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Capt Neil Stanley “Cherokee” Bynum

Capt Neil Stanley “Cherokee” Bynum

Vian, Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, USA
Death 26 Oct 1969 (aged 26)
Khammouan, Laos
Burial Vian, Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, USA
Memorial ID 59577222 · View Source
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Major Lee A. Hillard provides the following information:

"Lt. Neil Stanley Bynum departed the U.S. for Ubon RTAFB on February 10, 1969, arriving at Ubon several weeks later after having completed Jungle Survival Training at Clark AFB in the Philippines. He was assigned to the 497th TFS "Night Owls" upon his arrival at Ubon. Neil was a Weapons System Operator (WSO) (back seater), amongst the last cadre of pilots assigned as WSO's before the position went to navigators. The back seaters were also known as "GIB's" (Guy in the back). Neil became a Wolf FAC on July 19, 1969. I flew numerous times with Neil who acquired the nickname of Cherokee because he was from Oklahoma and he had the uncanny ability to see things on the ground well before the guy in the front seat."

The following is an account of the night Lt. Bynum's plane crashed in Laos as told by Major Hillard:

"On October 26, 1969, I was scheduled to fly the second Wolf mission of the day and was having breakfast in the Officer's Club when a phone call from operations notified me that Wolf 05 had crashed. I immediately went to operations and launched as soon as possible. Upon entering the area near Ban Karai Pass, on the border between Laos and North Vietnam, I contacted the Nail FAC who had been in the area when Wolf 05 had arrived earlier. From information found on the internet, I believe his call sign was Nail 30. The Nail FAC showed me the location of the crash and I made several very low passes over the wreckage. During the time that I made a number of low passes over the wreckage, I did not encounter any known ground fire. The aircraft had impacted on a shallow incline almost on top of the bulldozer and just a few hundred yards north of the Nam Ta Le River next to Route 912B. The aircraft was totally destroyed with only the engines being easily identified. The fuselage, wings and tail sections of the aircraft were not identifiable in the wreckage. The coordinates are approximately XE 224.026 on a UTM chart, about one kilometer ESE of the village of Ban Loboy and some four kilometers south of the village of Ban Son. By this time in the war, none of these villages existed as they had been bombed so many times there was nothing but bomb craters left where the villages had once existed. Ban Karai Pass and Mu Gia Pass were the two major interdiction points for traffic coming out of North Vietnam into Laos and received numerous bombing raids on a daily basis.

The Nail FAC told me that when Wolf 05 arrived in the area he, the Nail FAC, had pointed out the location of the bulldozer and told Wolf 05 that the Airborne Command & Control Post was trying to find some appropriate ordnance. The bulldozer had been abandoned and was just sitting there. It had probably encountered mechanical problems the previous night. Wolf 05 then told the Nail that he was going to strafe the bulldozer with his SUU-23/A, 20mm, "Gatling Gun" which was carried externally on the centerline of the F4-D Wolf FAC aircraft. The Nail FAC argued against strafing the bulldozer, as it wasn't going anywhere and although he had not seen any ground fire, the area was known to have many high threat weapons. Ignoring the good advice from the Nail FAC, Wolf 05 made a low angle (10 to 15 degree) pass on the bulldozer while firing the gun. No enemy ground fire was seen by the Nail FAC and the aircraft impacted the ground without an apparent attempt to pull out. Had he attempted to pull out, the aircraft would probably have skipped along the ground and not been so badly destroyed. We shall never know if there was a mechanical malfunction, or if Captain Warren was struck by enemy ground fire, or if it was just plain old pilot error."

Thank you Lee for the information.

Both men were classified as Missing in Action. During an annual review of their status, the review board found no evidence that either man escaped the aircraft and now-Major Gray Warren was reclassified as Killed in Action on 26 Oct 1969, Body not Recovered. Now-Captain Bynum was continued in MIA status until 13 May 1976, when the Secretary of the Air Force approved a Presumptive Finding of Death changing his status to Died while Missing/Body not Recovered.

Captain Bynum's name is also inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.
Eternal gratitude to Rhonda C. Poynter for sponsoring this page of a true American hero.

Family Members




Gravesite Details When in the 6th grade, I saw an ad in a magazine for a POW/MIA bracelet. I sent in for the items and received an MIA bracelet and photo of then Lieutenant Bynum. I looked at that picture and prayed every night for his safe return.
  • Created by: Red
  • Added: 3 Oct 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 59577222
  • Rhonda C./Friends
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Capt Neil Stanley “Cherokee” Bynum (29 Jun 1943–26 Oct 1969), Find A Grave Memorial no. 59577222, citing Garden of Memories Cemetery, Vian, Sequoyah County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Red (contributor 47105291) .