Stephen Jay Knott – Major, United States Marine Corps

Date of Birth: 5/12/1940
Date of Casualty: 10/31/1967
Branch of Service: MARINE CORPS
Rank: MAJ
Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: NZ
Status: MIA

REMAINS RETURNED – 07/17/84 – Family does NOT accept I.D.
Name: Stephen Jay Kott
Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Marine Air Wing, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 12 May 1940
Home City of Record: Greenville SC
Date of Loss: 31 October 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 205000N 1061200E (XJ248040)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A
Refno: 0886
Other Personnel in Incident: Hugh M. Fanning (missing)

Name: Stephen Jay Kott
Rank/Branch: Major/US Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Marine Air Wing
DaNang, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 12 May 1940
Home of Record: Greenville, SC
Date of Loss: 31 October 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam

With the addition of the Grumman A6A Intruder to its inventory, the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW) had the finest two-man, all-weather, low-altitude attack/bombing aircraft in the world. It displayed great versatility and lived up to the expectations of those who pushed for its development after the Korean War. At the time it was the only operational aircraft that had a self-contained all-weather bombing capacity including a moving target indicator mode. In this role it usually carried a bomb load of 14,000 pounds and was used rather extensively in the monsoon season not only in South Vietnam, but also in Laos and over the heavily defended areas of North Vietnam. The Intruder was credited with successfully completing some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, and its’ aircrews were among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.

On 31 October 1967, Captain Hugh Fanning, pilot, and then Captain Stephen J. Kott, bombardier/navigator, comprised the crew of an A6A Intruder, call sign “Oatmeal 2,” conducting a night electronics support mission over North Vietnam as the number two aircraft in a flight of two. At approximately 0150 hours, Captain Fanning radioed Oatmeal Lead that he was approaching the target located in the densely populated and heavily cultivated region southwest of Hanoi and was preparing to make his attack pass.

At 0202 hours, the crew of the Lead aircraft observed a bright orange flash in the vicinity of the target and in the estimated position of Oatmeal 2’s aircraft. Lead estimated his wingman was flying at an altitude of between 100-500 feet at the time he saw the flash. Oatmeal Lead tried to raise Captains Fanning and Stephen Kott, but without success. In the chaos of combat and darkness, no parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers heard.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were not possible due to the loss area being approximately 11 miles southwest of Hai Duong, 15 miles northwest of Ninh Giang, 23 miles southeast of Hanoi and 31 miles west of Haiphong. In addition to being densely populated, the open flat expanse was laced with rivers, canals and waterways of all sizes. It was also crisscrossed with primary and secondary roads. Both Hugh Fanning and Stephen Kott were immediately listed Missing in Action.

After Operation Homecoming in 1973, several intelligence and refugee reports surfaced concerning the crash of the Oatmeal 2. These reports included one account that Captain Kott was killed in the crash, but that Captain Fanning was captured and taken away by jeep. The veracity of these reports as they relate to Hugh Fanning’s survival and Stephen Kott’s death are unknown.

On 17 July 1984, the Communist Vietnamese returned remains reported to be those of Hugh Fanning and Stephen Kott without explanation along with 6 other sets of remains. Both families gratefully accepted the remains as those of their loved one and buried them with full military honors.

In Hugh Fanning’s case, ten months after these remains were interned, Mrs. Fanning was first allowed access to her husband’s forensic file, and she learned she had been blatantly lied to. On several occasions she was told her husband was identified through his dental records. The quantity of material returned by the Vietnamese equaled only approximately 15% of a human body and included no skull and no teeth.

Mrs. Fanning arranged for the remains to be exhumed and examined independently by board certified forensic experts. The examination proved conclusively that the alleged remains of Hugh Fanning could not be scientifically identified as his … or anyone else’s. Further, based on the remains themselves, it was only possible to say they belonged to an individual over the age of 19 or 20. There was no way to prove the race, sex, height, weight, muscular structure or dexterity of that person by the type and condition of those remains.

In July 1987, Kathryn Fanning returned the exhumed remains to the US government saying she could not be sure that they were, in fact, her husband’s remains. A board of four officers appointed by the head of the Armed Services Graves Registration Office subsequently issued a report saying that “insufficient evidence existed to support the original identification” of Major Fanning.

In response, a Marine spokeswoman, Major Nancy LaLuntas stated: “We have done exhaustive testing and, as far as we are concerned, that’s who these remains belong to. We’ve drawn our conclusions, and it’s time to bury these remains.” In 1987, the Marine Corps re-buried these unidentifiable bones in Arlington National Cemetery under a headstone bearing the name of Hugh Michael Fanning.

For Stephen Kott, his family, friends and country of have the piece of mind of knowing where he lies. For Hugh Fanning the question remains did he die on 31 October 1967 in the crash of his aircraft or was taken prisoner? His fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for, his fate could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.

Stephen Jay Kott Graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1962.

20 September 2007:

A close friend will be joining retired Army Colonel Tom Faley of South Middleton when he speaks Friday at the Capitol in Harrisburg — a friend more in spirit now than in body — his West Point roommate, Major Steve Kott.

Faley will take the podium during a ceremony at 10 a.m. to remember those Americans who are prisoners of war or missing in action. The event will be at Soldiers’ Grove behind the Capitol building or, in the event of rain, moved inside to the Rotunda.

Faley said the ceremony this year is especially meaningful to him, because 2007 marks the 40th anniversary of Kott being shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967.

Faley said that next to his wife, Kott was the closest friend he had in life.

“I was thrilled when they asked me to speak,” he said. “I am doing this in tribute to him.”

The American Legion, Department of Pennsylvania, is organizing the remembrance ceremony and invited Faley on the recommendation of Robin Piacine, president of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs.

Faley said he first met Kott when they were freshmen at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The two were roommates their sophomore, junior and senior years.

“He was brilliant,” Faley said Wednesday. “His class standing was very good. He actually tutored me to get me through.”

Faley said Kott hailed from South Carolina and was one of the best boxers in his weight class at the academy.

Under a program in which eligible West Point cadets had the option to serve in another branch upon graduation, Kott chose to be a Marine bombardier/navigator on an A-6 Intruder attack plane.

He was shot down near Hanoi on October 31, 1967, Faley said.

“The North Vietnamese at that time clearly acted in a callous, irresponsible manner, because one day after his shootdown a picture of Kott still in his flight suit and helmet appeared in a propaganda release,” Faley recalls.

Faley will mention Kott in his speech as an example of the plight faced by POW/MIAs and of the continuing effort to win the release of remains.

Kott’s parents were denied closure and died before his remains were returned to the United States in 1984 and laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Faley said.

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