Other Personnel In Incident: Charles E. Finney (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.
SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude, carrier based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and electronic warfare platform. The A6A primarily flew close-air-support, all weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong by a single A6. Their missions were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.
1LT Steven R. Armistead was the pilot and Capt. Charles E. Finney was the bombardier/navigator on board an A6A Intruder aircraft sent on a night mission over Laos on March 17, 1969. The mission was in support of air activity being conducted by the 7th Air Force.
When the aircraft had completed its target strike, it was hit by enemy fire and went down near the city of Muong Nong, located southwest of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), in Savannakhet Province, Laos. Air searches proved unsuccessful, and both men were listed as Missing In Action.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Armistead's and Finney's classifications to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source intelligence.
Finney and Armistead are among nearly 600 Americans lost in the country of Laos during the Vietnam War. Although the numbers of men actually termed "prisoner of war" are quite low, this can be explained in understanding the blanket of security surrounding the "secret war" the U.S. waged in Laos. To protect the public perception that we "were not in Laos," details of many loss incidents were "rearranged" to show a loss or casualty in South Vietnam. Only a handful of publicly-exposed cases were ever acknowledged POW, even though scores of pilots and ground personnel were known to have been alive and well at last contact (thus increasing the chance they were captured alive).
The Lao communist faction, the Pathet Lao, stated on several occasions they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, but the Pathet Lao were not included in the Paris Peace agreements ending American involvement in the war. Consequently, no American POWs held in Laos were negotiated for. Not one American held in Laos has ever been released. They were abandoned to the enemy.
Reports continue to be received that Americans are alive today, being held captive. Whether Armistead and Finney are among them is not known. What is certain, however, is that they deserve better than the abandonment they received at the hands of the country they so proudly served.
Charles Finney attended the military academy at West Point, and had been named first, to the Marine Corps Honor Guard, and later to the Silent Drill Team. He was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period he was maintained missing.
Steven R. Armistead was promoted to the rank of Major during the period he was missing.