MISSION 2024- Laos & Vietnam


LAOS 2024





Ban Kok Mak: village elder, village chief,  Chris/Lao Adv Tours, Karen Standerwick,
me,  some of the supplies we delivered.
Not shown- Hulle/guide (taking photo)


21 MARCH – 25 MARCH 2024

Once again I utilized the services of Lao Adv Tours owned and operated by Chris Corbett of Luang Prabang Laos.  He is accompanied by Mr. Hulle (Hulle) a tour guide who provided excellent service along with Chris and was invaluable in translating the Lao language where needed… everywhere!  These guys know their way around the country on motorbikes but for my tour they provide service in a pick-up truck.

During this trip I traveled into two provinces in central Laos- Khammouane and Savannakhet. I’ve been to Savannakhet three previous times but this was my first time in Khammouane Province.  Savannakhet Province was our base of operations having flown into there from Vientiane and staying at a guest house there. 


22 MARCH 2024

Our first full day here was spent making a 4 hour drive on rough roads in Khammouane Province.  The purpose for going to Khammouane Province was to get to the area where Colonel Robert Standerwick, USAF pilot went MIA in 1971.  Major Norbert Gotner was the weapon systems officer of the F-4 that they were flying and was captured after they were shot down, he was released in 1973. Colonel Standerwick’s daughter Karen was accompanying me on this trip… her first time in Laos.  We crossed over Ban Laboy Ford and eventually reached the village of interest- Ban Ga (ph.)  that was near where the colonel was last known alive.  Contact was made with the area leader who was receptive to us.  Developing a relationship with local village leaders is a gradual process and important as a means of attempting to gather information about MIAs.



23 MARCH 2024

Today we returned to Ban Kok Mak where I also spent time in 2023.  I was hoping to further my relationship with the people in the village, and they did remember Chris and I.  It didn’t hurt that I brought lots of toys and things of interest to the children again!  But, this year there seemed to be more of them… as in probably 60+! It was like a mob! The fact it was Saturday was probably a factor, too, although many children in the village don’t go to school.

We bought LOTS of food, supplies- toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, children clothes (donated by my daughter-in-law),  cooling lotion for babies all paid for with generous donations from the Go Fund Me account I had established. We also took some supplies to the village in Khammouane Province as well.  A visit wouldn’t be complete without sitting at a table outside drinking Beer Lao with village men!  At some point while I was away with my driver and guide interviewing an elder a fish soup was made and shared with us (not me though… I enjoyed the sticky rice!).


Some things to note about the village are:


  • There are approximately 64 families in this village.
  • Even though there is electricity some of the huts/houses do not have it because the families cannot afford it. 
  • The well in the village has only a hand pump.
  • Bathrooms are “squat toilets” which are similar to what we know as outhouses… absent the seat!
  • There is a school located behind the village. I don’t have the exact numbers yet but not all the children of school age are able to attend school.  The reason is that some families can’t afford the cost involved to send the children to school, i.e. paying the teacher, buying supplies and school uniforms.

There are a couple projects that I am contemplating to try to help the people in Kok Mak. One project would be to install a well pump either electric or solar at the well to make it easier to access the water for cooking and bathing.  I will be working on getting an estimate of cost for materials which I’ve been led to believe should not be too expensive (compared to US cost), and labor could probably be provided by the men in the village. Or, an option would be to explore the cost to provide electricity to the homes that don’t have it so that everyone in the village shares equally in that basic amenity.

Second, would be to purchase school uniforms for children. These could be passed down to other children year to year as long as they are in good condition.  However, there is an ongoing problem in villages with retaining teachers so the entire education issue probably requires more research. I can’t completely confirm this number but an estimated cost to send one child to school is maybe $300 per year.

I plan to keep my GO FUND ME account open indefinitely for anyone that is interested in contributing to my ongoing efforts at Kok Mak village.

Next, the information below is related to Colonel Carter Luna and what I discovered this year in the area where he became MIA in 1969.  It also relates to other MIAs if you absorb the information in broader terms.

After spending time in Ban Kok Mak the village chief (naiban) accompanied us to the surrounding areas of interest to me. Before detailing what we encountered I’ll provide some background information from my research to help put today’s activity in perspective. I’ve put dates in red for emphasis… time has and is slipping away to recover the remaining 1577 1576 (as of May 2024) MIAs from the Vietnam War, 282 of them are in Laos.

Background– In 2013 the DPAA (Defense POW MIA Accounting Agency- an agency within the Dept. of Defense who investigates and conducts recovery missions of MIAs in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) was led to a possible burial site of Colonel Carter Luna by a former NVA soldier. This soldier who fought in this area during the war indicated that Colonel Luna was buried between two NVA fighting positions. An excavation took place that covered an area of 480 sq. meters, at a depth of 71 centimeters/28 in. in an effort to locate and recover remains. No evidence or remains were found during this excavation.

My findings:

First, just outside the village of Kok Mak near the village of Nam Keng we came to the coordinate of an F-4 crash site which in 1996 was associated to that of Colonel Luna’s F-4D, even though it has not been officially correlated to that loss. This site was seen on aerial images taken by military reconnaissance SR-71 and U-2 aircraft 10 days after Colonel Luna was shot down.  

Next, a short distance away we arrived in the area of the excavated site/s and started wandering around in and around a cassava field. I almost immediately saw the remnants of a BLU-26 cluster bomb in the dirt, we studied maps and coordinated with the GPS. We needed to move to the other side of this large field to access the area of interest which was the burial site location mapped for me by a geospatial expert prior to my trip.  Hulle walked through the field where he encountered more bomb remnants and met Chris and I on the other side after we drove there. This field is several acres in size. As I walked through the field to get to the coordinate where the excavation took place I estimated it was maybe as much as 10″ deep in the trenches of the rich soil where the plants had been harvested. We reached the coordinate in this cassava field; per the village chief the cassava field has been in existence for the last two years.

I had no expectations but had hoped to be able to access the area of the excavation for more reasons which are explained below.

Additional aerial images of the areas I would visit that were taken 10 days after Colonel Luna was shot down on 10 MAR 69 showed an area of “ground disturbance”. This was a significant discovery as it could have possibly related to a burial site. If I was hopeful for anything on this trip it was to get to that location. Of course, it is not a location that was specifically excavated from what I could determine, but it may have been 50 meters away from the 2013 excavated site based on the map I was referring to while in the field.

Feeling disappointed because of all the disturbances to the ground from cultivation, I now wanted to go to a location that was identified in 2006 by the same NVA witness as also a possible burial site of Colonel Luna. It was located approximately 164 yds. from the 2013 excavated site, but it was all jungle and once we reached the edge of the cassava field we could not get into the location of the coordinate. Chris took the naiban back to the village to get another guy to help us and get some machetes. I paid them to cut us a path so we could gain access to the coordinate. We got there but it was somewhat treacherous with lots of vines with very big thorns. There was nothing obvious to see at the location 55 years after Colonel Luna became MIA. The DPAA has not gone back there since 2006 (which is 18 years ago) to excavate this location even though in a DPAA report dated 21 MAY 2019 it was stated: “Strongly recommend excavating the original identified location during JFA 07-1LA” (the location surveyed in 2006). Although, I have to wonder why there was no attempt to excavate the site between 2006 and 2013. An eyewitness initially identified the site, and while it’s understandable that 7 years later due to changes in the terrain and maybe other considerations he directed the DPAA to another location less than 200 yards away I don’t think the original site should be totally dismissed. What do you think?

It would seem to me that there’s nothing to lose, and maybe something to gain by excavating the possible burial site identified in 2006. If the land is burned to cultivate it for a cassava field any potential evidence or remains risk being destroyed. Short of any new information from witnesses from the war 55 years ago, there are no additional leads to follow to a possible burial site of Colonel Carter Luna to try to recover his remains to repatriate him… which is the right thing to do.

It’s already a tremendously challenging situation to make recoveries of MIAs. In fact, in the last 3 years there have only been 8  9 (as of April 2024) recoveries made from the Vietnam War in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Throughout the years there have been many success stories, I don’t want to take away from those. It would seem to me that there’s nothing to lose, and maybe something to gain by excavating the location of a possible burial site identified in 2006. Cultivation of the land in central Laos by Laotians and possibly Chinese, mining of the land in central Laos by the Chinese is nothing new. However, compared to my previous trips over the last few years it does appear that all this activity is rapidly expanding in Savannakhet Province in the areas of Ban Kok Mak and other villages, as well as into Khammouane Province. There are many large trucks traveling through the nearby village of Vilabouly transporting cassava and mining material, burning, cultivating… lots of activity taking place. I have to wonder if this agricultural and mining activity is and will have an adverse impact on the effectiveness of present and future efforts by the US Government to recover MIAs in this area.



click individual photo for description








17 MARCH 2024

I arrived in Hanoi Vietnam today.  This is my first trip to Vietnam and what I’ve seen so far is that it closely resembles other cities in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok.  Prior to the trip I was forewarned about walking through the streets and how dangerous it could be with the traffic.  Having had experience walking around Bangkok I felt I was prepared, but this was even worse!  After today I think for any distance walking I prefer to get a Grab (Uber).  There are no traffic rules and pedestrians don’t have any right-of-way.

I will tour the Vietnamese Air Force & Defence Museum with hopes of viewing a piece of equipment a blood chit that was known to be there and belonged to Colonel Robert Standerwick whose daughter Karen is accompanying me on this trip.  We also will be attempting to determine if any equipment or personal effects of Colonel Luna’s may be stored at the museum.  Also, we plan to visit the Hoa Lo Prison a.k.a. Hanoi Hilton where American POWs were held during the Vietnam War.




18 MARCH 2024

Today we visited the Hoa Lo Prison aka Hanoi Hilton and I will describe it as an “eery” experience at the beginning of the tour. Many dark, dingy areas of cells dating back many decades prior to the Vietnam War.  Thoughts of how American POWs were treated when they were held there during the war occupied my mind during the couple of hours I was there. 



19 MARCH 2024

We toured the DPAA facility and were given an overview of recovery efforts operations by the lieutenant colonel in charge of Detachment 2.

Also, we went to the Vietnamese Air Force & Defence Museum which was interesting to tour.  It largely consists of memorabilia related to the Vietnamese side of the war (not surprising). However, I was somewhat surprised at the number of American pilot id cards on display which numbered around 20 (all displays) I would think there may be more in storage at off-site facilities.  There were a couple of blood chits on display (see photos), one which had the number on it clearly visible. The numbers are the means to identify the pilot it is issued to, however, that information is not publicly available. There were remnants of aircrafts, small personal items of pilots, a few uniforms, helmets, pairs of boots. 

Of course, I didn’t know what to expect arriving at the museum as far as being able to interact with personnel.  Although prior to my trip I had attempted to coordinate with U.S. and Vietnamese officials without success. There was not an opportunity to have that interaction which was a disappointment but not totally surprising.. Also, based on conversation at DPAA it was unlikely that there would be any opportunity to view other property of Americans.  I got the impression that even U.S. officials have not received 100% access to conducting inventory of American pilot (mostly) equipment held by the Vietnamese.  The Vietnamese control the property and choose what to do with the items including attaching a price tag to items that U.S. government may have an interest in acquiring. There doesn’t seem to be an easy resolution to this issue.