Name: Wendell Richard Keller
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron
Date of Birth: 19 May 1934
Home City of Record: Fargo ND
Date of Loss: 01 March 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171000N 1060400E (XD134981)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident:
Virgil K. Meroney (missing)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Copyright 1991 Homecoming II Project.
The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
Maj. Wendell R. Keller was the pilot and 1Lt. Virgil K. Meroney was the bombardier/navigator of an F4D Phantom assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. On March 1, 1969, the two were sent on a combat mission which took them over Laos.
Near the Ban Karai Pass, one of several passageways in the mountains comprising the border of Laos and Vietnam, Keller and Meroney's aircraft was hit by hostile fire and crashed. No parachutes were seen and no emergency beeper signals were heard. However, it was believed that both might have safely ejected the aircraft, as they were not declared killed in action, but missing in action.
Keller and Meroney are two of nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Despite numerous statements by the Pathet Lao and scores of intelligence reports indicating that Americans were held in Laos during the war, no prisoners were released that were held in Laos. The United States has not negotiated for the release of those Americans held in Laos.
Although there is no substantive information that Keller and Meroney are still alive, evidence continues to mount that some Americans are alive and held captive. As long as even one American remains alive, held unjustly, we owe him our best effort to bring him home.
Virgil Meroney was promoted to the rank of Captain and Wendell Keller to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period they were maintained missing.