Remains Returned 30 September 1977, Other Personnel in Incident: Theodore G. Stier (released POW); on another F4 in same flight: Walter O Estes (killed in captivity); Claude D. Clower (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. REMARKS: 770930 REMS RETD BY SRV
SYNOPSIS: The USS CORAL SEA participated in combat action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Aircraft from her squadrons flew in the first U.S. Navy strikes in the Rolling Thunder Program against targets in North Vietnam in early 1965 and participated in Flaming Dart I strikes. The next year, reconnaissance aircraft from her decks returned with the first photography of Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites in North Vietnam. The A1 Skyraider fighter aircraft was retired from the USS CORAL SEA in 1968. The CORAL SEA participated in Operation Eagle Pull in 1975, evacuating American
personnel from beleaguered Saigon, and remained on station to assist the crew of the MAYAGUEZ, which was captured by Cambodian forces in 1975. The attack carriers USS CORAL SEA, USS HANCOCK and USS RANGER formed Task Force 77, the carrier striking force of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific.
The F4 Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. 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. The F4 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.
LTJG James E. Teague and LTCDR Claude D. Clower were F4 pilots assigned to Fighter Squadron 151 onboard the USS CORAL SEA. On November 19, 1967, the two were launched in F4B Phantom aircraft with their Radar Intercept Officers (RIO) on a mission near Haiphong, North Vietnam. Teague's RIO was LTJG Theodore G. Stier, and Clower's RIO was LTJG Walter O Estes. Clower and Estes were aboard the lead aircraft in the flight section of two aircraft. They were assigned to protect a strike group being launched from the USS INTREPID.
Teague and Clower proceeded to the assigned target, and while over the target they were attacked by enemy MiG aircraft. Both aircraft were shot down. Teague's aircraft was hit first. He began an immediate course change towards the coast. His aircraft was intact except for small fires burning around the radome and air conditioning. LTJG Stier was seen to eject, but Clower did not see another parachute and did not notice if the front canopy was still on the aircraft. (NOTE: The ejection sequence on the F4 is for the rear seater to eject first, followed by the pilot in the front.)
All four crewmen were initially placed in Missing in Action casualty status. Radio Hanoi broadcasts and other information led the Navy to believe that all four crewmen had survived their shootdown and were captured by the North Vietnamese. The Vietnamese released the identification cards of Estes, Stier and Teague. The status of the four was changed to Prisoner of War.
In the spring of 1973, 591 Americans were released in Operation Homecoming from prisons in and around Hanoi. Stier and Clower were among those released. During the years of their captivity, Stier had been advanced in rank to Lieutenant and Clower to the rank of Commander. Estes and Teague had also been advanced in rank; Estes to Lieutenant Commander and Teague to Lieutenant. Estes and Teague were not returned in 1973. They were among a group of hundreds of Americans who were known or suspected to be held prisoner who were not released at the end of the war. In this case, the Vietnamese acknowledged the capture of Stier and Clower and denied knowledge of Estes and Teague, even though an AP wire photo originated by the Vietnam News Agency (North Vietnam) clearly showed their ID cards with the caption that they were "captured in Haiphong."
In late September 1970, the remains of James E. Teague and Walter O Estes II were returned by the Vietnamese to U.S. control. For 10 years, dead or alive, they had been held prisoner.
For 10 years, the Vietnamese denied knowledge of the fates of Teague and Estes, even though there was evidence that the two had been captured.
Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese "stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous times. Did Estes and Teague wait, in a casket, for just such a moment?
Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S. relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Were Estes and Teague alive in captivity after hostilities between the U.S. and Vietnam ceased?
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive. As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home alive.
POW/MIA Data & Bios supplied by the P.O.W. NETWORK Skidmore, MO. USA