Name: Henry Muir Serex
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 42nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, Korat AB TH
Date of Birth: 09 May 1931
Home City of Record: New Orleans LA (family in CA)
Date of Loss: 02 April 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 165000N 1070100E (YD146612)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: EB66E ("Bat 21")
Personnel in Incident: April 2: Robin F. Gatwood; Wayne L. Bolte; Anthony
Giannangeli; Charles A. Levis; Henry M. Serex; (all missing from the EB66).
LtCol. Iceal Hambleton (rescued after 12 days from EB66). Ronald P.
Paschall; Byron K. Kulland; John W. Frink (all missing from UH1H rescue
helicopter), Jose M. Astorga (captured and released in 1973 from UH1H).
April 3: William J. Henderson (captured and released in 1973 from OV10A
rescue craft); Mark Clark (rescued after 12 days from OV10A rescue craft).
April 6: James H. Alley; Allen J. Avery; Peter H. Chapman; John H. Call;
William R. Pearson; Roy D. Prater (all KIA/BNR from HH53C "Jolly 52" rescue
chopper). Also in very close proximity to "Bat 21"on April 3: Allen D.
Christensen; Douglas L. O'Neil; Edward W. Williams; Larry A. Zich (all
missing from UH1H). April 7: Bruce Charles Walker (evaded 11 days); Larry
F. Potts (captured & died in POW camp) (both missing from OV10A).
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 April 1990 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.
SYNOPSIS: On the afternoon of April 2, 1972, two Thailand-based EB66
aircraft (Bat 21 and Bat 22), from the 30th Air Division, were flying
pathfinder escort for a cell of B52s bombing near the DMZ. Bat 21 took a
direct SAM hit and the plane went down. The aircraft was observed by other
flight members to break apart and crash. A single beeper signal was heard,
that of navigator Col. Iceal Hambleton. At this time it was assumed the rest
of the crew died in the crash. The crew included Maj. Wayne L. Bolte, pilot;
1Lt. Robin F. Gatwood, LtCol. Anthony R. Giannangeli, LtCol. Charles A.
Levis, and Maj. Henry M. Serex, all crew members. It should be noted that
the lowest ranking man aboard this plane was Gatwood, a First Lieutenant.
This was not an ordinary crew, and its members, particularly Hambleton,
would be a prize capture for the enemy because of military knowledge they
It became critical, therefore, that the U.S. locate Hambleton, and any other
surviving crew members before the Vietnamese did - and the Vietnamese were
trying hard to find them first.
An Army search and rescue team was nearby and dispatched two UH1H "slicks"
and two UH1B "Cobras". When they approached Hambleton's position just before
dark, at about 50 feet off the ground, with one of the AH1G Cobra gunships
flying at 300 feet for cover, two of the helicopters were shot down. One,
the Cobra (Blue Ghost 28) reached safety and the crew was picked up, without
having seen the other downed helicopter. The other, a UH1H from F Troop, 8th
Cavalry, 196th Brigade, had just flown over some huts into a clearing when
they encountered ground fire, and the helicopter exploded. Jose Astorga, the
gunner, was injured in the chest and knee by the gunfire. Astorga became
unconscious, and when he recovered, the helicopter was on the ground. He
found the pilot, 1Lt. Byron K. Kulland, lying outside the helicopter. WO
John W. Frink, the co-pilot, was strapped in his seat and conscious. The
crew chief, SP5 Ronald P. Paschall, was pinned by his leg in the helicopter,
but alive. WO Franks urged Astorga to leave them, and Astorga was captured.
He soon observed the aircraft to be hit by automatic weapons fire, and to
explode with the rest of the crew inside. He never saw the rest of the crew
again. Astorga was released by the North Vietnamese in 1973.
The following day, Nail 38, an OV10A equipped with electronic rescue gear
enabling its crew to get a rapid "fix" on its rescue target entered
Hambleton's area and was shot down. The crew, William J. Henderson and Mark
Clark, both parachuted out safely. Henderson was captured and released in
1973. Clark evaded for 12 days and was subsequently rescued.
On April 3, the day Nail 38 was shot down, a UH1H "slick" went down in the
same area carrying a crew of four enlisted Army personnel. They had no
direct connection to the rescue of Bat 21, but were very probably shot down
by the same SAM installations that downed Bat 21. The helicopter, from H/HQ,
37th Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade, had left Marble Mountain
Airfield, Da Nang, on a standard resupply mission to signal units in and
around Quang Tri City. The crew, consisting of WO Douglas L. O'Neil, pilot;
CW2 Larry A. Zich, co-pilot; SP5 Allen D. Christensen, crew chief; and SP4
Edward W. Williams, gunner; remain missing in action.
On April 6, an attempt was made to pick up Clark and Hambleton which
resulted in an HH53C helicopter being shot down. The chopper was badly hit.
The helicopter landed on its side and continued to burn, consuming the
entire craft, and presumably, all 6 men aboard. The crew of this aircraft
consisted of James H. Alley; Allen J. Avery, John H. Call III, Peter H.
Chapman, William R. Pearson, and Roy D. Prater. Search and rescue noted no
signs of survivors, but it is felt that the Vietnamese probably know the
fate of this crew because of the close proximity of the downed aircraft to
On April 7 another Air Force OV10A went down in the area with Larry Potts
and Bruce Walker aboard. Walker, the Air Force pilot of the aircraft, evaded
capture 11 days, while it is reported that Potts was captured and died in
Quang Binh prison. Potts, the observer, was a Marine Corps officer. Walker's
last radio transmission to search and rescue was for SAR not to make an
attempt to rescue, the enemy was closing in. Both men remain unaccounted
Hambleton and Clark were rescued after 12 incredible days. Hambleton
continually changed positions and reported on enemy activity as he went,
even to the extent of calling in close air strikes near his position. He was
tracked by a code he devised relating to the length and lie direction of
various golf holes he knew well. Another 20 or so Americans were not so
In July 1986, the daughter of Henry Serex learned that, one week after all
search and rescue had been "called off" for Bat 21, another mission was
mounted to recover "another downed crewmember" from Bat 21. She doesn't know
whether the "other downed crewmember" is her father or another man on the
EB66 aircraft. No additional information has been released. When the movie
"Bat 21" was released, she was horrified to learn that virtually no mention
of the rest of the crew was made in the film.
In Vietnam, to most fighting men, the man that fought beside them, whether
in the air or on the ground, was worth dying for. Each understood that the
other would die for him if necessary. Thus, also considering the critical
knowledge possessed by Col. Hambleton and some of the others, the seemingly
uncanny means taken to recover Clark and Hambleton are not so unusual at
What defies logic and explanation, however, is that the government that sent
these men to battle can distort or withhold information from their families,
and knowingly abandon hundreds of men known or strongly suspected to be in
Thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government indicating
that Americans are still alive, in captivity in Southeast Asia. It has been
17 years for those who may have survived the 1972 Easter crashes and rescue
attempts. How much longer must they wait for their country to bring "peace
with honor" to them and bring them home?
Henry M. Serex was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the
period he was maintained missing.
This week, the family of a Vietnam War flier with the unusual name of Henry
Muir Serex will arrive in Washington, D.C., to view an unusual photograph.
The photo, taken by an American satellite, shows a prison camp located near
Haiphong, Vietnam. Some who have viewed this photograph see, in a field just
outside the prison, the following sequence of letters and numbers: 72 TA
88. The numbers and letters are big. Just above the numbers and letters is a
word, seemingly etched into the earth. The word, in capital letters, is
SEREX. The photo was taken in June 1992.
Was Lieutenant Colonel Serex alive just 19 months ago? The very notion is
heart wrenching. "If he's there," says Kathryn Serex, "and the government
does nothing to get him out, it would be absolute torture." Kathryn Serex
was 10 when her father was shot down in April 1972.
But not everyone agrees that these numbers and letters are there. Officials
in the Pentagon's POW/MIA office say that such apparent "ground signals" are
photographic anomalies, or markings that are not man-made.
Many symbols. Members of the Serex family want to see for themselves.
Pentagon officials will allow Henry Serex's former wife, Barbara, and his
daughters, Jennifer and Kathryn, to view all the pertinent, still-secret
imagery. The Pentagon's official position: The letters and numbers disappear
when the original imagery--that which was broadcast from the satellite--is
examined. The Serexes have insisted that they be accompanied by their own
experts and by Sen. Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who has seen the
photo and says the SEREX "is very clear."
Even if the SEREX photo turns out to be unconvincing, however, questions
raised by other ground-signal imagery are unlikely to go away. In 1988, huge
letters spelling out USA appeared in a field in Laos. Underneath the letters
was an image, possibly a K, a signal for "pilot down here." In 1973, on the
Plain of Jars in Laos, the images 1573 or 1973 TH were identified. The
numbers and letters appear to have been tramped into deep elephant grass.
Pentagon officials concede that these two symbols remain unexplained. Some
observers contend that many other photos containing possible signals need to
be adequately examined, a point the Pentagon disputes.
Fueling the debate is the obscure nature of ground signaling. During the
Vietnam War, every American airman was given a top-secret, four-digit
authenticator code of his own choosing. Fliers were also issued two-letter
distress symbols periodically. Downed fliers could use these alphanumerics
to signal by radio or by ground writing.
The signals had to be large enough to be seen from miles overhead, yet so
clever or subtle that they would not be noticed by their captors. Fliers
might use logs, stomped grass, turned-up soil or stacked brush to make
symbols. They might use rice-paddy dikes or existing paths to help form
letters or numbers.
The fliers were also taught to make their letters distinct by attaching
little appendages. The K, the signal for a downed pilot, was to have a
little foot added at the bottom of its leg. It was termed a "walking K" The
problem is, the more hurried or subtle the signal, the more expertise is
required to see it.
Yet some such signals have been seen and identified. While planning the
illfated 1970 raid on the Son Tay prison camp in Vietnam, photo analysts
spotted a possible K, a 55 and an SAR, for Search and Rescue. In 1981, when
human and signals intelligence had indicated prisoners were still being held
at Nhommarath prison camp in Laos, photo interpreters were assigned to study
it closely. In a garden plot inside the prison walls, they saw what looked
like a 52-K, or possibly B-52 K. Pentagon officials approved a raid on the
camp, dubbed Operation Pocket Change. The raid was canceled after it was
leaked to the press. Over the years, many of the four-digit authenticator
codes were lost.
Enter Bob Taylor. An investigator for the Senate Select Committee on POW/
MIA Affairs, Taylor was looking into Pocket Change and other POW covert
operations, records show. One day in April 1992, while he was at the CIA,
Taylor heard about the letters spelling out USA. The image had turned up in
CIA aerial surveillance of drug cultivation in Laos. It was what was
underneath the USA that galvanized Taylor, however: He was able to make out
a walking K. Taylor called Robert Dussault, an expert in Survival, Evasion,
Resistance and Escape training (or SERE, the Pentagon acronym). Dussault and
assistants scanned that and other photos.
As Dussault pored over one photo of Dong Mang prison, the word SERE caught
his eye, along with some other symbols.
To Dussault's eye, they looked like this: 72 TA 88. SERE might be a signal
to his agency, he thought, but then he saw an x at the end. Scanning a list
of missing men, he found the name of Henry Serex. The T and A, it turned
out, were distress codes in 1972, though not at the time Serex went down.
Might he have been moved to the prison in 1988? It's all highly unlikely,
says the Pentagon's office of POW/ MIA affairs. Its best information
indicates that Serex died when his EB-66 aircraft was shot down over
Ed Ross, acting director of the POW/ MIA office, says that the nation's best
photo analysts have examined all imagery of Southeast Asia, including the
new "discoveries," and the only unexplained images are the USA-K and the
1573 or 1973 TH seen in Laos in 1973. For that reason, Ross says, there is
no reason to set up a task force to study imagery, as the Senate select
committee recommended. The problem, Ross says, is that all the "discoveries"
have been made by persons who are untrained in photo imagery analysis.
One person who has viewed some of these images, though, is a photo expert
Retired Col. Lorenzo W. Burroughs has 40 years of experience in photo
interpretation in the Air Force and the ClA he served as acting director of
the National Photographic Interpretation Center. Burroughs developed
techniques during the cold war for finding signs of items that were
purposefully camouflaged. Burroughs and another analyst, Carroll Lucas, were
hired by the Senate select committee in 1992 to review ground signals from
Southeast Asia. Lucas disputed all but the USA as a man-made symbol.
More symbols. But Burroughs reported seeing 10 sets of numbers and letters
that he deemed worthy of more examination. Near the USA, for instance, he
made out the name of another downed pilot. When Burroughs examined
photographs of the Dong Mang prison camp, before he even got to the SEREX
image, he discovered another set of symbols near the prison: GX 2527. The x
was a walking x, the 2527, the authenticator of yet another missing pilot.
Burroughs says he has 100 percent confidence the GX 2527 is real.
Burroughs's contract ran out, and he never got to examine the SEREX image.
This week, Burroughs finally will have his chance. The Serex family has
requested that Burroughs be with them, as well as Bob Dussault, the
escape-and-evasion signals expert. If they see the SEREX, family members
say, they will want to know what their government will do next. And if they
don't see it, they will be even more confused. "Who do we trust?" says
Barbara Lundeen, Henry Serex's wife, who has since remarried. "Do we trust
the government? Do we trust the politicians? Is there anyone out there we
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