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Established 08 January 1972, AFTN Memorial VFW Post 10249 in Udorn, Thailand, is named in memory of nine airmen killed on duty when a battle-damaged RF-4C Phantom aircraft crashed into the Armed Forces Thailand Network (AFTN) Udorn Radio-TV Station on 10 April 1970. • TSGT Jack A Hawley, Wakeman, OH • SSGT James A. Howard, Denver, CO • A1C Andrew C. McCartney, Lakewood, OH • SSGT Alfred N. Potter, Forest Grove, OR • SGT John Charles Rose, Bloomfield, NJ • TSGT Frank D. Ryan, Jr., Mercer Island, WA • SSGT Edward W. Strain, Myrtle Beah, SC • TSGT Roy Walker, Albuquerque, NM • A1C Thomas L. Waterman, Roanoke, VA
POST LOGO Design by Delbert Marohl
The red, white and blue color scheme was selected because these colors are representative of both flags of the United States and Thailand. The red symbolizes strength, the blue – loyalty and unity, while the white symbolizes peace. The nine stars represent the AFTN airmen that made the ultimate sacrifice giving their lives in service for their country for who the post was named. In addition to being a symbol of the protector and truth, the stars also represents that divine spark of freedom that shines in each of us.
AFTN was a subordinate unit of the Armed Forces Radio Television Service (AFRTS), roughly the same type of organization as today’s FEN in Japan and AFFECT in Korea. It provided radio and TV services to military personnel stationed in Thailand, with broadcast units located at all AF and Army bases in Thailand. All stations, each manned by 15-20 personnel, were assigned to AFTN-HQ Korat and attached to the Base Support Group. AFRTS-Los Angeles provided AFTN Udorn with records, tapes, and other operational materials. AFTN was downgraded in later years to a Broadcast Squadron with Detachments.
The fateful day, April 10, 1970, dawned as another beautiful Thai day. There was little wind, and only a few puffy cumuli dotted the blue sky. At exactly 1302, an RF-4C Phantom code-named Falcon 34 (tail number 65863) departed Udorn RTAFB for tactical reconnaissance of a line of enemy communications in northwestern Laos. Around 1330, after the aircraft climbed out of its first target run, its master caution light illuminated. A check revealed failure of the PC-2 hydraulic system; the pilot declared an emergency and headed back to Udorn. On the return trip the utility hydraulic system also failed. Around that time the navigator reported a hole 3 to 6 inches in diameter just forward of the spoiler in the right wing.
Official reports and witnesses of the subsequent accident at Udorn say that around 1400 hours the severely damaged recon aircraft began a long straight-in approach after the pilot confirmed with the Flight Safety Officer that he was able to maintain control. The landing was to be with no flaps and with barrier engagement, and on final approach the landing gear and arresting hook were down. At a point about one-quarter to one-half mile out, however, the aircraft began to roll to the right, and failed to respond to controls. The pilot initiated a go-around, but still could not stop the right roll. With total loss of control, the crewmembers elected to eject. The out-of-control plane subsequently hit the ground and careened through the housing area, spraying burning fuel in all directions and knocking off part of a 2-story barracks and a couple of officers’ quarters. It destroyed nine buildings and a trailer, and came to a stop after piercing the AFTN Station. The impact and associated fire instantly killed everyone on duty inside the station except one airman who jumped from a window and later died from burns. (For more information and photos of the crash, see “Brass Button Broadcasters,” by Trent Christman, published in 1992.)
During the Vietnam era, post membership was at an all time high with 1,500 plus members. The post home was located on ถ. ทหาร Tahahn Road or Military Highway, close to the Thai gate of the airbase.
In 1975, word came down that the American forces would be leaving Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base and in October the post held its final farewell meeting. All funds and assets were sent to the Department of Pacific and AFTN Memorial Post 10249 was officially closed. Several of the post members (Kit Carson Price, John T. Pough and Thomas B. Smith) who elected to stay in Thailand after the war, decided to reorganize the post. They contacted previous members and recruited new members until they met the eligibility criteria to reopen the post.
In June 1976, John Donahue conducted the institution ceremony that reactivated Post 10249. With only a few members, no money, and no place to call home the post moved from one place to another to hold the monthly meetings. On occasion, Tom Smith would host the meeting at his home and treat everyone to a good home cooked meal.
In August 1986, the post moved to TJ’s Steakhouse, which Tommy Thompson hosted as the post home until 2001. Almost immediately after it’s rebirth, the post members became active helping the local community. Post 10249 has provided clothing, sports equipment and many other necessities to the Nong Khai Boys Home, the Udon School for the handicapped. Countless other schools and orphanages in a 200 km radius were also supplied with fans, student desks, chairs, water coolers, typewriters, storage cabinets, and sports equipment. In 1979, the post started making a quarterly rice donation to the Udon Thani Senior Citizens Home.
In 1999 Comrade Forest Williams rented a shop house and began to manufacture canes, walkers, and crutches he made out of PVC pipe. His program is called Project Crutch and it has benefited countless children and adults in the Udon Thani and Khon Kaen area. Several of the post members are volunteers to work as Wardens for the U.S. Embassy. For many years the post worked with the United States Consulate in hosting the annual Independence Day celebration and Post 10249 assumed this responsibility when the consulate closed in 1995.
When Internet service became available in Udon, website was published. Tommy Thompson pushed to have a membership page that resulted in obtaining many new members. It has also reacquainted many servicemen who were stationed in Southeast Asia.
In 2002 we moved our meeting place to the Charoen Hotel and we posted a new website. The post membership was @ 365 members of which about 70 live in Thailand. Post members working with the Thai-Laos-Cambodia Brotherhood, provided 12 area schools with approximately $12,000.00 worth of needed items. Post members also traveled to Nakhon Phanom (NKP) to help the TLC-B dedicate a site for the first Southeast Asia Memorial to honor American, Thai and Allied Forces that served during the Vietnam War. Project Crutch opened operations in Udon and Comrade Forest Williams provided the drawings and technical expertise to help the Karl W. Richter Memorial Post 10217 in Korat, Thailand start their project crutch program.
Until 2005, the post also hosted annual celebrations (open to the public). Proceeds from these events are used to purchase rice for the Udon Thani Senior Citizens Home and the many needed supplies for local schools and orphanages. As the reputation of the posts charity work continued to grow, so does the list of schools and orphanages. To help as many needy recipients as possible, post members donate their time, money and the post continues to solicit the help of and initiate joint projects with several other organizations that do charity work in Thailand.
For the past couple of years members of post 10249 have been providing assistance to the Udon Handicap Association. You can find more information and pictures on our post website www.udonvfw10249.org
Today (2012) our support to the local community has been greatly hindered by our aging members. Because there are no longer any active duty military stationed in Thailand it is difficult to recruit new members and our current membership now stands at 267.
Forest Williams now 87, closed his Project Crutch workshop in Khon Kaen and donated his supply of PVC and wheel chair parts to several post members in Udon who continue to provide walking aides free of charge to anyone who needs them.
Post officers to the 2012-2013 VFW Term are: • Commander Ronald Sell • Sr. Vice Al Fitchett • Jr. Vice Kenneth Falk • Quartermaster Delbert Marohl • Trustee Robert Spittler • Trustee Wayne Wright • Trustee John Ogden • Chaplain Steve Doerr • Judge Advocate Richard Phelps • Surgeon Jacob Thomas