Friday, November 07, 2003
Wellsville American Legion to honor Thompson; Jefferson Street to close for ceremony Saturday
WELLSVILLE, NEW YORK — While his remains are buried in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery, Lieutenant Commander Donald Earl Thompson will receive yet another honor — closer to home.
“We didn't know anything about Thompson's remains being found until we read it in the Daily Reporter, (September 15, 2003)” said John Giddings, a member of the Wellsville American Legion Post 702 and a Vietnam Era veteran. “We were sitting around the Post talking about it, and decided that we should do something about it.”
The Post decided to hold a dedication ceremony that is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Post located on Jefferson Street. The public is invited to attend.
At the ceremony, the Post will dedicate a granite memorial to Thompson, similar to one that was dedicated to C. Calvin Goetschius, Wellsville's first casualty from the Korean War. The Post willl also remembering Thompson with a prayer, salute and ritual protocol.
Saturday's ceremony will include comments and presentations from representatives of the Am-Vets, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Allegany County Vietnam Veterans Organization. The plans call for shutting down Jefferson Street during the service to allow the public to attend.
“Every year we go down to the county's Vietnam Memorial in Belmont, and Thomson's name is on it. He's our only MIA for Vietnam and we just thought that we ought to put something out there (in the yard) honoring him,” Giddings said. Post Commander John Baldwin concurred with Giddings and the other veterans and helped with the program.
In 1986, the Allegany County Vietnam Veterans Organization (ACVVO), with help from others, constructed the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Belmont. Wally Harrier, a member of the group, led the effort to honor Thompson as the only known Allegany County native who was listed as missing in action from that war. The war ended in May 1975.
Thompson was born in 1940, and was a 1958 graduate of Wellsville High School. He grew up on Hanover Street. Shortly after receiving news that his old friend's remains had been identified, Brian Padden wrote, “I remember sliding down hill on Rauber Street, a few homes up from Umikers. Don had a longer sled and always went farther. We rode bikes. We played baseball in the spring and summer at Washington School and touch football in the fall. We spent the winters on Rauber Hill sledding down the road and skiing through the woods. Don played football for WCHS. He was a very good student and very smart.”
After graduation Thompson attended the University of Rochester and earned a bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering in 1962.
He was declared MIA in 1973. after Thompson along with his radar man Lieutenant Allan P. Collamore failed to return from a reconnaissance mission along the coast of North Vietnam on the night of February 4, 1967. Thompson is listed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. on panel 14E – Line 120.
Lieuenant Commander Donald E. Thompson, USN was the son of the late Loyd G. and Ruth E. Thompson Sr., he is survived by a wife, Marylou C. Thompson of Watkins Glen, a sister Doris R. (Charles E.) Leech of Eastport, Michigan, and a brother Loyd G. (Hilda) Thompson, Jr. of Rochester. He was predeceased by a sister Betty M. Jacobs. His brother and sister plan to attend Saturday's ceremony.
According to his brother, in November 2002 investigators recovered some remains believed to be Thompson's and Callamore's. The crash site was located in the 1990s. The remains were take to the United States Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii and then sent to Maryland for DNA testing. On September 22, 2003, those remains were buried with military honors at a private ceremony in Arlington.
Name: Donald Earl Thompson
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander /US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 213 SS Kitty Hawk
Date of Birth: 17 February 1940
Home of Record: Wellsville, NY
Date of Loss: 04 February 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B “Phantom II”
Other Personnel in Incident: Allan P. Collamore, Jr. (missing)
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 4 February 1967, then Lieutenant Donald E. Thompson, pilot, and Lieutenant Allan P. Collamore, Radar Intercept Officer, launched from the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk in an F4B as the #2 aircraft in a flight of 2, on a night armed reconnaissance mission along the coast of North Vietnam. Lieutenant Thompson was briefed to fly in a six to seven mile radar trail behind the lead aircraft. The flight leader crossed the beach at Van Lan Trai, approximately 28 miles northeast of Thanh Hoa and 68 miles southeast of Hanoi. Immediately upon crossing into North Vietnam, Lead executed a level flare dropping run to illuminate an enemy convoy traveling along the road below.
At 2125 hours, and approximately one minute after the flare drop, the flight leader observed a large explosion on the ground behind him. He immediately initiated a 180 degree turn while attempting to contact his wingman, but without success. When he reached the location of the explosion, Lead observed a large fire burning intensely on the ground as well as truck headlights and mussel flashes from enemy small arms fire. Lead also saw a red flare which he believed was ignited by either Donald Thompson or Allan Collamore.
Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts were initiated at first light and continued until nightfall, then were resumed again the following morning. When no trace of the downed aircrew could be detected either electronically or visually, all formal SAR activity was terminated. Both Donald Thompson and Allan Collamore were immediately listed Missing in Action.
In September 1974 sketchy intelligence information was received by the US Government indicating that an American jet was downed is this general location and timeframe with both pilots perishing in the crash and their bodies being buried near the crash site by the North Vietnamese. However, no confirmation that this report correlated to this aircraft loss or that its aircrew actually died in the crash has ever been provided by the Vietnamese.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard