Name: Delbert Austin Olson
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Observation Squadron 67
Date of Birth: 04 January 1926
Home City of Record: Casselton ND
Date of Loss: 11 January 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171800N 1055258E (WE938123)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident:
Denis Anderson; Richard Mancini; Arthur C. Buck; Michael Roberts; Gale Siow; Phillip Stevens; Donald Thoresen, Kenneth Widon (all missing)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1990 with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
CRASH CNFM - WE 938123 - NO SERCH -J
The Lockheed P2 "Neptune" was originally designed for submarine searching, using magnetic detection gear or accoustic buoys. Besides flying maritime reconnaissance, the aircraft served as an experimental night attack craft in the attempt to interdict the movement of enemy truck convoys. Another model, the OP2E, dropped electronic sensors to detect truck movements along the supply route through Laos known as the "Ho Chi Minh Trail".
The Ho Chi Minh Trail was used by the North Vietnamese for transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful and the recovery rate was high.
Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact with search and rescue and other planes; some were known to have been captured. Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke of American prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated, Laos was not included, and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos.
Delbert Olson was the pilot of an OP2E electronic observation aircraft assigned to Observation Squadron 67 at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. On January 11, 1968, he and a crew of eight, including Denis Anderson, were dispatched on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos. The aircraft lost radio and radar contact at 9:57 a.m. When the plane failed to return within a reasonable time, an extensive visual, electronic and photographic search was conducted in the area of the aircraft's last known position.
On January 23, a USAF A1 located a suspected crash site. On January 25th an O2 from the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron photographed the site. Using the photographs for photo interpretation, and in conjunction with visual air reconnaissance of the site, it was determined that the wreckage was that of Commander Olson's aircraft. The aircraft crashed on the northern side of a sheer cliff, 150 feet below the 4583 foot summit line, about 15 kilometers northeast of Ban Nalouangnua, Khammouane Province, Laos. It was decided that all indications were that there were no survivors and most probably no identifiable remains. Because of the heavy jungle canopy, irregular terrain and the close proximity of enemy forces, no ground team was inserted to inspect the crash site for remains. There was no indication as to the exact cause of the crash.
All members of the crew were placed in an initial casualty status of Missing In Action. On February 23, 1968, the crew was placed in a casualty status of Presumed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
The crew of the OP2E lost on January 11, 1968 are among nearly 600 Americans lost in Laos. Because Laos was not a party to the agreements ending the war, no Americans held by Laos were ever released. Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have convinced many experts that hundreds of Americans are still being held captive in Southeast Asia. While the crew of the OP2E may not be among them, one can imagine them proudly flying one more mission to bring home the evidence needed to bring them to freedom.