In the 1970’s, we wore Prisoner of War,
POW Bracelets and Missing in Action,
MIA Bracelets bearing the name of a captured or lost soldier.
We did this to keep this person in our hearts and minds, even if we did not know them personally. We proudly wore these bracelets, and some still do, as a symbol of hope that the POW’s and MIA’s would return home to their families.
When I wore my MIA bracelet, I was a kid…I knew little about what the Vietnam war REALLY meant except that it dominated the conversation every day and the news every night. When would it end? Why were they fighting? How many were killed today? When is your big brother leaving?
Living in Tampa Florida, many of my friends had Fathers and even brothers in the service and some even missing in action.
Mr Olmstead was one year younger than my Dad. I bought my bracelet for $1.00 from a girl who was selling them to raise money for the families of servicemen missing in action. I thought about the day when Stanley and I would meet and I would tell him I wore his bracelet and never took it off even to shower and I would offer him the bracelet as a memento.
MY MIA was LCDR Stanley Edward Olmstead. He was from Marshall Oklahoma and was born on November 12, 1933. He was in the US Navy in the Fighter Squadron 84. He was also a father; his daughter Dixie was 2 and her brother, Mickey was 5, when their father’s F-4 Phantom was gunned down by North Vietnamese artillery fire on Oct. 17, 1965.
I have copied the story of his mission and loss from POWNETWORK.
Here is an excerpt :
“SYNOPSIS: LT Roderick Mayer was a pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62). On October 17, 1965 he and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LTJG David Wheat launched in their F4B Phantom fighter jet for a day strike mission on the Thai Nguyen bridge northeast of Hanoi.
On the same day, a second Phantom flown by LCDR Stanley E. Olmstead, with LTJG Porter A. Halyburton as his RIO, and a third Phantom flown by LTJG Ralph Gaither and LTJG Rodney A/ Knutson also launched from the USS INDEPENCENCE. These four pilots were part of Fighter Squadron 84, the “Jolly Rogers”. Mayer and Wheat were part of the carriers Fighter Squadron 41. All were dispatched to the same general mission area near the city of Thai Nguyen.
The three Phantoms were all shot down within a few miles of each other. Knutson and Gaither were shot down in Long Song Province, North Vietnam, near the border of China, or about 75 miles northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen. Olmstead and Halyburton were shot down in Long Son Province about 40 miles east of the city of Thai Nguyen. Mayer and Wheat were shot down about 55 miles east-northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen, in Long Son Province.
The fates of these six men from the USS INDEPENDENCE was not clear at the time they were shot down. Their status changed from Reported Dead to Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. At the end of the war, only Olmstead and Mayer remained missing. Ultimately, they were declared dead for lack of evidence that they were still alive.
When the war ended, refugees from the communist-overrun countries of Southeast Asia began to flood the world, bringing with them stories of live GI’s still in captivity in their homelands. Since 1975, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have been received. Many authorities believe that hundreds of Americans are still held in the countries in Southeast Asia.
The U.S. Government operates on the “assumption” that one or more men are being held, but that it cannot “prove” that this is the case, allowing action to be taken. Meanwhile, low-level talks between the U.S. and Vietnam proceed, yielding a few sets of remains when it seems politically expedient to return them, but as yet, no living American has returned.
…….Stanley E. Olmstead was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing. Porter A. Halyburton was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period he was maintained as a prisoner of war.
the following addendum was added to the bio..years later…and proved very significant …..
“Hello,…..I have a slight correction to make. I say slight, but depending on your point of view, it’s major.
The RIO, Porter Halyburton, is a friend of mine. Here is his account of what happened that day: “When we were hit I called to Stan, but he didn’t respond. His head was slumped down and he was unresponsive. As the ridgeline was coming up, I had to eject immediately and did so. Seconds later, the aircraft crashed into the ridgeline. There was a large explosion upon impact, as we had a full load of ordinance. I was able to observe the aircraft the entire time from when I ejected until it crashed. Stan did not eject.”
The ridgeline Porter refers to was to be their turning point. Upon arrival at the ridgeline, they were to head due west to the target at Thai Nguyen.
While it is true that no one saw Porter eject, largely because no one was looking when they were hit, someone (Porter) DID watch the plane, and therefore Stan Olmstead, from the time it was hit until it crashed.
Porter said he had clear field of vision as he slowly drifted down to earth. He could clearly see, much to his dismay, that LCDR. Stanley Olmstead did not eject prior to impact.
Porter Halyburton, while retired from the Navy, is currently an instructor at the Naval War College in Rhode Island
STANLEY EDWARD OLMSTEAD is honored on Panel 2E, Row 125 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I visited the Memorial a few years ago…there are few words to describe it’s impact…and I saw CDR Olmstead’s name…it was a profoundly moving experience .
CDR Olmstead went missing 50 years ago. He would be a senior citizen now and maybe even a Grandfather. He would have watched Mickey and Dixie grow up. The information we now have about what happened to servicemen, captured, tortured and held as prisoners sometimes for years is daunting. The cycle has far from stopped, even if the battles names have changed…
REMEMBER THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT TO KEEP US ALL FREE….
REMEMBER THOSE WHO PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE FOR THEIR COUNTRY.
IN THEIR HONOR….
ADDENDUM – After writing this post I stumbled upon a very touching article HERE which tells the story of Commander Olmstead’s children and their search for their Father and his remains.
9 thoughts on “MEMORIAL DAY – MY MIA”
What a profound and emotional post. Thank you for sharing 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to share this story. I too wore a bracelet for a POW, although I lost mine long ago. Thank you for giving such honor to your MIA, and a personal face and story of a brave man’s life in this post. It makes Memorial Day much more emotional for all of us as we celebrate those who gave their lives for us.
Thank you Lidy…I learned so much about him and it was such a gift to myself to take the time to remember what the day is about….xo
Lt. Col. Peter Fredrick, 3-15-1967. My daughter wears it now. I found him on the traveling wall and I cannot begin to explain the impact. Thanks for the post Lesli.
I KNOW…I think until I saw his name on the wall (pre internet) there was a tiny part of me that wondered if he was real….It was so moving and so perfectly done. The part that made me cry was how the wall starts so tiny and then it grows taller and taller and more full of names…just made my heart ache…thank you for sharing your “POW/MIA name” with me. xo
I also have Stanley’s POW bracelet
you do!!! How cool!!!
I appreciate finding this post. I was searching for a POW/MIA bracelet with my dad’s name on it. My dad is David Wheat, POW for 7.5 years. Thank you for sharing your story with so much care, holding onto your bracelet and trying to know the man it represented.
First Thank you or leaving a message and I am so sorry to hear about your father. Can you tell me more about him? I will let you know if anyone reaches out with his name.
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