Victor J. Apodaca Jr.
TO VICTOR WITH LOVE
ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 4/9/02 - BY ELEANOR D. APODACA
Please accept my personal condolences concerning the missing status of Captain Victor Joe Apodaca, Jr. I feel you will want to know the circumstances that led to his missing status.
"Captain Apodaca, the aircraft commander, and his pilot (Jon T. Busch) comprised the crew of the number two aircraft in a flight of two F-4C Phantoms which departed DaNang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, at 5:40PM, on 8 June 1967, on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. During the performance of the mission, Captain Apodaca's aircraft was positioned approximately one mile behind the lead aircraft at an altitude of about 4,500 feet. Approximately 22 miles northeast of Dong Hoi, North Vietnam, the flight encountered heavy and accurate antiaircraft fire, and about 6:20PM your son reported that their aircraft had sustained a hit. They were advised by the commander of the lead aircraft (Hambone 1) to exit the area and head for the coast. Their aircraft (Hambone 2) then turned toward the Gulf of Tonkin and initiated a climb. About thirty to forty seconds later, your son reported that control and hydraulic system difficulties were being experienced. The last message received stated they were heading east-northeast at an altitude of 16,000 feet. Moments later, the crew of the lead aircraft, who had not been in visual contact with the number two aircraft, heard emergency electronic signals for approximately fifteen to twenty-five seconds. They were unable to determine whether one or two signals were received. They made an immediate attempt to locate the downed crew members and to establish voice contact with them; however, their efforts were unsuccessful and they were forced to return to base due to shortage of fuel. An electronic search was conducted throughout the night, and an organized search was initiated at first light the following day; however, it was terminated at noon. No electronic or visual contact was made with the downed officers and the aircraft wreckage was not located."
These are the words my family has lived with for over thirty-four years---a cold, callous response.
Vic's status remained MIA until 15 November 1973, wherein his status become PFOD. This came about by a written request of Vic's former wife, "....under the provisions of Section 555, Title 37, United States Code...the date of death is presumed to have occurred for the purpose of termination of pay and allowances, settlement of accounts, and payment of death gratuities."
On 1 December 1971, Victor was promoted to the rank of Major. He was also awarded the Senior Pilot Badge, the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart (posthumously).
WHO WAS THIS MAN CALLED TO DUTY?
Born May 31, 1937, to Victor Joe Apodaca and Dora Chacon, in Denver, Colorado, Victor is the oldest son in a family of seven children. The Apodaca children (Dolores, Victor, Eleanor, Leslie, Richard, Joyce, Janella) were raised on a farm in Englewood, Colorado and went to school in the same area. Our lives were blessed with an extended family of Bernice Apodaca, half-sister, and Alexander Apodaca, half-brother. Farming was a hard but good life, raising vegetables and livestock. Our father worked at Gates Rubber Company. Mom handled the majority of the daily routine--house, kids, animals, and fieldwork. As toddlers, we were all out in the field with Mom, helping as best we could. And, Dad joined us when he returned from work. Even as we grew older these responsibilities continued, we all had to care for the livestock, work the fields, and maintain good grades in school. Our first farm was on Santa Fe Drive, and we attended Englewood Junior High and Englewood High School before moving to the farm on Clay. Vic was President of the Sheridan Union High School Student Council, a member of the Honor Society, and lettered in football, basketball, track & field. He had an excellent singing voice and participated in various school plays. He and our brother, Leslie, were members of 4-H and earned awards for livestock and other projects. Vic was a Boy Scout, earning many merit badges. He had an outgoing personality and hearty laugh.
Victor's military career began in 1957. He had completed two years at the University of Colorado in Boulder. It was his privilege to be one of the oldest cadets and the first Navajo Indian-Spanish American to be appointed to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. At the Academy, he was fondly known as "Chief" and "Indian Joe." While in his first year at the Academy, he played football until a knee injury and subsequent surgery forced him to stop. He then became the team manager. Vic introduced LaCrosse to the Academy and was team Captain. He proved himself scholastically. He thrived on the strict discipline of the military environment. On 7 June 1961, Victor graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He was immediately inducted into the regular United States Air Force. He was assigned to various bases for continued training.
In June 1964, Victor applied for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Program. He underwent a Special Aeromedical Evaluation for Space Pilot, and passed with flying colors.
In 1966, Victor was assigned to the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona.
Vic had many positive aspects in his future. Why would he want to go to Vietnam? In 1967, he had been recommended for a teaching position at the United States Air Force Academy. He had heard nothing from NASA after three years, was he seeking another direction? Or, was it simply because he believed in his country and his Commander-in-Chief? DUTY CALLED! Eight days after celebrating his 30th birthday in DaNang, South Vietnam, Victor was officially MISSING IN ACTION!
In September 1967, our parents received a letter from NASA informing them that their son, Victor Joe Apodaca, Jr., had been accepted into the Apollo Space Program.
Over the years, information has come to the Apodaca family that Victor is alive. In 1986, information came from two CIA operatives that Victor was being held in Laos. In 1989, the Buddhist monk, Iwanobu Yoshida, age 65, had been released after 14 years imprisonment in Southeast Asia. Information from Yoshida was that he had been kept alive by American POWs, naming Victor Apodaca as one of them. In March 1990, a retired USAF Intelligence Analyst and former National Security Agent stated in an affidavit that, ".... Jon Busch and Victor Apodaca.... were MOSCOW BOUND...."
When Victor left for Vietnam, remaining behind were two small sons, Victor III (age 5) and Robert (age 3). In June 2001, the sons accepted what they believed to be the remains of their father. Without consulting the Apodaca sisters, who have been actively involved in the POW-MIA issue these many years, they buried the bone fragments at the U.S. Air Force Academy Cemetery on September 15, 2001, with full military honor. The Apodaca sisters had requested that a memorial service be held but NOT to bury the questionable bone fragments.
WHY THE APODACA SISTERS DO NOT ACCEPT THE THREE BONE FRAGMENTS AS THEIR BROTHER.
1. Since 1988, several boxes LABELED BY THE VIETNAMESE to be Apodaca and containing purported human remains, were proven to be animal bones as well as unidentifiable bone shards.
2. No evidence exists to associate the bone fragments to the purported Apodaca/Busch crash site.
3. The remains were seized from a Vietnamese "Bones Trader" many miles from the said loss location.
4. No personal effects or human remains were recovered from the suspected crash site.
5. There is NO chain of custody for the remains.
6. The Federal Bureau of Investigation examined two dog tags that were turned over by the Vietnamese. Examination of the dog tags revealed they had been "...damaged several times... deliberately bent back and forth. Metallurgical evaluation revealed that the dog tags were made of Monel, an alloy composed of nickel, copper, iron, and manganese. During the Vietnam Conflict, dog tags were "... comprised of austenitic stainless steel rather than Monel."
7. No evidence exists to associate either of the dog tags to the remains subjected to mtDNA testing.
8. No evidence exists to suggest the purported remains are those of Major Victor Joe Apodaca, Jr.
9. Only one bone fragment was subjected to mtDNA testing.
10. A portion of a map with plastic overlay purported to be associated with Apodaca was also turned over by the Vietnamese. In a Defense Intelligence Agency letter dated 5 July 1989, and signed by Colonel Joseph A. Schlatter, Chief of Special Office for Prisoners of War and Missing in Action, "The map itself had a dirty plastic overlay which was tested for latent fingerprints. None were found. The remnants of the overlay, which were further damaged in the test for prints, were disposed of in the interest of health considerations."
11. Upon examination by CILHI forensic anthropologists, there was no evidence proving that the bone fragments had been exposed to fire, jet fuel, water, or acidic soil.
12. Multiple letters in the case file from the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting search team question whether the purported crash site is related to Apodaca/Busch. "The joint team then surveyed the purported crash site but was unable to confirm that a crash had occurred at that location."
13. The Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Division, and Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory are using mtDNA as the PRIMARY or sole means of identification, violating their own DOD policy.
The Department of Defense policy states: mtDNA testing should only be used to support an identification when strong circumstantial evidence exists to suggest a possible identification. A letter from the Assistant Secretary of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Affairs dated 7 August 1998, states "...Scientists count on the power of mtDNA typing to provide the necessary supporting evidence to make an identification in conjunction with many other factors. MtDNA is NOT used as the primary or sole means of identification."
14. By October 2000, the single tested bone fragment and the Apodaca blood sample matched FIVE others in the mtDNA database.
15. The Forensic Anthropology Report: CILHI 1989-105-I-01.
U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii dated
26 February 1998 is signed off by Anthropologist, Bradley J. Adams, NOT A FORENSIC ANTHROPOLOGIST (a major difference in training and education).
For the Apodaca sisters, relatives and friends who believe the buried bone fragments are not those of Major Victor Joe Apodaca, Jr., the search for the truth will continue. We have no closure because we have no truth.
THE TRUTH WILL PREVAIL
Please visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund page for the "Wall of Faces" page for Victor J. Apodaca Jr.