Name: Darel Dean Leetun
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 24 December 1932
Home City of Record: Hettinger ND
Date of Loss: 17 September 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213900N 1063000E (XJ552946)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident:
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was constantly under revision.
Maj. Darel D. Leetun was an F105D pilot assigned a combat mission over North Vietnam on September 17, 1966. When Leetun was over Lang Son Province about halfway between the cities of Kep and Loc Binh, the aircraft was shot down. The possibility that Leetun ejected safely existed, and he was classified Missing in Action. The U.S. believes the Vietnamese could probably account for him, but they deny knowledge of him.
Nearly 2500 Americans did not come home from the war in Vietnam. In nearly half those cases, there is ample reason to believe that the Vietnamese and their communist allies know the fates of the men. Some hundred were known to be held as prisoners, and some were photographed in captivity.
Years after our military involvement ended, reports of Americans held captive continue to mount. Thousands of reports have been received indicating that Americans are still being held prisoner in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Government continues to press the Vietnamese for information, as it has for nearly 15 years. The U.S. views the problem as humanitarian, while the Vietnamese are concerned with reconstruction aid promised by signed agreement but not delivered. Until we are willing to negotiate for their release, these Americans will die in communist prisons wondering why their country abandoned them.
Darel D. Leetun was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.