Staff Sergeant Todd Michael Melton

Publication Date: Unknown

Todd Michael Melton

Name: Todd Michael Melton
Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force
Unit: 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (please see note below)
Date of Birth: 11 April 1949
Home City of Record: Milwaukee WI
Date of Loss: 05 February 1973
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 153755N 1065957E (YC143291)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action/Killed In Action
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: EC47Q

Other Personnel in Incident: Dale Brandenburg; Arthur R. Bollinger; Joseph A. Matejov; George R. Spitz; Severo J. Primm III; Peter R. Cressman; (all missing); Robert E. Bernhardt (remains recovered)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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 2003 with information provided by Mac Heaton.


SYNOPSIS: On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, an EC47Q aircraft was shot down over Saravane Province, Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The crew of the aircraft consisted of the pilot, Capt. George R. Spitz; co-pilot, 2Lt. Severo J. Primm III, Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger, 1Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, Sgt. Dale Brandenburg, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, all listed as crew members, and Sgt. Peter R. Cressman and SSgt. Todd M. Melton, both systems operators. The families of all aboard the aircraft were told the men were dead, and advised to conduct memorial services.

It is known that Cressman and Matejov were members of Detachment 3, 6994th Security Squadron from Ubon, Thailand. The aircraft, however, was flying out of the 361st TEW Squadron (Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron) at Nakhon Phanom Airbase, Thailand. Primm, Melton, Spitz, Brandenburg and Bernhardt were assigned to the 361st TEW Squadron. Bollinger's unit is unknown.

The men in the 6994th were highly trained and operated in the greatest of secrecy. They were not allowed to mingle with others from their respective bases, nor were the pilots of the aircraft carrying them on their missions always told what their objective was. They were cryptology experts, language experts, and knew well how to operate some of the Air Force's most sophisticated equipment. They were the first to hear the enemy's battle plans.

Over five years later, Joe Matejov's mother, Mary Matejov, heard columnist Jack Anderson, on "Good Morning America", describe a Pathet Lao radio communique which described the capture of four "air pirates" on the same day as the EC47Q carrying her son was shot down. NO OTHER PLANE WAS MISSING THAT DAY. Anderson's information indicated that reconnaissance personnel had 40 uninterrupted minutes in which to survey the crash site.

The report of the reconnaissance team, which was not provided to the families for over five years, showed that three bodies, which were thought to have been higher ranking officers because of the seating arrangement, were found strapped in seats. Four of the men aboard the aircraft were not in or around the aircraft, and the partial remains of the eighth man (Bernhardt) was recovered. No identification was brought out from the crash site, and no attempt was made to recover the three bodies from the downed aircraft. It is assumed that the reconnaissance team was most interested in recovering the sensitive equipment aboard the EC47Q. The EC47Q became known as the "Flying Pueblo". Most of the "kids" in back, as some pilots called them, were young, in good health, and stood every chance of surviving captivity.

There were specific reports intercepted regarding the four missing men from the aircraft missing on February 5, 1973. Radio reports indicated that the four were transported to the North Vietnam border. None were released in the general POW release beginning the next month.

Peter Cressman enlisted in the United States Air Force in August, 1969 and after two years at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska he volunteered for service in Vietnam and left for Da Nang in June 1972.

In Da Nang, Peter spent his free hours at Sacred Heart Orphanage. His letters to his hometown priest in Oakland, New Jersey, resulted in the forming of "Operation Forget-Me-Not". Community schools, churches, merchants and citizens joined the effort to help the innocent victims of war. The group eventually provided a boxcar of supplies to the orphans.

Peter was transferred to the airbase at Ubon, Thailand. He believed the secret missions being flown into Laos were illegal, and had written letters to his congressman in that regard. His family has been active in efforts to locate information on Peter and the nearly 2500 others who remain unaccounted for. They founded the National Forget-Me-Not Association for POW/MIAs in St.Petersburg, Florida, the largest POW advocacy group in the country.

Joseph Matejov enlisted in the Air Force in 1970 from his home state of New York and went to Southeast Asia in April, 1972. Joe's father and two brothers were career military. His sister graduated from West Point in 1981. Steven Matejov died in 1984 not knowing what happened to his son. Joe's mother, Mary says, "Joe may be alive. If so, this government has a legal and moral responsibility to get him home. The next generation of servicemen should not have to wonder if they will answer the call to defend their country only to be abandoned. We must stop this tragedy now, and never allow it to happen again."

Thousands of reports received by the U.S. Government have convinced many experts that hundreds of Americans remain captive in Southeast Asia. Members of a crew flying a secret mission after a peace agreement had been signed would likely be considered war criminals. If they are among those thought to be alive, the survivors of the EC47Q have been held captive over 15 years. It's time we brought our men home.

SSgt Todd Michael Melton was killed in action on 5 February 1973, when the EC-47 aircraft tail number 43-8636, call-sign BARON 52, on which he was serving as an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist, was downed by enemy fire over southern Laos.

SSgt Melton was born on 11 April 1949 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and graduated from DeSales Prep Seminary in 1967.

SSgt Melton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on 28 March 1969. He completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, Vietnamese language training at Briggs Field, Ft. Bliss, Texas and technical training at Goodfellow, AFB, Texas. He was assigned to Det 2, 6994th Security Squadron, Danang AB, Vietnam until it closed and he was transferred on 24 December 1972 to Det 3, 6994th Security Squadron, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.

SSgt Meltonís awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross (posthumously), Purple Heart (posthumously), and the Air Medal (6th OLC) posthumously).

On 1 December 1976, building 238, Goodfellow AFB, San Angelo, Texas was renamed Melton Hall in his honor.

SSgt Melton is interred in a communal grave in section 34, site 4402, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. His name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall on Panel 1W, line 115.

Todd Melton