Col Donald Elliott Westbrook

Col Donald Elliott Westbrook

Birth
Sherman, Grayson County, Texas, USA
Death 13 Mar 1968 (aged 41)
Laos
Burial Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA
Plot Courts of the Missing
Memorial ID 135732327 · View Source
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Donald Elliot Westbrook
Colonel, U.S. Air Force
602nd Fighter Squadron
Entered the Service From: Sherman, Texas
Date of Birth: August 28, 1926
Date of Death: March 13, 1968
Wars or Conflicts: Vietnam War
Memorialized: Courts of the Missing: Court A
Honolulu Memorial
National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Colonel Westbrook was a member of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, Nakhom Phenom, Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. On March 13, 1968, he was flying in a Douglas Skyraider Attack Aircraft (A1-E) on a search and rescue mission for survivors stranded on Phou Pha Thi Mountain, Annan Province, Laos, when his aircraft was shot down by hostile fire. His remains were recovered on September 3, 1998 and identified on February 14, 2007. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial
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One of the most intriguing cases of the Vietnam war is the Lima Radar Site 85 at Phou Pha Thi and the men who went missing there. Donald Westlake, involved into the incident by the luck of the draw will perhaps never know just how intriguing it was.
Lima 85 was on a peak in the Annam Highlands near the village of Sam Neua on a 5860 ft. mountain called Phou Pha Thi. The mountain was protected by sheer cliffs on three sides, and guarded by 300 tribesmen working for CIA. Unarmed
US "civilians" operated the radar which swept across the Tonkin Delta to Hanoi. These "civilians" were actually Air Force personnel who were temporarily relieved of active duty to take jobs with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation serving with Project Heavy Green at Lima 85. The project was so secret that the men's wives were also required to sign secrecy agreements. Absolutely no one was to know about the assignment. Laos was a neutral country and as such, U.S. military presence was internationally prohibited.

For three months in early 1968, a steady stream of intelligence was received which indicated that communist troops were about to launch a major attack on Lima 85. Intelligence watched as enemy troops even built a road to the area to facilitate moving heavy weapons, but the site was so important that William H. Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Laos, made the decision to leave the men in place. When the attack came March 11, some were rescued by helicopter, but eleven men were missing. The President announced a halt in the bombing of North Vietnam.

Donald Westbrook was flying one of 4 A1E's orbiting on stand-by to search for survivors of the attack at Phou Pha Thi when his plane was shot down March 13. Westbrook was never found. Observers said there was no parachute seen, no beepers heard, and no voice contact made. The wreckage of Westbrook's aircraft was seen scattered over a wide area and smoking.

Finding no survivors, the Air Force destroyed Lima 85 to prevent the equipment from falling into the hands of the enemy. Westbrook was declared Missing In Action, with a high probability that the enemy knew his fate - and had perhaps even captured him.

In mid March, the Lima Site wives were notified that the site had been overrun by enemy forces, and that the men who had not escaped had been killed. Many years later, they learned that was not the whole truth. Two separate reports indicate that all the men missing at Phou Pha Thi did not die. One report suggests that at least one of the 11 was captured, and another indicates that 6 were captured. Information has been hard to get.

The fact that Lima Site 85 existed was only declassified in 1983, and finally the wives could be believed when they said their husbands were missing in Laos. Some of the men's files were shown to their families for the first time in 1985.

The Lima Site wives have talked and compared notes. They still feel there is a lot of information to be had.


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  • Created by: Elizabeth Olmstead
  • Added: 11 Sep 2014
  • Find A Grave Memorial 135732327
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Col Donald Elliott Westbrook (28 Aug 1926–13 Mar 1968), Find A Grave Memorial no. 135732327, citing Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, USA ; Maintained by Elizabeth Olmstead (contributor 46772820) .