Name: Donald Kenneth Springsteadah
Rank/Branch: E6//US Air Force
Unit: (See Text)
Date of Birth: 23 October 1932
Home City of Record: Millville NJ
Date of Loss: 11 March 1968
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 202600N 1034400E (UH680600)
Status (in 1973): Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident:
Clarence Blanton; James Calfee; James Davis; Henry Gish; Willis Hall; Melvin Holland; Herbert Kirk; David Price; Patrick Shannon; Don Worley (all missing from Lima 85); Donald Westbrook (missing from SAR 13 March)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 April 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
When Donald Springsteadah volunteered for a sensitive assignment called Project Heavy Green, his wife had to sign a secrecy agreement too. Springsteadah, an Air Force man, was to be temporarily relieved of duty to take a civilian job with Lockheed Aircraft. He would be on the team running Lima 85, a radar base in Laos, whose neutrality prohibited U.S. military presence, so it was necessary for Holland to work as a civilian. No one was to know.
Lima 85 was on a peak in the Annam Highlands near the village of Sam Neua on a 5860 ft. mountain called Phou Pha Thi. The mountain was protected by sheer cliffs on three sides, and guarded by 300 tribesmen working for CIA. Unarmed U.S. "civilians" operated the radar which swept across the Tonkin Delta to Hanoi, guiding U.S. aircraft to their targets in North Vietnam.
For three months in early 1968, a steady stream of intelligence was received which indicated that communist troops were about to launch a major attack on Lima 85. Intelligence watched as enemy troops even built a road to the area to facilitate moving heavy weapons, but the site was so important that William H. Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, made the decision to leave the men in place. When the attack came March 11, some were rescued by helicopter, but eleven men were missing. The President announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam.
Donald Westbrook was flying one of four A1E's orbiting on stand-by to search for survivors of the attack at Phou Pha Thi when his plane was shot down March 13. Westbrook was never found. Finding no survivors, the Air Force destroyed Lima 85 to prevent the equipment from falling into the hands of the enemy.
In mid March, Flora Springsteadah was notified that Lima Site 85 had been over- run by enemy forces, and that her husband and the others who had not escaped had been killed. Many years later, she learned that was not the whole truth.
Two separate reports indicate that all the men missing at Phou Pha Thi did not die. One report suggests that at least one of the 11 was captured, and another indicates that 6 were captured. Information has been hard to get. The fact that Lima Site 85 existed was only declassified in 1983, and finally the wives could be believed when they said their husbands were missing in Laos. Some of the men's files were shown to their families for the first time in 1985. Officially, the U.S. Air Force "civilians" were assigned to the 1043rd Radar Evaluation Squadron at Bolling AFB in Washington D.C.
Flora Springsteadah and the other wives have talked and compared notes. They still feel there is a lot of information to be had. They think someone survived the attack on Lima Site 85 that day in March 1968. They wonder if their country will bring those men home.