Gregg Hartness – Colonel, United States Air Force

  • Date of Birth: 4/18/1937
  • Date of Casualty: 11/26/1968
  • Home of Record: DALLAS, TEXAS
  • Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
  • Rank: COL
  • Casualty Country: LAOS
  • Casualty Province: LZ
  • Status: MIA


  • Remains ID announced 2 July 2005
  • Name: Gregg Hartness
  • Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
  • Unit:
  • Date of Birth: 18 April 1937  Detroit Michigan
  • Home City of Record: Dallas Texas
  • Date of Loss: 26 November 1968
  • Country of Loss: Laos
  • Loss Coordinates: 160129N 1064201E
  • Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
  • Category: 2
  • Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O2A
  • Other Personnel In Incident: (co-pilot rescued)

Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2005.


SYNOPSIS: Major Gregg Hartness and his co-pilot departed Da Nang airbase, South Vietnam in their O2A aircraft for a night visual reconnaissance mission over southern Laos at 0300 hours on November 26, 1968. At 0413, as they flew over the rugged, jungle-covered mountainous area, the aircraft suddenly received a hit from an unknown source in the aft section.

Hartness issued the order to bail out as the aircraft began to spin uncontrollably.  The co-pilot successfully bailed out at 6000 feet and was rescued a few hours later.  Although he saw no parachute, the co-pilot believes that Hartness could have ejected without his seeing him in the darkness. At 0700 hours, an emergency signal was picked up from a point 28 miles northeast of Saravane, Laos.  Search and rescue located the downed co-pilot and rescued him.  Recovery was difficult because of the heavy jungle growth on the steep hill he was on.  No attempt was made to approach the aircraft
because it was still smoldering and had unexploded ordnance aboard, and there were hostile forces in the area.  No further emergency transmissions were detected, and the search was terminated.

United States Department of Defense
Number 859-05
August 19, 2005

Air Force Officer MIA From Vietnam War is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U. S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and are being returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

He is Air Force Colonel Gregg Hartness of Dallas, Texas. He is to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D. C. , on September 14, 2005.

On November 26, 1968, Hartness and First Lieutenant Allen S. Shepherd, III, took off from Da Nang air base in South Vietnam, on a forward air control mission. While flying over Salavan Province in Laos, their O-2A ‘Skymaster' was apparently struck by enemy fire and began to spin out of control. Shepherd bailed out and was rescued by an Air Force search and rescue team about nine hours later. He did not see Hartness bail out.

About 30 minutes after that rescue, the airborne team located the crash site of Hartness and Shepherd's aircraft about 200 meters (660 feet) south of the rescue pickup point. The aircraft had been burning, but no contact with Hartness could be established. Enemy forces in the area precluded further rescue attempts, and electronic searches of the loss location detected no signals from the lost aircraft or pilot.

Between 1993 and 2003, joint U. S. -Lao investigators interviewed more than 60 witnesses in 39 different settlements in Laos before selecting a site for excavation. In January and February of 2005, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, with assistance from the Lao government, excavated a site in Salavan Province. They recovered human remains, aircraft wreckage, life support equipment and personal effects.

Of the 88,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, 1,815 are from the Vietnam War, with 372 of those within the country of Laos. Another 756 Americans have been accounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the Vietnam War. Of those, 197 are from losses in Laos.

For additional information on the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at http://www. dtic. mil/dpmo orcall (703) 699-1169.

The remains of an Air Force officer from Texas missing since 1968 in the Vietnam War — have been found.

The Defense Department today announced the remains of Colonel Gregg Hartness of Dallas have been identified.

The remains will be returned to the Hartness family for burial.

Services are planned September 14th at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington.

Hartness had been missing since November 26th of 1968 during a mission over Laos when his plane was struck by enemy fire.

First Lieutenant Allen Shepherd the third managed to bail out and was rescued.

An excavation earlier this year, with assistance from the Lao government, led to recovery of the aircraft wreckage, human remains and some personal items.

Posted on Sun, Aug. 21, 2005:

Veteran says pilot saved his life in Vietnam

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Lieutenant Allen S. Shepherd III has waited 36 years to stand before a grave at Arlington National Cemetery and offer a final prayer for the missing pilot who saved his life over Laos.

On the early morning of November 26, 1968, the two American pilots were sent on a reconnaissance mission over a rugged sector known as Oscar Eight.

For one hour and 13 minutes, the pilot and his co-pilot, Shepherd, flew in a dark, cloudless sky near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A large, narrow jungle covered the valley and hid a fierce enemy.

Shepherd was 24 and considered himself “bulletproof.” A mathematician, he'd joined the Air Force after college rather than wait to be drafted into another service. His father flew in the invasion of Normandy during World War II.

Shepherd had been in Vietnam four months and had seen thousands of empty caskets stacked at his air base at Da Nang. But they were for someone else.

At 4:13 a.m., his surety would surrender to his faith.

Shepherd was searching for the enemy, his head stuck out the window, when he and Colonel Gregg Hartness felt a huge thud.

The airplane's tail was gone, blown away by the enemy below.

“Bail out!” Hartness ordered.

Hartness, 43, of Dallas, managed to steady the twin-engine airplane's wings. Then fire erupted.

“Bail out!”

Shepherd pushed at the plane's only door, but it wouldn't budge. Hartness reached across, shoved hard and pushed Shepherd into the sky.

“After that, conditioned reaction – your training – takes over,” Shepherd said, recalling that morning from his father's kitchen table in suburban Dublin.

On Friday, the Air Force announced that a search team had found and identified Hartness – one of the 1,815 Americans missing since the Vietnam War. All that remain are teeth, but for Shepherd, it is enough.

On September 14, 2005, the U.S. pilot will be laid to rest in a grave on his home soil. His widow and grown children will have a place to visit.

And Shepherd will have answers.

Hartness, he now knows, never made it out of the plane.

Shepherd saw a glimpse of the plane as it crashed and burned during his 6,000-foot drop into a dense jungle of trees, bamboo, elephant grass and enemies. Between the campfires and stars, he saw pitch black.

“You rely on gravity because you can't tell which way is up.”

Then he went to work.

“Pull the rip cord. The parachute opens. Secure your phone (a radio to signal for rescue). Cross your legs (to prevent injury). Land in the trees. Cut the cords, pull the ‘chute down. Dig a hole. Bury it so they can't find you. Bury yourself in bushes.”

He forced himself not to throw up because, he was told, the enemy would smell him. All night, he prayed. He could hear the enemy moving.

At dawn, as the big green rescue helicopters began to fly, he radioed for help.

“Crown, Crown,” he said, calling to the control aircraft that coordinated rescues. “This is Covey 227. Will you scramble the Jolly Greens?”

For two hours, Shepherd waited in the jungle. Despite his own injury – he'd hurt a knee bailing out – he asked his rescuers to keep searching for Hartness. But there was no sign.

After two tours of Vietnam, Shepherd returned home in November 1972, carrying with him Gregg Hartness' memory.

Every day since, Shepherd's mother, Betty, has worn a silver MIA bracelet with Hartness' name. It's her second one, the first having worn out.

Shepherd is now 61, a Dublin businessman who owns Sports Ohio, is married and has two young children. He moved his parents nearby.

He returned from Vietnam, as many did, different.

Better, he said.

“You've never really lived until you've almost died,” he said. “I don't think it was fate. I think it was divine guidance. Faith will get you through anything.”

He got a call a few months ago saying that the military might have found some remains. He asked to go to Vietnam to help search. He didn't hear anything until another call two weeks ago: Would he like to attend the funeral at Arlington?

“My reaction was that I was proud that my country would keep looking,” Shepherd said. “They did not leave Gregg behind.”

Shepherd will attend the service, and maybe revisit the Vietnam Memorial.

It took years before he was ready to stand before the highly polished granite wall. The first time, he went alone. It is easier, he said, to cry by yourself.

Back then, he placed his palm across all that was left to grieve: the name of Colonel Gregg Hartness.

Vietnam-era airman finally laid to rest
Virginia service honors pilot whose remains were found in Laos

5 september 2005
Courtesy of the Dallas Morning News

More than 30 years ago, Paula Wetherell traveled the world to learn the fate of her missing husband. On Wednesday in Virginia, she finally laid him to rest at the nation's sanctuary for fallen soldiers.

Air Force Colonel Gregg Hartness, a Highland Park High School graduate missing since 1968 when his plane spiraled into the Laotian jungle, was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

It ended a family's 37-year journey through pain, false hope and resignation.

“I thought this day would never be,” said Ms. Wetherell, who has since remarried. “I did accept that he was dead. I just thought we'd never bring him home. It's a wonderful feeling to have him where he belongs.”

“I'm very pleased they finally located him,” Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot said in a telephone interview. “No man could ask for a better wife. She was solid as a rock.”

Mr. Perot founded his United We Stand campaign – dedicated to captured and missing soldiers – after meeting one of the North Texas wives.

On Wednesday in Virginia, about 50 family members and friends crowded around Col. Hartness' gravesite as an Air Force band played “Amazing Grace.”

The serviceman's remains were discovered this year during an excavation in Laos.

“I keep thinking over and over and over, and I probably always will, ‘Why didn't he get out?' ” said Allen Shepherd, Colonel Hartness' co-pilot, who survived when he was able to bail out of their battered airplane.

Others in North Texas greeted the news of his discovery by digging out small metal bracelets emblazoned with Col. Hartness' name. The bracelets were distributed during the war to remind people of soldiers who were missing or captured.

“It's just amazement. Absolute amazement,” said Dallas resident George Collier of Colonel Hartness' discovery.

Mr. Collier, a post office employee, has kept his bracelet in a box for decades. He now wants to return it to the family.

“I didn't figure we'd ever hear any more from any of these people,” he said.

Gregg Lane, a Hartness family friend, has worn his bracelet since 1980. He will soon take it off and return it to one of the Hartness daughters.

“Especially for kids from 30 years of age and below, there's just no real education in schools about Vietnam anymore,” he said. “It's something people seem to have put so far behind them.”


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 04/18/1937
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/26/1968
The coffin containing the remains of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Gregg Hartness of Dallas, Texas, is
carried by honor guards, during a funeral ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005
Hartness and his co-pilot 1st Lt. Allen Shepherd III took off from Da Nang airbase in South Vietnam for a forward
reconnaissance mission, when their O-2A Skymaster was apparently struck by enemy fire over Salavan Province in Laos. His co-pilot bailed out and wasrescued but Hartness was reported missing in action
Allen Shepherd III, far back second right, attends the funeral ceremony of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Gregg Hartness, in Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, September 14, 2005. Hartness and his co-pilot 1st Lt. Allen Shepherd III took off from Da Nang airbase in South Vietnam for a forward reconnaissance mission, when their O-2A Skymaster was apparently struck by enemy fire over Salavan Province in Laos. Shepherd bailed out and was rescued but Hartness was reported missing in action.
The former spouse of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Gregg Hartness, Paula Wetherell, right, is handed the flag that draped her former husband's coffin by Brigadier General Paul Schafer, during a funeral ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, September 14, 2005
The former spouse of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Gregg Hartness, Mrs. Paula Wetherell, right, is comforted
by her daughter Kimberly Marshall, second right, as she looks at the flag that draped her former husband's coffin, during a funeral ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Wednesday, September 14, 2005

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