Gerald K. Hannaford – Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force

29 January 1964:


A U.S. Air Force T39 trainer with three officers aboard vanished into Red-ruled East Germany yesterday with two presumably hostile planes accompanying it. The plane had taken off from Wiesbaden on a training flight and was last heard from, according to an Air Force spokesman, flying near Frankfurt.

T39 Trainer Is Missing In East Germany

The U.S. Air Force awaited word from the Communists to- day about an American jet trainer missing in East Germany with three officers aboard. An unconfirmed report said the plane was shot down. Eighteen hours after the plane disappeared the official East German news agency ADN had not mentioned the incident. An Air Force spokesman re- fused to say whether information had been requested from the Russians, with whom the Western Allies deal on all matters concerning East Germany.

The T39 trainer, with a Lieutenant Colonel and two Captains aboard, was tracked by Air Force radars for 11 minutes Tuesday heading into East Germany at about 450-500 miles an hour Shortly after the plane disappeared from the screens, the radar operators saw ”two other blips.”

It could not be deter- mined whether these were Communist fighters or antiaircraft shells. The Air Force refused to con- firm the report that the plane had been shot down. An Air Force spokesman said the plane was not authorized to cross the Iron Curtain and could not be reached by radio. He said the Air Force didn’t consider there was “the slightest possibility” that the three officers were defecting The Air Force said the officers aboard the plane were Lieutenant Colonel Gerald K. Hannaford, 41; Captain John F. Lorraine Jr. 34, and Captain Donald G. Millard, 33.

An honor guard of 300 of their comrades stood at attention and an Air Force band played the Star Spangled Banner as the three flag-draped coffins were borne from the jet transport that brought them from West Berlin. The three widows watched as the bodies were brought back to the U.S. air base from which they set out Tuesday on a training mission. The plane strayed into East Germany and was shot down by Soviet fighters. Ambassador George McGhee, ranking U.S. many, said the shooting down of the unarmed plane was a “shocking and horrible affair. entirely unnecessary.”

An honor guard of 40 officers with McGhee and Major General James Polk, U.S. commandant in Berlin, headed a brief ceremony when the bodies were flown out of Berlin. The fliers were stationed at Wiesbaden and their Widows and children live there.

The officers, whose unarmed jet trainer was shot down Tuesday by Soviet fighters, were Lieuetnant Colonel Gerald Hannaford, 41, Austin, Texas; Captain Donald Millard, bored.”

Lieutenant Colonel Gerald L. Hannaford was killed on January 28, 1964 when his unarmed R-39 trainer aircraft with three officers aboard was shot down after it accidentally crossed the border of East Germany. It was proven that the Soviets were aware that U.S. had recognized the error and had ordered the plane to correct its direction of travel, however they paid no attention and attacked it anyway.

All three bodies were returned to the United States and Hannaford was buried in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery.

28 January 1964: A U.S. Air Force T-39 Sabreliner, based in Weisbaden West Germany, was shot down by a Soviet fighter over Thuringia, about 60 miles inside East Germany while on a training flight. The crew of three, Gerald Hannaford, John Lorraine and Donald Millard were killed.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 08/16/1922
  • DATE OF DEATH: 01/28/1964

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