As a teen I proudly wore this man's POW/MIA bracelet. Often in my thoughts, frequently in prayer and his name on my wrist every single day for years. It was the least to be done. As an adult and parent I found myself at the "WALL" in Washington, D.C. one spring day. It was my intention to leave the bracelet so that the park officials would return it to his family. I was overwhelmed by the energy of the memorial wall and simply could not leave it behind. It is safely tucked in my box of treasured things. I honor Howard Stephenson for his service. I am humbled and grateful for the brave men and women and animals that have served our country.
STEPHENSON, HOWARD DAVID
Name: Howard David Stephenson Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand Date of Birth: 06 October 1937 Home City of Record: Bolton MA Date of Loss: 29 March 1972 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163900N 1060600E (XD165414) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A Refno: 1807
Other Personnel In Incident: Barclay Young; Henry Brauner; James Caniford; Curtis Miller; Robert Simmons; Edwin Pearce (all missing); Edward Smith; Richard Halpin; Irving Ramsower; Richard Castillo; Charles Wanzel; Merlyn Paulson; William Todd; (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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 1998.
REMARKS: NO PARA - NO RAD CNTCT - SAR NEGA
SYNOPSIS: On the night of March 29, 1972, an AC130A Hercules "Spectre" gunship departed Ubon Airfield, Thailand on a night reconnaissance mission over supply routes used by North Vietnamese forces in Laos. The crew of the aircraft consisted of pilots Maj. Irving B. Ramsower II and 1Lt. Charles J. Wanzel III, the navigator, Maj. Henry P. Brauner, and crew members Maj. Howard D. Stephenson, Capt. Curtis D. Miller, Capt. Barclay B. Young, Capt. Richard Castillo, Capt. Richard C. Halpin, SSgt. Merlyn L. Paulson, SSgt. Edwin J. Pearce, SSgt. Edward D. Smith Jr., SSgt. James K. Caniford; and Airmen First Class William A. Todd and Robert E. Simmons.
As the aircraft was in the jungle foothills 56 miles east of Savannakhet in southern Laos, it was shot down by a Russian Surface to Air Missile (SAM). U.S. government sources stated in February 1986 that a fighter escort plane reported that the aircraft crashed in a fireball, no parachutes were seen, nor was radio contact made with the AC130 or any of its crew. In 1972, however, the Pearce family was told that an F4 support plane traveling with the AC130 heard "so many beepers they couldn't count them" and that the emergency beeper type carried by the crew could only be activated manually. The Pearce family took this as strong proof that a number of the crew survived. The support aircraft plane left the area to refuel. When it returned, there were no signs of life.