Wilmington, NC

Name: Wilbur Ronald Brown
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 22 July 1936
Home City of Record: Wilmington NC
Date of Loss: 03 February 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 163000N 1064000E (YD008434)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C123C
Refno: 0248
Other Personnel In Incident: James L. Carter; Edward M. Parsley; Therman M. Waller (all missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 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.


SYNOPSIS: The Fairchild C123 "Provider" was a night attack system/transport aircraft based on an all-metal glider designed by Chase Aircraft. The airplane's C123B prototype first flew on September 1, 1954. The C123B, in the hands of a group of airmen who called themselves "The Mule Train" became the first transport to see Vietnam service. The C123B transports were soon joined by UC123Bs of the now-controversial Project Ranch Hand which sprayed pesticides and herbicides over Vietnam, including Agent Orange.

The Provider, particularly in camouflage paint with mottled topside and light bottomside, resembled an arched-back whale suspended from the bottom midpoint of huge dorsal wings. Like other transports, the Provider proved its versatility during the Vietnam war. The C123 also dispensed flares to illuminate targets for fighters or tactical bombers, and were dubbed "Candlestick" when they served in this capacity.

On February 3, 1966, a C123C Provider aircraft with a crew of four, including its pilot, Capt. Wilbur R. Brown, and crewmembers James L. Carter, SGT Edward M. Parsley and SGT Therman M. Waller, was assigned a mission on the border of Laos and South Vietnam about 10 miles southwest of Khe Sanh.

During the mission, radio contact was lost with the Provider and its whereabouts or those of the crew were never determined.

In April 1969, a rallier identified a number of photographs of missing Americans as men he believed to have been captured. Wilbur Brown was among those the rallier selected. CIA questioned the identification as no returned POWs reported having seen any of the Provider crew in POW camps. It should be noted, however, that it is now widely believed that more than one prison system existed in Vietnam, and that prisoners in one were not mingled with prisoners from another. (Also, given the location of the crash, the possibility exists that the crew, if captured, may have been taken by Pathetic Lao forces. No Americans were ever released that were held in Laos.)

The mission flown by the C123 lost on February 3, 1966 is not indicated in public records. It is known that "Candlestick" missions, dispensing flares to illuminate targets for fighters or tactical bombers, was very effective against truck traffic in Laos, except in those areas where anti-aircraft defenses became too formidable. It is possible that the C123C might been on a "Candlestick" mission.

Brown, Carter, Parsley and Waller were declared Missing In Action by the U.S. Air Force. They are among nearly 2400 Americans who are unaccounted for from the Vietnam war. Experts believe there are hundreds of these men still alive today, waiting for their country to come for them.

Whether the missing men from the Provider lost on February 3, 1966 are among
those still alive is not know. What is certain, however, is that the U.S. has a moral and legal obligation to do everything possible to bring home those who are alive.

Source: POW Network

On 03 Feb 1966 the 311th ACS at Danang was tasked with a round-robin supply flight to Khe Sanh and other outposts along the SVN/Laotian border. The aircraft, a C-123B Provider (tail number 55-4437), departed Danang at 1:20 PM, arriving at the Khe Sanh Special Forces Camp at about 2:10 PM. It then departed Khe Sanh for Dong Hai, returned to Khe Sanh, and departed again at about 5 PM. Radio contact was lost and when contact could not be reestablished search and rescue efforts began. The wreckage was not located and the four-man crew was placed in Missing in Action status.

None of the aircrewman were among the repatriated POWs, nor did any of the POWs have knowledge of them. Eventually the Secretary of the Air Force approved Presumptive Findings of Death for the four men, changing their status from Missing to Died while Missing:

Major James L. Carter, pilot (07/26/74);
Captain Wilbur R. Brown, co-pilot (05/30/74);
Sgt Edward M. Parsley, loadmaster (01/09/78); and
Sgt Therman M. Waller, flight mechanic (01/09/78).

Source: Virtual Wall

NOTE: Captain Wilbur R. Brown remains identified on 23 January 2009