Jack Walter Brunson – Chief Warrant Officer, United States Army

  • Wall Name: JACK W BRUNSON
  • Date of Birth: 3/14/1949
  • Date of Casualty: 5/31/1971
  • Branch of Service: ARMY
  • Rank: CWO
  • Casualty Country: LAOS
  • Casualty Province: LZ
  • Status: MIA

  • Name: Jack Walter Brunson
  • Rank/Branch: W2/US Army
  • Unit: 131st Aviation Company, 212th Aviation Battalion, 11th Aviation
  • Brigade (see note in text)
  • Date of Birth: 14 March 1949 (Jamestown NY)
  • Home City of Record: Sinclairville NY
  • Date of Loss: 31 May 1971
  • Country of Loss: Laos
  • Loss Coordinates: 162013N 1065308E (YD014094)
  • Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
  • Category: 3
  • Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1A
  • Refno: 1751
  • Other Personnel In Incident: Clinton A. Musil (missing)
  • 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 2004.


On May 31, 1971, WO Jack Brunson, pilot, and Clinton Musil, observer, were flying on a visual reconnaissance mission when their OV1A Mohawk crashed and burned due to unknown causes about 6 kilometers south-southwest of Phou Ke Dai, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

The crew of another aircraft in the area stated that the flight was proceeding normally, and that Brunson was having no problems. On the fifth pass over the target, and in a steep left turn, the observing aircraft lost sight of Brunson and Musil’s aircraft. The observing aircraft saw a huge ball of flame on the ground. Radio contact was attempted, but could not be established. There were no parachutes observed, no electronic beacon signals heard, and no survivors were seen on the ground. Due to the hostile threat in the area, no search and rescue operation was initiated.

Brunson and Musil are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Because Laos was not party to the agreements ending American involvement in Southeast Asia, none of the Americans the Pathet Lao said they held were ever released.

Witnesses believe that Brunson and Musil perished in the crash of their light observation plane on May 31, 1971. Experts believe that hundreds of other Americans are still alive today, held prisoner against their will. Brunson and Musil would gladly fly one more mission for them. Why can’t we bring our men home?

NOTE: The 20th Aviation Detachment existed until December 1966, at which time it was reassigned as the 131st Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion (Combat Support). The 131st Aviation Company had been assigned to I Corps Aviation Battalion since June 1966, when it arrived in Vietnam. In August 1967, the 131st Aviation Company was reassigned to the 212th Aviation Battalion where it remained until July 1971, whereupon it transferred out of Vietnam.

There were a large number of pilots lost from this unit, including Thaddeus E. Williams and James P. Schimberg (January 9, 1966); John M. Nash and Glenn D. McElroy (March 15, 1966); James W. Gates and John W. Lafayette (April 6, 1966); Robert G. Nopp and Marshall Kipina (July 14, 1966); Jimmy M. Brasher and Robert E. Pittman (September 28, 1966); James M. Johnstone and James L. Whited (November 19, 1966); Larry F. Lucas (December 20, 1966); and Jack W. Brunson and Clinton A. Musil (May 31, 1971). Missing OV1 aircraft crew from the 20th/131st represent well over half of those lost on OV1 aircraft during the war.

U.S. Army records list both Nopp and Kipina as part of the “131st Aviation Company, 14th Aviation Battalion”, yet according to “Order of Battle” by Shelby Stanton, a widely recognized military source, this company was never assigned to the 14th Aviation Battalion. The 131st was known as “Nighthawks”, and was a surveillance aircraft company.

Vietnam War MIA’s remains found

Clinton Allen Musil Sr. had been missing since May 31, 1971, when his helicopter was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight over Laos.

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that the Minnesota soldier’s remains had been recovered, bringing relief to a family that spent 33 years wondering.

“It’s just an incredible thing to finally know for sure,” Musil’s son, Larry, said Thursday. “I’m ecstatic we’ve gotten the identification.”

Clinton Musil’s remains were identified by the Pentagon’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii last year, using DNA and skeletal analysis. He was one of 48 Minnesotans still listed as missing in action in Southeast Asia. In all, 1,871 Vietnam War-era service members are still listed as missing in action.

Clinton grew up in Minnesota and joined the Marines immediately after high school in 1957. He later joined the Army and rose to the rank of Captain. At the time of Musil’s death at age 31, he was divorced from his wife, who had remained in Minneapolis to raise three small children.

“Military life was his family, so you can imagine that put a strain on the family,” said Larry Musil, a 37-year-old architect living in Florida, where most of the Musil family has relocated.

“He did one tour in Vietnam, so he didn’t have to go back,” he said. “But he went back so one of my uncles didn’t have to do a tour. And he volunteered to go on that mission — he was taking the place of another soldier in that plane.”

According to the Defense Department and POW-MIA organizations:

Clinton Musil was the observer flying with pilot Jack Brunson in an OV-1A Mohawk helicopter, the lead aircraft in a flight of two on a photographic/visual reconnaissance mission about 45 miles west-southwest of Hue, South Vietnam. The area was near a major artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the major North Vietnamese military supply line, and was known to be bristling with enemy anti-aircraft artillery.

About 2:15 p.m., Brunson had completed his fifth pass over the target. His wingman in the second helicopter watched as the Mohawk banked steeply to the left and disappeared into the afternoon shadows. The helicopter crashed into a mountainside, exploding in a fireball. No emergency transmissions were heard, nor were any parachutes seen by the other helicopter pilot. Enemy soldiers in the area made a ground search impossible.

Musil was listed as missing for nearly two months before being declared “killed/body not recovered.”

The Defense Department positively identified Musil’s remains about three months ago, and the military flew family members to the Pentagon and presented its documentation.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed to know what happened to my father until I found out,” Musil’s daughter, Allison Spires, 35, said from her home in Washington.

Laotians led Pentagon investigators to the crash site during expeditions in 1993 and 1995. The site was located on a steep slope and appeared to be within about 200 yards of the crash location listed in U.S. records. The site had been scavenged by local residents, but the U.S.-Laotian team found small pieces of wreckage and what appeared to be human remains.

Following the initial investigators, other U.S. and Laotian teams excavated the site twice in 2001 and once in 2002. During these three excavations, they recovered aircraft wreckage, personal effects and human remains. Brunson’s remains still have not been formally identified.

Family members plan to bury Musil with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on May 28, 2004, a date as close to the anniversary of the crash as cemetery officials will allow.

Besides Spires and Larry Musil, Clinton Musil Sr. was survived by his ex-wife, Lois Riley; son, Clinton, 38; brother, Richard, of Phoenix; and an ailing mother.

Friday, January 16, 2004Soldier’s remains bring peace for family

To Allison Spires, the effort to find missing U.S. soldiers is priceless. Without it, Spires said, her father — Clinton Allen Musil Sr. — would still be lost in Laos.

The identification of her father’s remains, confirmed on Thursday 33 years after the Minneapolis native went missing, has brought relief to his relatives.

“I didn’t realize how much I needed to know what happened to my father until I found out,” Spires said in a phone interview from her home in Washington. “It weighed heavy in my head. I longed to know him. Once we got the news of the identification, he became real to me. It’s a blessing. It’s a miracle we’ve got what we have right now.

“I will never know my dad, and there’s pain in that,” Spires said. “There’s also peace knowing what happened: He went to war and died, instead of ‘He went to war and we don’t know what happened to him.’ ”

Spires’ older brother, Clinton Allen Musil Jr., agreed.

“We want to continue to put the emphasis on finding these guys,” Musil Jr., a Florida pediatrician, said in a phone interview from Florida. “It pays off. It’s not just spending millions of dollars and getting nothing.”

The siblings’ reaction came after the Defense Department’s confirmation of what they had known for a while: Human remains found near a crash site in Laos are those of Musil Sr., an Army captain who grew up in Minnesota and was killed during his second tour of duty in the Vietnam War.

The remains will be given to his family, which is planning a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery in May.

Musil, the flight’s spotter/photographer, was 30 when he was shot down May 31, 1971, while on a reconnaissance mission over Savannakhet Province in Laos. The pilot of the OV-1A Mohawk, a fixed-wing, prop-driven aircraft, has not been found.

The crash site was located after investigations in 1993 and 1995. It was excavated three times, most recently in 2002. Besides human remains, investigators retrieved aircraft wreckage and personal items.

Musil Sr.’s brother, Richard of Phoenix, provided the DNA sample used to make the identification. The soldier’s relatives are satisfied the remains found — including a kneecap, two teeth, part of a rib and part of a foot bone — are his. The government closed the case in August.

The official confirmation leaves 37 Minnesotans and 33 Wisconsinites unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, according to the Defense Department. Spokesman Larry Greer said 11 Minnesotans, including Musil, and seven Wisconsinites have been accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War.

Nationally, the count of soldiers missing in action is at 88,000 from all conflicts, Greer said. Of that number, 1,871 soldiers are missing from the Vietnam War, including 1,426 in Vietnam, 382 in Laos, 55 in Cambodia and eight in China. Greer said $100 million a year is spent searching for soldiers.

Musil’s ex-wife, Lois Riley, lives in Florida. The couple had three children: sons Clinton Allen Jr., 38, and Lawrence, 37, who also lives in Florida, and daughter Spires, 35. Musil’s Minnesota relatives include an ailing mother and another brother.

The father’s namesake is an ex-National Guard member who had contemplated searching for his father in Laos.

“My memories of him are limited,” Musil Jr. said. “What I know about my dad is he was really devoted to the military.”

Riley said the couple was married for five years. “We divorced before he was shot down,” she said. “We had a good working relationship because of our three children.”

Riley said her ex-husband is deserving of military honors. He volunteered for the Vietnam War the first time partly to spare his brother, Richard, from military service, she said.

Musil volunteered for the second tour of duty in the Southeast Asian conflict out of love for the military and his mission. “He definitely believed in what he was fighting for,” Riley said.

Musil had been a Marine, she said, but switched to the Army. “He loved his country. He was a true hero.”

Riley also is relieved that the uncertainty for their children is over. “This touches every one of them clear to their soul.”



  • CW2   US ARMY
  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 05/31/1940 – 05/31/1971
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 03/14/1949
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/31/1971
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 05/28/2004


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