MIA Facts Site

The "1?73 TH" photo

You should have come here from an article describing an aerial photograph of a man-made symbol found in Laos in 1973.  Here is the photo.  This link returns you to the article.

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The dirt track that leads to the left and up from the 1?73 TH symbol goes directly to the site where Emmet Kay and the Thai Special Forces team crashlanded and encountered North Vietnamese troops.  According to members of the Thai team who were interviewed by the US DIA, several team members, including Thai Major Thao, fled down this trail, toward the place where this symbol appeared.  Not shown in this photo is Thai script that was stamped into the grass just off the left edge of this photo.

On another website-- one maintained by one of the "MIA activists" -- is the claim that "experts" believe this symbol was made by USAF Captain Tom Hart.   On 21 December 1972, an AC-130 gunship ( callsign SPECTRE 17 )  was shot down over southern Laos ( near the town of Paxse ) some 200 miles south of where the symbol was photographed in May 1973 -- six months after the gunship was downed.  The gunship was hit by groundfire and suffered a catastrophic midair fuel and ammunition explosion.  Two crewmembers were able to parachute -- they jumped or were blown out -- from the aircraft and were rescued.  One missing crewmember on this gunship was USAF Captain Thomas T. Hart.   I am not aware of a single "expert" who believes that this symbol has anything to do with the SPECTRE 17 loss.

Another claim on the site referred to above -- and a claim that circulates through the MIA activist community -- is that this symbol was present for months and that it appeared to have been made from planted vegetation, such as manioc.  This claim is nonsense.   Another photo was taken several days later and the symbol had begun to fade because the grass, flattened to make the symbol, was recovering.  Another shot was taken approximately one month later (I do not recall the exact interval) and the symbol was gone, the grass had recovered.

The crash site of SPECTRE 17 was excavated in February 1985.  The combination of eyewitness accounts of the shoot-down, reconnaissance over the crash site by other aircrews, and the findings of the excavation, made it clear that no one survived the SPECTRE 17 loss (except the two who bailed out).   This symbol has nothing to do with the SPECTRE 17 loss.

Return to the 1?73 TH article.