|In the hands of the "trash haulers", as the crews of Tactical Air Command transports styled themselves, the C130 proved the most valuable airlift instrument in the Southeast Asia conflict, so valuable that Gen. William Momyer, 7th Air Force commander, refused for a time to let them land at Khe Sanh where the airstrip was under fire from NVA troops surrounding that base.
Just following the Marine Corps operation Pegasus/Lam Son 207 in mid-April 1968, to relieve the siege of Khe Sanh, Operation Scotland II began in the Khe Sanh area, more or less as a continuation of this support effort. The C130 was critical in resupplying this area, and when the C130 couldn't land, dropped
its payload by means of parachute drop.
One of the bases from which the C130 flew was Ubon, located in northeast Thailand. C130 crews from this base crossed Laos to their objective location. One such crew was comprised of LtCol. William H. Mason and Capt. Thomas B. Mitchell, pilots; Capt. William T. McPhail, Maj. Jerry L. Chambers, SA Gary Pate, SSgt. Calvin C. Glover, AM1 Melvin D. Rash, and AM1 John Q. Adam, crew
On May 22, 1968, this crew departed Ubon on an operational mission in a C130A carrying one passenger - AM1 Thomas E. Knebel. Radio contact was lost while the aircraft was over Savannakhet Province, Laos near the city of Muong Nong,
(suggesting that its target area may have been near the DMZ - Khe Sanh). When the aircraft did not return to friendly control, the crew was declared Missing In Action from the time of estimated fuel exhaustion. There was no further word of the aircraft or its crew.
The nine members of the crew are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many are known to have been alive on the ground following their shoot downs. Although the Pathet Lao publicly stated on several occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not one American held in Laos has
ever been released. Laos did not participate in the Paris Peace accords ending American involvment in the war in 1973, and no treaty has ever been signed that would free the Americans held in Laos, and not one of them has returned home.
(William Mason was a 1946 graduate of West Point. Thomas Mitchell was a 1963 graduate of the Air Force Academy.)