Captain Lee Gourley




	   Name: Laurent Lee Gourley
           Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
           Unit: 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Tuy Hoa Airbase, South Vietnam
           Date of Birth: 05 September 1944
           Home City of Record: Villisco IA
           Date of Loss: 09 August 1969
           Country of Loss: Laos
           Loss Coordinates: 161800N 1063900E (XD762026)
           Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
           Category: 4
           Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F100F
           Refno: 1477
           Other Personnel In Incident: Jefferson S. Dotson (missing)


Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one 
or more of the following:  raw data from U.S. Government 
agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, 
published sources, interviews: 
SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their 
military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong 
troops intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as
the Viet Minh had done during the war with the 
French some years before. 
The border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail"
 was used for transporting weapons,
supplies and troops. Scores of American pilots 
were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic 
to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams
in Vietnam were extremely successful and the 
recovery rate was high. Still, there were nearly 600 
who were not rescued in Laos. Many of them went down
along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through 
the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam.
In the early morning of August 9, 1969, 
1Lt. Jefferson S. Dotson, rear seat
co-pilot, and Capt. Lee Gourley, pilot, 
departed Tuy Hoa Airbase located on
the coast of central South Vietnam on a 
"Misty" Forward Air Control (FAC)
mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in central Laos.
Lee Gourley had written home early that same day 
saying that all missions for that day had been 
scrubbed due to bad weather. 
He did not expect to have to fly that day - 
and he had time to write his family. Gourley 
had been working with Misty for some time as 
a volunteer. Misty FAC volunteers were chosen 
from among the best and most experienced pilots. 
He had delayed a trip to Hawaii for R & R
until the Misty duties were complete in another week, 
knowing his time in the Vietnam arena would be 
short following his return. The FAC mission had come up
The aircraft Dotson and Gourley flew, 
the F100 Super Sabre, had been specially
modified a few years before to include a 
second crewman. The F model, introduced 
in 1965, had the latest technology in 
radar signal detectors. The initial
shipment of F100F's were called 
"Wild Weasel I" and were an important
element in several combat operations.
Gourley and Dotson were not on a Wild Weasel mission, 
however, and on the FAC mission this day, no bombs 
were loaded. They were to fly low and fast over
their objective area and presumably analyze targets 
for future air strikes, or assess the potential 
need for further strikes. FAC reconnaissance missions
in the traditional sense were often flown by light 
observation aircraft rather than fighter/bombers, 
but the necessary element for this mission was low
altitude and high speed, as well as the ability 
to cover a large territory.
Although there was normally no scheduled air backup 
or escort on a FAC mission, and Gourley and Jefferson 
had none, other aircraft which happened to be in the
area provide information as to what happened to 
Dotson and Gourley as they flew near Sepone in 
Savannakhet Province, Laos.
One passing aircraft intercepted a radio transmission 
from the F100F, "We've been hit, we're going to try 
to get out." Observers from the passing aircraft
then saw the F100 go up in flames, and observed one 
fully deployed parachute.
(NOTE: The standard ejection called for the rear-seater, 
Gourley, to make the first ejection, then the pilot, 
and a fully deployed chute indicated the
successful ejection of a crew member.)
Dotson and Gourley were classified Missing in Action. 
Their families understood that they might have been 
captured, and like the families of others who were
missing, wrote regular letters.
Lee Gourley's sister, Elzene, became active in the 
POW/MIA families' effort to "watchdog" 
U.S. Government actions regarding American Prisoners 
of War held in Indochina. In early 1973, Secretary of 
State Henry Kissinger came to the POW/MIA families and 
announced that peace agreements were ready to be signed
and their men would soon be home, or accounted for, 
if they were dead. 
Elzene Gourley specifically asked Kissinger about the 
prisoners in other countries besides Vietnam - Laos, 
Cambodia and China - and if his good news included the
men missing there. 
Kissinger replied, "What do you think took us so long?"
When 591 American prisoners were released from 
communist prison camps in Southeast Asia in the 
spring of 1973, it became apparent that Kissinger had
lied to the POW/MIA families. Not a single man who 
had been held in Laos had been released. Although the 
Pathet Lao had spoken publicly of American prisoners 
they held, and many were known to have survived their 
loss incidents, the U.S. had not negotiated the freedom 
of the American POWs held in Laos.
In 1974, the Gourleys sent a letter to Lee in 
care of the Prime Minister of Laos, who responded 
that the letter would be conveyed later to their son. 
The U.S. State Department said the Prime Minister 
might not know English and probably an error was 
made in translation.
In 1976, the Gourleys wrote to Lee in care of 
Prince Souvanna Phouma in Vientiane, Laos. 
He wrote back that he would give their letter 
to the "central committee" to be sent to the 
"one for whom (it was) intended." The U.S. State
Department ordered the Gourleys to quit writing 
Lee in care of the Lao.
Following the war, refugees fled Southeast Asia 
and brought with them stories of Americans still 
held prisoner and other information relating to 
Americans missing in their homelands. 

By 1989, the number of such reports approaches
10,000, and most authorities reluctantly have 
concluded that many Americans
must still be alive and held captive.
It is certainly reasonable to speculate that Gourley 
and Dotson survived to be captured. Only the communist 
governments of Southeast Asia could say if they are
among those hundreds of Americans thought to be still 
alive, and they deny any knowledge of Americans 
missing in their countries.
Lee Gourley and Jefferson Dotson pledged to 
"keep the faith" 
with their country. 
Have we kept faith with the men who are still 
fighting an old war in our names? 
What would Lee Gourley and Jefferson Dotson say?






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