Name: Martin William Steen
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 02 February 1936
Home City of Record: Grand Forks ND
Date of Loss: 31 May 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213530N 1043911E (VJ630860)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident:
GOOD CHUTE; HARNESS EMPTY
Capt. Martin Steen was assigned an operational mission over North Vietnam on May 31, 1966. His F105D was one of a group of "Thuds" that would, during the course of the war, make more strikes against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. The Thunderchief also sustained more losses than any other U.S. aircraft. Steen departed his base at Korat in south central Thailand, flew north over Laos and turned eastward into North Vietnam to a target along the Red River about 80 miles northwest of Hanoi.
On egress from the target, Steen radioed that his aircraft had control difficulties and he would have to eject. From here, the story fragments. According to Defense Department notations, a parachute was seen functioning normally, but the harness was empty (indicating that either Capt. Steen was improperly harnessed and fell - or that the parachute was seen on the ground, discarded). The Air Force states that Capt. Steen landed, observed, in a mountainous area and that emergency beeper signals were heard during descent and after landing. Further, the Air Force states that rescue attempts were made, but that Capt. Steen could not be located.
It is interesting to note that Capt. Steen went down only a few miles from Yen Bai, where American Prisoners of War were known to have been held, including Robert Garwood, who was released long after the war was over.
Since the war in Southeast Asia ended in 1973, thousands of reports of Americans still in captivity have been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no conclusive proof has been obtained that is current enough to act upon. Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.
Men like Martin Steen went to Southeast Asia because they were asked to do so by the country they loved and served. That country, in turn, must do everything in its power to recover them .. alive.