Name: Thomas William Knuckey
Rank/Branch: O2/US Army
Unit: Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry, 12th Aviation Group
Date of Birth: 02 June 1945 (Morriston NJ)
Home City of Record: Wharton NJ
Date of Loss: 27 May 1971
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 120105N 1063133E (XU661289)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident:
Phillip C. Taylor (missing)
On May 27, 1971, 1Lt. Thomas W. Knuckey was the pilot and Sgt. Phillip C. Taylor the observer on board an OH58A helicopter which was part of a force conducting battle damage assessment (BDA) in Kracheh Province, Cambodia, where air strikes had been made in attempts to destroy an enemy machine gun position. The location of the gun emplacement was near the border of Cambodia and South Vietnam, about 8 miles southeast of the city of Snuol.
During Knuckey's final pass over the gun emplacement, his aircraft was hit by enemy groundfire, and exploded while still in flight. The helicopter then crashed and exploded a second time and burned. Witnesses reported that the crew could not have survived. Because of heavy enemy activity in the area, a ground search was not possible.
Knuckey and Taylor were listed as killed, bodies not recovered. They are among nearly 2500 Americans who remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam war. The cases of some, like Knuckey and Taylor, seem clear - that they perished and cannot be recovered.
In 1988, the government of Cambodia announced to the press that it had a number of American remains it wished to return to the U.S. (in fact, the number announced was more than are officially listed as missing in Cambodia). Despite the efforts of several U.S. Congressmen, these remains have never been returned because the U.S. will not make an official response to Cambodia, a government it does not diplomatically recognize.
It is not thought that many of the men lost in Cambodia survived, primarily because of Pol Pot's mass genocide after American involvement in Southeast Asia ended. Unfortunately, mounting evidence indicates that hundreds of Americans are still captive in Vietnam and Laos, waiting for the country they proudly served to secure their freedom. While Knuckey and Taylor may not be among those said to be still alive, we can honor their sacrifice by refusing to allow political pandering to prevent the return of their bodies.
We can honor the sacrifices of all who died in Vietnam by insisting that all living prisoners of war are returned home. There can be no other honorable end to the war in Vietnam.