My husband, Leland Sage, was named after his uncle who served as a Lieutenant in the Vietnam War. He thinks of him from time to time, despite the fact he never met him. He has a POW-MIA tattoo in his honor. Please read on and know his story.
SAGE, LELAND CHARLES COOK
Name: Leland Charles Cook Sage
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 144
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)
Date of Birth: 23 December 1943 (Chicago, IL)
Home of Record: Waukegan, IL
Date of Loss: 23 June 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171759N 1054359E (WE779127)
Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E "Skyhawk
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was a single-seat light attack jet flown by both land-based and carrier squadrons, and was the US Navy's standard light attack aircraft at the outset of the war. It was the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings as well as the only one which required a ladder for the pilot to enter/exit the cockpit. The Skyhawk was used to fly a wide range of missions throughout Southeast Asia including close air support to American troops on the ground in South Vietnam. Flying from a carrier was dangerous and as many aircraft were lost in "operational incidents" as in combat.
On 23 June 1969, Lt. Leland C. C. Sage, pilot; launched from the deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard in a flight of A4E aircraft on a night combat mission against enemy activity in the rugged, jungle covered mountains approximately 7 miles northwest of Ban Thapachon and 21 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, Khammouan Province, Laos.
This area of eastern Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
Once the flight arrived in the mission area, Lt. Sage contacted the on site Forward Air Controller (FAC) for target assignment. The flight was cleared in to attack an enemy target and, after rolling in over his target, Leland Sage's aircraft was observed to impact the ground and explode. No rocket explosion from the ejection seat was seen, nor any other evidence of ejection. It was believed that the verified anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire directed at the Skyhawks was the cause of the aircraft loss. Aerial search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, but no further communication could be established with the downed pilot. The intense enemy activity in the area precluded a ground search of the area for Leland Sage. At the time search efforts were terminated, Leland Sage was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
Lt. Sage is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
While the Navy believed Leland Sage died in the crash of his Skyhawk, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friend and country. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
American military men in Vietnam and Laos were call upon to fly and fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It Probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.