Remembering the 60th anniversary of the missing Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 with March 16 service
Wreaths Across America ceremony to remember lost Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 members
Sixty years ago on March 16, 1962, Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 was on a secret mission, sanctioned by President Kennedy, to fly to Vietnam.
This secret Vietnam reconnaissance mission went missing and no trace of the plane or its passengers have ever been found.
Onboard were 93 United States Army soldiers, three South Vietnamese soldiers, and 11 civilian crew members.
The flight manifest included three people from Illinois who were aboard this missing flight: Sgt. Donald Aaron Barnes of Granite City, Private Donald W. Henderson of Mount Auburn, and Private Lawrence R. Perkins of Chicago.
On Wednesday, March 16, Wreaths Across America will be streaming a live event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739. The event will be streamed live at 1 p.m. (CST) on Wreaths Across America's Facebook page and on Wreaths Across America Radio, which can also be heard via the iHeart Radio app or by downloading it at the App Store or on Google!
Very little is known about what happened to FTLF 739 and its crew and passengers, and due to the circumstance surrounding this mission, the names of those lost have not yet been added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
However, today many families and loved ones of these heroes still fight to have their loved ones recognized for their contributions to our freedom and our shared history.
Currently, the only monument that bears the names of these almost forgotten American heroes was erected by a private citizen, Wreaths Across America founder Morrill Worcester, on the tip land in Columbia Falls, Maine, where the 60th anniversary commemoration event is being held.
"When I first heard the story about this mission, I was shocked to learn that nothing has been done for these families," Worcester said. "I said that day that we would do something to make sure these people are honored and remembered, and to hopefully give some closure to these families."
The inscription on the monument reads: "Missing in action; Presumed dead. Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 went missing on March 16, 1962, with 93 U.S. Army soldiers on board. These men and their flight crew perished in what would become one of the biggest aviation mysteries out of the Vietnam War era. The names of those who gave their lives and who remain missing are inscribed here so that they will be said aloud and their memory will live on."
This private memorial is the only recognition that the heroes of FTLF 739 have ever received for their shared sacrifice to our nation. However, that can change.
Sen. Gary Peters (Michigan) introduced Senate Bill 2571, which is supported by Senators Blackburn (Tennessee), Stabenow (Michigan), and Shaheen (New Hampshire). This bill, which is currently sitting in the committee for Energy and Natural Resources, seeks to have these long-forgotten heroes added to the list of names on the Vietnam War Memorial.
"As an Army veteran who has had the privilege of serving alongside so many amazing patriots serving in our special operations and intelligence communities, I know we may never have the opportunity to share the full story of these men's sacrifice," said Joe Reagan, director of military and veteran outreach for Wreaths Across America.
"This should not stop us from providing their families, and all Americans the opportunity to honor their service by saying their names in our nation's Capitol. Adding their names to the Vietnam wall alongside their 58,318 brothers and sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War is a fitting tribute to these men and a reminder to all of us that our freedom is oftentimes secured by men and women who serve in silence."
Wreaths Across America, which is looking to connect with the family members of these missing men, is encouraging the community to write to their senators and ask them to add the names to the memorial.
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
The organization's mission -- Remember, Honor, Teach -- is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as thousands of veterans' cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
For more information, visit www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.