Marine Major Luther Albert Lono, I am here. I do not know you personally but I hear you are with VMA 242, MAG 11. I also know that you were born on June 12, 1931, which makes you 67 years old now.
Like you, I am a Washington state Marine: You from Tacoma and me from Renton. I hear your family moved to Hawaii. I will be in contact with them soon, as I hope you will, too.
I learned that your A6A went down over Laos (Coordinates: 161500N 1065700E XD678036) on September 29, 1969, when I was less than a year old and that you were declared Missing In Action in 1973, when I was the age of my son, Alex.
Sadly, I hear that your buddy, Patrick R. Curran, also came up missing with you. I pray that you two are together and will be home soon. I will be here until that happens.
Here is all we know about your plight.
On 29 September, 1969, Maj. Luther A. Lono, pilot; and 1Lt. Patrick R. Curran, bombardier navigator were dispatched aboard an A6A to conduct an armed reconnaissance mission in support of Seventh U.S. Air Force operations over Laos. The mission was under the control of an Air Force Airborne Tactical Air Control aircraft, and was to be conducted in a heavily defended enemy area.
The mission proceeded without incident until 8:50 p.m., at which time the Airborne Tactical Air Control aircraft lost contact with the Lono/Curran aircraft. Their last radio contact had been about 25 miles west of Khe Sanh. Attempts to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful, and at 10:30 p.m., the commanding officer of the 11th Aircraft Group 11 declared them "overdue."
At this declaration, electronic search efforts began for the crew members, and a signal was received by the Tactical Air Control aircraft at 0248 hours on September 30 which was believed to be a signal from an emergency transmitter. Subsequent attempts to contact the crew were unsuccessful. A visual search began at dawn on September 30, but no sign of the crew or aircraft was found.
According to Curran's mother, Curran and Lono's aircraft quietly
landed in heavily-guarded enemy territory that night, and was taken intact.
Curran and Lono were either captured at that time, or executed. They were
alive. Mrs. Curran believes her son is still alive, and has worked tirelessly
to free him and others she believes also to be alive. Both Curran and Lono
Missing in Action.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos, but because the U.S. did not recognize the communist government there, we did not negotiate for the "tens of tens" of American prisoners the Pathet Lao stated that they held. As a result, not one American prisoner held in Laos ever returned.
Since the end of the war, nearly 10,000 reports of Americans missing in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government, convincing many authorities that hundreds are still languishing in communist prisons.
Luther Lono and Patrick Curran understood that undertaking the missions
they flew might mean they could be killed, wounded or captured. It probably
never crossed their minds that the country they proudly served would abandon
Luther, I will not forget you. I, too, have served this country for many years and have visited foreign lands. While I cannot even fathom the life you have led all these long years, I can offer my sincere thanks and supreme respect to your sacrifices. Only you and the almighty God know the true depth of your selflessness. I will trust in Him to reward you justly.
There are some that want to forget you, some that would rather not face the fact that you are alive. It would be easier to write you off to an era and a war they think is best forgotten. But for you, it is not over and that means for me, and others like me, the war will never be over.
I look into my children's eyes and know that their lives are better as a result off America's military heroes, past and present. What my father's generation has failed to do and what I have inherited, the responsibility of bringing you home, I take seriously. I will pass on that sense of responsibility to my son and daughter in case I cannot complete my mission.
Know this Luther, that as much as words, prayers, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and finally action, can make a difference in your life, I offer all of these things to you. Your reward is yet to come and at the very minimum, God shall provide. That, my brother, will also be the maximum. I hope you can hear me; my heart is screaming as loud as it can. God bless and I'll be seeing you soon. Semper Fi.