Harold Benton Lineberger, MIA
Harold Benton Lineberger
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 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: DEAD/IR 6 918 7335 74
Synopsis: Major Harold Lineberger was assigned to the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron operating from Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. Lineberger's unit operated in northeastern Cambodia flying aerial reconnaissance and interdiction missions. They would try to stop motorized sampans on the Mekong River between Laos and South Vietnam as well as to stop vehicles on Route 13, the main highway running from Saigon through Cambodia into Laos.
(Note: Air Force records list Lineberger's unit as the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ubon.)
Lineberger normally teamed up with John evans, an aerial combat photographer. On the morning of January 29, 1971, however, Lineberger departed Ubon alone in an OV10A Bronco to return to an area he and evans had been to on January 26 and 27. They had destroyed several motorized sampans on the Mekong close to Sambor village, a small settlement on Route 13 ten miles north of the provincial capitol of Kratie. On January 27, they had seen what appeared to be an abandoned truck, and it was Lineberger's plan to go back to destroy it . Evans took off with another pilot to photograph other possible targets, and the two were to relieve Lineberger at about 0900 hours.
As they flew out to relieve Lineberger, they attempted to raise him by radio, without success. They later learned that contact with Lineberger had been lost at 06:43 hours when he reported his position as being 27 miles WSW of Stung Treng and 51 miles NNW of Sambor, Cambodia. He never returned from the mission.
Search efforts were conducted in the area for the next several days, but no trace of Lineberger's plane was found. Evans had seen intelligence that any Air Force personnel who were captured were summarily executed by the Khmer Rouge, who controlled their entire area of operations. He didn't hold out much hope, but the fate of his friend and pilot haunted him.
On March 25, 1971, a Khmer Rouge rallier reported during interrogation that he had observed an OV10 near Kratie during the time Lineberger disappeared. The rallier had gone to the crash site with a friend and had been told by villagers that the aircraft flew over in a wavering pattern, went into a dive, crashed and exploded. The source had seen two badly burned bodies in the cockpit — one very large in the front, and one small and skinny in the rear seat. The bodies were removed from the aircraft and buried.
The Air Force determined that the source had not correctly identified what was in the back seat and mistakenly believed it was a body. They correlated this report to Major Lineberger, who had flown alone.
Lineberger is one of nearly 2500 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War. Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have been received on these men, convincing many authorities that hundreds are still alive in captivity. Whether Lineberger is among those who survived and are still alive or whether he died when his plane went down may never be known. One of the few people still looking for him is his friend, John evans.
Operation Just Cause
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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