LUCAS, LARRY FRANCIS

Name: Larry Francis Lucas
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: 131st Aviation Company, 223rd Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 29 April 1940 (Ashland KY)
Home City of Record: Marmet WV
Loss Date: 20 December 1966
Country of Loss: Laos (officially listed in S.Vietnam)
Loss Coordinates: 164139N 1061451E (XD330460)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: OV1A
Other Personnel In Incident:
Capt. Joseph L. Kulmayer (rescued)

SYNOPSIS:
On December 20, 1966, Capt. Larry F. Lucas, pilot; and Capt. Joseph L. Kulmayer, co-pilot, flew an OV1A Mohawk (serial #63-13123) out of Hue's Phu Bai airbase on a reconnaissance mission over Laos in an operations region known as "Foxtrot". Their plane was hit by enemy fire, caught fire, pitched into a ninety degree dive and crashed. Capt. Kulmayer ejected and was later rescued. No sign of any other parachute was seen.

Although Lucas' parachute was not seen, Capt. Kulmayer stated that at the time of his own ejection, he saw Capt. Lucas' hand on the overhead canopy release handle.

The last known location of the plane was near Sepone, Laos, about 25 miles from the border of South Vietnam. Defense department records list Lucas as missing in South Vietnam, although the loss coordinates are clearly in Laos. Why Lucas is not listed missing in Laos is unknown.

The OV1A was outfitted with photo equipment for aerial photo reconnaissance. The planes obtained aerial views of small targets - hill masses, road junctions, or hamlets - in the kind of detail needed by ground commanders. The planes were generally unarmed. The OV1's were especially useful in reconnoitering the Ho Chi Minh trail.

Lucas is among nearly 2500 Americans who did not come home from Southeast Asia at the end of the war. Unlike the MIAs of other wars, many of these men can be accounted for. Tragically, nearly 6000 reports of Americans still in captivity in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S., yet freedom for them seems beyond our grasp.

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.