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2000 by Stephen A. Judycki.  All Rights Reserved.

John Francis Overlock
by Stephen Judycki


          U.S. Air Force Major John Francis Overlock of Springfield, Massachusetts, was assigned to the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) at Tuy Hoa Airbase, South Vietnam. His temporary duty assignment was with the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Phu Cat Airbase, South Vietnam (Reel 159 p. 9). 

          On August 16, 1968, Major Overlock departed Phu Cat at 0608 on a single-plane, forward air controller (FAC) mission over North Vietnam. The intended target was RP-1. He was the front seat pilot in a camouflaged, North American F-100F Super Sabre - tail number 56-3865. Occupying the back seat position was Major Michael D. McElhanon of Bonham, Texas. Although McElhanon was the senior officer and pilot, he functioned as the co-pilot on this mission (Reel 159 p. 9). 

          The F-100 was the first fighter to fly faster than sound. Nicknamed the 'Hun' after its numerical designation, the first production model flew on October 29, 1953. From 1957, the Hun equipped sixteen USAF wings, and in Vietnam various models flew with such intensity that by 1969, just four wings (the 3rd TFW, 31st TFW, 35th TFW and 37th TFW) had exceeded the number of missions flown by the 15,000-plus Mustangs in World War II. The 'F' model, the sixth and final model of the F-100, changed the single seat aircraft into a two-seater. The fuselage was extended to accommodate tandem dual-control cockpits with a one-piece clamshell canopy. Lost in the design was some fuel capacity and two of the four M-39 20mm guns in the nose (Aerospace Publishing; Drendel p. 4-5).

          All tactical strike aircraft operating in Southeast Asia had to be under the control of a FAC, who was familiar with the locale and the tactical situation. It was the FAC who would find the target, order up fighter/bomber aircraft from a command and control station based in the air or on the ground, mark the target, and then remain on station throughout the operation and make a bomb damage assessment upon its completion. FAC missions were flown in several aircraft types, including slower Cessna models. When FAC missions were flown in faster aircraft, such as the F-100, they were called the "Misty" FAC. On this mission, Major Overlock's call sign was Misty 11 and the airborne command and control station was called Cricket Control (P.O.W. Network; Reel 159 p.9). 

          There were scattered clouds in the area at 2,000 feet and broken clouds to 9,000 feet; visibility was unrestricted. At 0845, Misty 11 reported its position to Cricket Control as 106 degrees 50 minutes east, 17 degrees 31 minutes north. At 0858 they reported to Cricket Control that they were leaving the area to rendezvous with a tanker over the Gulf of Tonkin, but they did not give their position nor indicate they were experiencing any difficulty. This was their last radio transmission as their next scheduled report at 0925 was not received (Reel 159 p. 29).

          At 0950, another FAC arrived in the area and attempted to contact Misty 11 for possible target information. When contact could not be established, the FAC initiated a check with other airfields to determine if Misty 11 had diverted, but received negative replies. He then contacted the refueling tanker and learned that the aircraft had not arrived to refuel. Misty 11 was presumed to be down in the area along a line from the point of last contact east to the tanker. At approximately 1035, the FAC and other search aircraft initiated a visual and electronic search over the intended flight path and continued to search until dusk with negative results. The search area was varied, consisting of rugged, forested mountains, a highly populated flat coastal plain containing small villages, and a portion of the Gulf of Tonkin. The search was resumed at dawn, but was formally terminated on the evening of August 17 due to negative results (Reel 159 p. 29). 

          The 37th TFW was informed at 1045 on August 16 that Misty 11 was presumed down and the status of the pilots was unknown. The 37th Combat Support Group (CSG) of Phu Cat Air Base, South Vietnam initiated a "Casualty Report, Initial, Missing in Action, Battle," which stated, "a visual and electronic search was initiated at 1105 and is continuing." The report also indicated that the parents - Theresa M. Overlock, Francis J. Overlock, Dorothy T. McElhanon and Samuel O. McElhanon - and the wives - Theresa M. Overlock and Naomi Frances McElhanon - would be notified by Headquarters Staff, USAF. On August 17 the 37th CSG initiated a "Casualty Report, Supplemental, Missing in Action, Battle," which stated that a change in the missing status was determined to be unwarranted based on the fact that "the area is extremely hostile and parts of it are heavily forested, hampering an air search. It is considered possible that pilots landed safely and were captured or are evading" (Reel 159 p. 11-21).

          On September 23, 1968, the 37th CSG sent a message to the Air Force Military Personnel Center (USAFMPC) at Randolph AFB, Texas indicating that the position of Misty 11 had been established at 325 degrees, 58 nautical miles from Dong Ha TACAN at 0845. This position would have placed them at 17 degrees 39 minutes north, 106 degrees 2 minutes east. On September 25, USAFMPC sent a message to the 37th CSG requesting them to confirm the figures provided in their message of the previous day, and to provide an estimated position of Misty 11 at 0858. On September 27, the 37th CSG sent a message to USAFMPC confirming the figures and stating, "Unit Commander indicates that during the period from 0845 to 0858 Misty 11 was probably continuing to search for targets while flying at a level below which radar could observe him. His radio contact at 0858, indicating he was going out to refuel, would normally have been made at about the time he approached the coastline heading for the tanker. However, there is no way to confirm that he was over land or water at the time of the last radio contact. Best estimate of position at the time of last radio contact is between position at 0845 and the coast" (Reel 159 p. 22-24). 

          In August 1969, an investigation and review of the case of the officers missing since August 16, 1968 was completed. Pursuant to Section 555, Title 37, USC, an official determination was made to continue the MIA status of Lieutenant Colonels McElhanon and Overlock (they were promoted in abstentia) upon the expiration of 12 months' absence, effective August 17, 1969. Official reports announcing the continuation of MIA status were issued and next of kin were notified of this action (Reel 159 p. 25). 

          On September 16, 1975, Colonel A. W. Gratch at the Air Force Military Personnel Center, Randolph AFB, Texas conducted a status review hearing in the case of Lieutenant Colonel John Francis Overlock. The review hearing was conducted pursuant to Chapter 10, Title 37, USC, and Air Force Regulation 35-43. The hearing convened at 0900. Mrs. Beverly J. Overlock requested to appear at the hearing without counsel and was present. Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Overlock were notified of the hearing but chose not to appear. Major Ed Silverbush, Chief, Missing Persons, briefed Mrs. Overlock on the facts and circumstances of the incident, after the case file, including previously classified information, was made available to her. He told her that no accounting for either officer was ever received from the North Vietnamese government or their allies, and their names never appeared in the prisoner communication channels, which have proven reliable. In addition, no information pertaining to them has ever been obtained from any official or unofficial source. Mrs. Overlock raised no objections nor offered anything further concerning the issue of whether Colonel Overlock may be reasonably presumed to be alive. Upon completion of the hearing, Colonel Hatch advised Mrs. Overlock he would recommend her husband be terminated by a finding of death under Title 37, Section 555, USC (Reel 159 p. 28-29).

          On September 17, 1975, Colonel Gratch submitted his recommendation to the Secretary of the Air Force. He referenced a memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense, dated August 17, 1973, regarding "Changes Of Status Of Servicemen Who Did Not Return From Southeast Asia." This memorandum requested that the Service Secretaries make each proposed status change a matter for their personal attention, and it was the desire of the Secretary of the Air Force to personally review each case. Colonel Gratch referenced the status review hearing of the previous day, and attached a memorandum that proposed a change of status from missing in action to killed in action for Lieutenant Colonel Overlock (Reel 159 p. 31-32). 

          On October 9, 1975, Colonel Gratch received a letter from Major General Walter D. Druen Jr., Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel. The letter stated, "Pursuant to authority delegated to me by the Secretary of the Air Force under the provisions of Chapter 10, Title 37, United States Code, and following a full review of the case, I find that Lieutenant John F. Overlock, 125-28-2195FR, can no longer reasonably be presumed to be living. His missing in action status is therefore terminated by a finding of death pursuant to the authority contained in Section 555, Chapter 10, Title 37, United States Code, and an official casualty report will be issued to include a statement that this finding was made following a subsequent review of all available information and, as provided by and for the purposes of the cited law, the date death is presumed to have occurred is the date I have signed this action. Death is held to have occurred while in a pay, flying pay, and duty status" (Reel 159 p. 33).

          Major General Druen then sent letters to Mrs. Beverly J. Overlock and to Mr. and Mrs. Francis J. Overlock. The letters announced the official change of status, and explained that October 9, 1975 was not considered to be the actual or probable date of death, but is established in accordance with the cited law for the purpose of terminating pay and settling accounts. Beverly Overlock's letter encouraged her contact base assistance personnel for assistance in obtaining allowable benefits. It also offered the assistance of the Mortuary Branch at USAF Headquarters in Washington, DC in arranging a Memorial Service. Francis and Theresa Overlock's letter was slightly longer and contained a summary of facts that Beverly Overlock had received at the status review hearing the previous month. The only new information presented in these letters was related to the position of Misty 11 at 0845 on August 16, 1968. It stated that their position of 325 degrees, 58 nautical miles from Dong Ha, South Vietnam would have placed them at about ten nautical miles northwest of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Both letters were very thoughtful and sincere in their extension of condolences. They iterated that the Air Force was continuing its efforts to secure the necessary fact "which may lead to the recovery and identification of the remains of all our personnel lost in Southeast Asia." The Overlocks were assured that they would be notified immediately if any information was received about the remains of John F. Overlock. Copies of the letters were sent to the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (Reel 159 p. 35-38).

          On July 17, 1989, USAFMPC received a letter from the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) at Naval Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii. The subject line was "DETAILED REPORT OF JOINT INVESTIGATION PERTAINING TO MAJOR MICHAEL O. MCELHANON, REFNO 1250-01 AND MAJOR JOHN F. OVERLOCK, REFNO 1250-02." Enclosed with this letter was a copy of a message from the JCRC Liaison in Bangkok, Thailand, dated March 14, 1989. The original message was sent to JCRC Barbers Point, Hawaii, with copies to: Whitehouse National Security Council, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency. The subject line was "DETAILED REPORT OF INVESTIGATION OF A 1968 AIRCRAFT INCIDENT IN NHAN TRACH VILLAGE" (Reel 159 p. 44, 39). 

          From January 18 - 20, 1989, a joint United States - Vietnam investigation team investigated incidents involving the loss of American aircraft in Nhan Trach Village, Bo Trach District, Binh Tri Thien Province. The American team leaders were James M. Coyle, Team Leader; MSGT Richard L. John, JCRC Analyst; and MSG Richard B. Huston, Search and Recovery Specialist. Vietnamese team members were Lai Xuan Chieu, Team Leader; Luu Van Tho, and Nguyen Hong Dung. Major Ha Hien Luong of the Binh Tri Thien Province Military Command accompanied the team (Reel 159 p. 40).

          On January 20, 1989, the team returned to Ly Nhon Bac (pronounced LYS NHOWN BAWCS) Hamlet, on the northern band of the Song Dinh River, to investigate the reported crash of an American aircraft. Ly Nhon Bac is the part of Nhan Trach in which burial sites had been reported. There the team once again met Ngo Xe (pronounced NGOO XEE), former leader of the Nhan Trach Village Militia, who had previously provided the team with information on burial sites, which were not related to RefNo 1250. Xe led the team to an open sandy area lying on the northern edge of the hamlet, saying that an A-6A aircraft had crashed there at about 0300 hours on August 16, 1968. The team conducted a survey that yielded results as follows: "The reported crash site is located at XE676418, in an open area of sand which slopes slightly to the east, at the northern edge of Ly Nhon Bac Hamlet. The soil shows evidence of recent disturbance (it is both darker in color than the surrounding sand, and its surface is rougher. A number of small pieces of plastic, rubber, and fabric lie scattered about the area. Use of the metal detector produced numerous readings indicating the presence of a substantial amount of sub-surface metal. The team took photographs of the site and fixed its location by compass readings." At a private home in Ly Nhon Bac Hamlet, local residents displayed for the team two small pieces of wreckage which they claimed to have removed from the crash site as souvenirs. The team examined the pieces, photographed them, and recorded the following identification numbers from them: "359901AE (with the A circled), 99193A (with the A circled), 0001 and 71613." Then, in order to escape the large and unruly crowd which had been hindering the survey, the team led Xe away to interview him in a more private location (Reel 159 p. 40). 

          Xe told the team that at 0300 on August 16, 1968, he had been taking his shift in his fighting position when an American aircraft, either an A-6A or an A-37, came streaking over the village toward the sea at a very low level (Xe estimated 300 - 500 meters altitude). The aircraft was struck by 12.7mm anti-aircraft fire, burst into flames, and crashed into the dunes almost immediately. There were no other aircraft in the area at the time. At about 0500 Xe went out to examine the crash site. The aircraft wreckage was deeply embedded in the sand, with only its tail visible. Xe saw the numbers "A-37" on the tail of the aircraft, which is why he believes it to have been an A-37. When asked to describe the aircraft, Xe could only say that it was "BIG" (the word accompanied by a sudden and dramatic spread of the arms, and that it had a delta wing configuration. He did not see it clearly in the air because everything happened so quickly. At the crash site Xe saw no trace of the pilot, and as the aircraft was no longer burning and appeared to pose to threat to the village, he went back to his bunker. Since that time he has neither seen nor heard of anyone discovering remains at or removing them from that site. Xe knew of no additional incidents, other than those previously reported that were not related to RefNo 1250 (Reel 159 p. 40-41).

          On the way back to Dong Hoi, Major Luong told James Coyle that while the team had been conducting their survey of the crash site, he had heard from local residents that a number of them had recently uncovered the wreckage of the crashed aircraft, intending to sell it to a scrap dealer in Hue. When the Bo Trach District authorities learned of this arrangement, however, they ordered those people to fill in the pit they had dug. The locals invested a substantial amount of money in this abortive excavation, and they are afraid the U.S. now wants to take the wreckage away. Luong added that before the pit was filled in, some local children found a piece of silk in the wreckage. On the silk was some writing and a picture of the American flag. Unfortunately, the silk was torn apart when the children quarreled over the possession of it (Reel 159 p. 41).

          The team recommended that a full-sized recovery team with special equipment be moved into Nhan Trach Village to excavate the crash site and the isolated burial located 400 meters away. MSGT John commented that the only aircraft lost over North Vietnam on August 16, 1968 was an F-100 involved in the RefNo 1250 incident, which was heading out to the Gulf of Tonkin to refuel when it disappeared. He stated that the information provided by Xe suggests a possible correlation. James Coyle commented that the interference of large numbers of curious and disorderly onlookers "was a serious problem during the site survey, more so than at any other site investigated by this team during the entire joint search effort. The crowd simply did not respond to the feeble efforts of the local officials and Vietnamese members of the joint team to restrict their encroachment on the site. There was no apparent threat to the physical security of team members, but it was extremely difficult for the team to work in such conditions. If this site is to be the subject of a future excavation, the U.S. must insist that Vietnamese authorities provide better security. The hearsay information provided by Major Luong, if reliable, strongly suggests that there may still be remains at this site" (Reel 159 p. 42-43).

          On August 31, 1990, the JCRC, Casualty Data Division, generated a biographic/site report on RefNo 1250-0-02, John Francis Overlock. In this report, new information not presented in earlier documents included: Blood Chit No: 06398: Military Region: 4; Mission Province: Quang Binh; Engine Type: Pratt & Whitney J57-21A; Engine Serial Number: F603786; Major Coordinate Change: January 19, 1977 - Incident/last known location changed from XE 945375(OW) to XE 590445 based on AF FM 484 with witness statements and MFR, USAFMPC, September 12, 1975 (Reel 159 p. 45-46).

          On June 17, 1992, the Commander, JTF-FA, Honolulu, Hawaii, sent a message to USAFMPC with copies to Bureau of Personnel; CJTFFA Det One, Bangkok, Thailand; Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of Defense; Defense Intelligence Agency; White House National Security Council; Secretary of State; et al. The subject line was "EVALUATION OF ITEMS EXAMINED AT THE QUANG BINH PROVINCIAL MUSUEM". Information provided in this message indicated a correlation to 12 case reference numbers including RefNo 1250. Among the items examined and analyzed were photographs with captions, aircraft data plates, flight helmets, and nametags. Pertinent to RefNo 1250 was a data plate from an F100 aircraft, bearing museum reference numbers BTQB 883/KL.95. It was identified with the following: "ORIGIN: Data plate from the pilot's seat of an American aircraft. HISTORY: The seat of an American air pirate shot down on this spot by our troops at 0830 18.8.1968." Team members transcribed information from the data plate as closely as possible to the manner in which it appeared on the plate:

North American Aviation Inc.
-Part Name
-Seat Assembly
Part No. Model
243-53009-21 F100F
Order No. Serial No.
AF 33 (600) 31863 380 143
Inspect. Date
(Stamp) 9-20-57
IF 100-7888 (Blank)
1018 (Blank)
(Blank) (Blank)
Property of U.S. Government

          The JTFFA stated that this item possibly correlates to RefNo 1250 based on date, time, and aircraft type. 

...the case of John Francis Overlock is still unresolved.

Partial Bibliography

Uncorrelated Information Related to Missing Americans in Southeast Asia
United States Library of Congress, Washington, DC
POW/MIA Database on Microfilm
Reference Number 1250-0-02, John Francis Overlock


Reel 159 - pages 1-9. Photos, Personal Data, Mission Data, Incident Summary.

Reel 159 - pages 10-11. 37 TFW Phu Cat AB RVN. Re: "INCIDENT NARRATIVE." Message to CINCPAC, et al. 16 Aug. 1968 

Reel 159 - pages 12-13. 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN. "SUBJ: CASUALTY REPORT, INITIAL, MISSING IN ACTION, BATTLE" for Overlock. Message to CSAF, et al. 16 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 14-16. 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN. "SUBJ: CASUALTY REPORT, INITIAL, MISSING IN ACTION, BATTLE" for McElhanon. Message to CSAF, et al. 16 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - page 17. 31 CMBTSPTGP Tuy Hoa AB RVN. Re: "CASUALTY REPORT. SUPPLEMENTAL MISSING IN ACTION, BATTLE" for Overlock. Message to CSAF, et al. 17 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 18-19. 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN. "SUBJ: CASUALTY REPORT, SUPPLEMENTARY MISSING IN ACTION, BATTLE" for McElhanon. Message to CSAF, et al. 17 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 20-21. 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN. "SUBJ: SUPPLEMENTARY MISSING IN ACTION BATTLE" for Overlock. Message to CSAF, et al. 17 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 23. USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas. Re: estimated position of Misty 11 at last radio transmission. Message to 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN, et al. 25 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 24. 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN. Re: estimated position of Misty 11 at last radio transmission. Message to USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas, et al. 27 Aug. 1968.

Reel 159 - pages 25. USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas. Re: continuation of MIA status for Overlock. Message to 37 CMBTSPTGP Phu Cat AB RVN, et al. 16 Aug. 1969.

Reel 159 - pages 28-30. Col. A.W. Gratch, USAF. "SUBJECT: REPORT OF STATUS REVIEW HEARING ON LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOHN F. OVERLOCK." Memorandum to AF/DPM. 16 Sep. 1975.

Reel 159 - pages 31-32. Col. A.W. Gratch, USAF. Re: request for presumptive finding of death for Overlock. Memorandum to AF/DPM. 17 Sep. 1975.

Reel 159 - page 33. Maj. Gen. Walter D. Druen, USAF. Re: issuance of presumptive finding of death for Overlock. Memorandum to AF/DPM. 9 Oct. 1975.

Reel 159 - page 34. USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas. Re: termination of MIA status for Overlock. Message to CINCPACAF Hickam AFB Hawaii. 9 Oct. 1975.

Reel 159 - pages 35-36. Maj. Gen. Walter D. Druen, USAF. Re: presumptive finding of death. Letter to Mrs. John F. Overlock. 9 Oct. 1975.

Reel 159 - pages 37-38. Maj. Gen. Walter D. Druen, USAF. Re: presumptive finding of death. Letter to Mrs. and Mrs. Francis J. Overlock. 9 Oct. 1975.

Reel 159 - pages 39-43. Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) Liaison Bangkok, Thailand. "SUBJ: DETAILED REPORT OF INVESTIGATION OF A 1968 AIRCRAFT INCIDENT IN NHAN TRACH VILLAGE." Message to JCRC Barbers Point Hawaii. 14 Mar. 1989.

Reel 159 - page 44. JCRC Barbers Point Hawaii. Re: detailed report of investigation of a 1968 aircraft incident in Nhan Trach village. Memorandum to USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas. 17 Jul. 1989.

Reel 159 - pages 45-46. JCRC Casualty Data Division. Biographic/Site Report for Overlock. 31 Aug. 1990.

Reel 159 - pages 47-53. Joint Task Force Full Accounting (JTTFA) Honolulu Hawaii. "SUBJ: EVALUATION OF ITEMS EXAMINED AT THE QUANG BINH PROVINCIAL MUSUEUM." Message to USAFMPC Randolph AFB Texas. 13 Jun. 1992.

Reel 472 - pages 418-423. JTTFA. Biographic/Site Report for McElhanon and Overlock. 5 Aug. 1998.

Other Sources:

Aerospace Publishing, Ltd. 1997-2000, "North American F-100 Super Sabre", (http://www.airpower.co.uk/ency/F/F-100.asp, on September 18, 2000).

Drendel, Lou, Century Series in Color, (Carrollton, Texas:  Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1980).

P.O.W. Network 1998. 

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