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A special tribute to SSgt Alfons Bankowski, missing in action, 23 March 1961, Laos.


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SSgt Alfons Bankowski POW-MIA Bracelet


Panel 01E - - Line 1

Name: Alfons Aloyze Bankowski
Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force
Unit: 314th Air Division - Osan Airbase, Korea
Date of Birth: 15 June 1930
Home City of Record: Stamford CT
Loss Date: 23 March 1961
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 192855N 1031014E (UG081550)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: C47
Refno: 0004

Other Personnel in Incident: Lawrence Bailey (released 1962); Frederick
Garside; Ralph W. Magee; Glenn Matteson; Leslie V. Sampson; Edgar Weitkamp;
Oscar Weston (all missing)


Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998.

SYNOPSIS: Henry Kissinger once predicted that an "unfortunate" by-product of
"limited political engagements" would be personnel who could not be recovered.
On March 23, 1961, one of the first group of Americans to fall into that
"unfortunate" category were shot from the sky by Pathet Lao antiaircraft guns.
Most Americans at that time did not even know that the United States had
military personnel in Southeast Asia. In fact, most Americans had not even
heard of the name "Laos". The Geneva Agreements had yet to be signed; air
rescue teams had yet to arrive in Southeast Asia.

The C47 aircraft crew consisted of 1Lt. Ralph W. Magee, pilot; 1Lt. Oscar B.
Weston, co-pilot; 2Lt. Glenn Matteson, navigator; SSgt. Alfons A. Bankowski,
flight engineer; SSgt. Frederick T. Garside, assistant flight engineer; SSgt.
Leslie V. Sampson, radio operator; and passengers Maj. Lawrence R. Bailey and
WO1 Edgar W. Weitkamp. Bailey and Weitkamp were assigned to the Army Attache
Office at Vientiane, Laos. The aircraft crew were all Air Force personnel
flying from the 315th Air Division, Osan Airbase, Korea.

This C47 was a specially modified intelligence-gathering SC-47 which took off
from Vientiane for Saigon. The passengers and crew were bound for "R & R" in
the "Paris of the Orient". Before heading for Saigon, the pilot turned north
toward Xieng Khouangville, a Pathet Lao stronghold on the eastern edge of the
Plain of Jars. The crew, experienced in intelligence collection, planned to use
their radio-direction finding equipment to determine the frequencies being used
by Soviet pilots to locate the Xieng Khouangville airfield through the dense
fog that often blanketed the region. Pathet Lao anti-aircraft guns downed the
plane, shearing off a wing and sending the aircraft plummeting toward the

Maj. Bailey, who always wore a parachute when he flew, jumped from the falling
aircraft and was captured by the Pathet Lao. Bailey spent seventeen months as a
prisoner in Sam Neua, the Pathet Lao headquarters near the North Vietnamese
border, before being repatriated after the signing of the Geneva Agreements on
Laos in 1962. The caves at Sam Neua were said to have held scores of American
prisoners during and after the war.

The seven men lost on March 23, 1961 were the first of many hundreds of
American personnel shot from the sky only to disappear in the jungles of Laos.
Four Lao sources stated that 7 of the 8 personnel on board died in the crash of
the aircraft, and were buried in the vicinity.

Sixteen years later, in February 1977, several Pathet Lao films were obtained
by a friendly foreign government showing an identification card with a photo of
SSgt. Garside, and an open passport bearing 1Lt. Magee's ID number. The fact
that these items were recovered in good condition is evidence that further
information is available on the crew, due to the fact that the plane was not
completely destroyed, and the Pathet Lao were present at the site of the crash.

Clearly, someone knows what happened to the crew of the C47. Because Laos was
not included in the Paris agreements ending American involvement in Southeast
Asia, and because no agreement has been reached since regarding Lao-held
American POWs, hundreds of Americans remain missing, including the crew of the
C47. Many Americans were known to have survived, and hundreds of reports point
to their survival today.

Virtual Wall Rubbing, Alfons Bankowski
"Electronic Rubbing" courtesy of The VVMF--The Virtual Wall


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Updated March 19, 2005