view the conditions of weather and the position of the body after hanging suspended for 20 hours indicated he would have died of hypothermia within six hours and was probably dead on 11 December. Heavy NVA ground fire drove off the SAR aircraft before Lt. Col. McIntire could be recovered. At the time the formal search was terminated, Scott McIntire was declared Missing in Action.

In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 4 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to this incident.

The NSA synopsis states: "… shot down by SAM… had shot down an aircraft and captured the pilot in good condition. Referred to the shootdown of one F105 east of the Mu Gia Pass, Laos, and the pilot was killed. DIA preliminary assessment; DIA concurs with ---- initial correlation for this case. …indicates a shootdown and a possible pilot being located. McIntire's navigator was rescued at the scene by US forces. McIntire was seen hanging limply in his chute harness and did not respond to signals from the SAR crew. This --- does not add anything new to Refno 1782."

These men are among the nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of them 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.

If Scott McIntire died as a result of his aircraft's loss, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if the flight surgeon was wrong in his evaluation of Scott McIntire's condition and he was only unconscious not dead, then his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no question the Vietnamese know what happened and could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fight 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.