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Tilden Stewart Holley, MIA

Name: Tilden Stewart Holley
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 04 June 1935
Home City of Record: Cameron, Texas
Date of Loss: 20 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 174000N 1062900e (Xe573537)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C

Other Personnel in Incident: James A. Ketterer (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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.

Remarks: ejected; Killed in Shootout

Synopsis: The Phantom F4 was used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings. It served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

Capt. Tilden S. Holley was the pilot of an F4C in a flight of two aircraft dispatched from Da Nang on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. An armed reconnaissance mission's purpose was to seek out enemy targets and strike them. Holley's backseater on the mission was 1Lt. James A. Ketterer, whose responsibility was to operate the bombing equipment and other technical equipment onboard the aircraft.

While striking a target near the city of Quang Khe in Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, flight members observed an orange streak of light through the clouds while Holley's aircraft was making passes over the target. A brief beeper was heard after the light was seen, but no radio transmissions were received and no parachutes were observed. Evidently, the aircraft had been hit by enemy fire.

even though the Air Force states that no parachutes were seen, and no emergency radio beepers were heard, subsequent information is included in the Defense Department raw data which may reveal the fates of Ketterer and Holley. The DIA notation on Holley's incident indicates that he successfully ejected from the aircraft, but was killed in a shootout with enemy troops in the area. Ketterer's DIA remarks simply state he is dead, and list the report code numbers.

Because these men were not found presumptively dead until 1978, it must be concluded that the DIA reports relating to the two were not confirmed. If they had been confirmed reports, these two men would have had timely status changes to Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. The possibility exists, therefore, that the two did not die at the point they reached the ground. The possibility exists, also, that the two were captured alive.

Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago enemy.

All the information on Holley, Ketterer, and hundreds of other Americans is not yet in. As long as reports continue to be received, the hope that some of them are still alive will persist. 


More Information: (This supplemental information is from the City of West Point, Mississippi. I was alerted to this information through the efforts of Rosie Keller.)

Mr. Holley was a graduate of West Point High School, and earned his college degree in business from the University of Omaha in Nebraska. At the University he served in the Aviation Cadet Program and received his commission in the Air Force in 1956.

In September 1967, he was assigned duty in Vietnam, and had been in country since that time. He was assigned to the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang Airbase in Vietnam. Lieutenant Colonel Holley has been missing in action since his plane was shot down over North Vietnam on November 20, 1968. He was 43 years old when he was declared a casualty.

He was declared killed in action on June 7, 1978. His body was never recovered.

Colonel Holley's name can be found in Panel 34e - Line 87 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.


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Biographical and loss information on POW's provided by Operation Just Cause have been supplied by Chuck and Mary Schantag of POW Network and Patty and Col. Earl Hopper Sr. of Task Force Omega. It has been supplemented with additional biographical information from Scope Systems.

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