Not Playing Games
Summary. There are over eighty articles on the MIA Facts Site. In some of these, I get a bit testy when I describe such assholes as Billy Hendon, Senator Bob Smith, Mark Smith (Major, USA, Retired), Ted Sampley, and the like. This article will not be testy -- it's going to be downright in-your-face. Decent people may be offended by the story I am about to tell. At points, the language in this article will not be suitable for children. MIA cultists who read this article may be moved to send me a venomous e-mail -- save your energy. This article describes the venality of certain MIA cult members and it is not pretty. This article IS complicated -- it requires that the reader wade through several separate stories to understand what has brought us to this point.
Background: What brought us to this point
Lam Son 719
Many of you recall an operation called Lam Son 719 -- an ARVN move into Laos, early 1971, to cut the Ho Chin Minh trail and destroy PAVN sanctuaries in Laos. Lam Son 719 is well-documented, search around and you can find a book or two about it. The operation was a great concept but it came about twenty years too late -- PAVN owned the part of Laos that ARVN went into -- they were dug in, had excellent anti-aircraft coverage, and knew the terrain. It was a meatgrinder and ARVN was ground up.
US forces provided air support. What is germane to this article is that US helicopters provided lift and gunship support to ARVN -- our helicopters hauled ARVN troops into landing zones (LZ) in Laos, carried their supplies, provided gunship support for them, and extracted them when it was clear that PAVN was chewing up the ARVN forces.
One of the units providing helicopter support to ARVN was the Phoenix birds -- radio callsign "Phoenix" -- of Charlie Company, 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 101st Airborne Division. The Phoenix bird involved in this matter was Phoenix 16 (lead helicopter for this assault); the crew was, CPT David Nelson - Aircraft Commander, WO1 Ralph Moreira - Pilot, SP4 Joel Hatley - Crewchief, and SP4 Michael King - Door gunner. On 5 March 1971, Phoenix 16 went into a hot LZ in Laos to insert ARVN troops. In plain English, this means that Phoenix 16 flew a load of ARVN troops into a clearing in the jungle where enemy troops were shooting up everything that moved.
Phoenix 16 aborted his approach -- that is, he pulled up before hitting the ground -- and the command and control ship asked him his status. Nelson reported his aircraft had been hit on his approach and had been leaking fuel but wasn't now, he was losing hydraulic pressure, there were wounded on board, the gunner was hit in the head, and he was going to try to make it back to Kilo Sierra (Khe Sahn). He climbed to altitude -- that would have been 2,500 feet plus -- and decided to try to make it back to LZ Aloui, a closer LZ inside Vietnam. He made no further reports on the status of the aircraft but did report again that he had wounded on board. His silence on the radio was probably because he was struggling with a seriously wounded aircraft, trying to save his crew and passengers. Other aircraft were flying along with Nelson when suddenly a huge explosion was seen -- at first the flight thought there had been a mid-air collision between two aircraft then they realized Phoenix 16 had exploded in mid-air.
Crews in the accompanying aircraft reported that, after the explosion, they saw only pieces of helicopter raining out of the sky. There was no way that anyone survived. The crew of Phoenix 16 died in that explosion, their bodies likely shredded by the blast.
Visit the Phoenix website and read the article titled "Last Flight of the Phoenix:" http://www.phoenix158.org/hootches/mayberry.cfm /paraindent>
This article describes Lam Son 719 and events leading up to the burial of the Phoenix 16 crew: http://www.phoenix158.org/sophia.cfm
In 1989, the crashsite of Phoeniz 16 was excavated. Pieces of the wreckage with serial numbers were found confirming that this was the aircraft in question. Forty-four bone fragments were found as well as tooth fragments and Moriera's wedding ring. That's it. The facts were presented to the families involved who accepted the remains as those of their missing men. The bone fragments were placed into a casket and buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery. The MIA "activist" cult has attacked this recovery and burial, claiming that 44 bone fragments do not constitute the missing men, that this is just another example of government cover-up, and the like.
In late 1984, a Laotian named Somdee Phommachan came out of Laos as a refugee. He was interviewed at that time, was asked if he knew anything about Americans in Loas, and he replied that he had no information about Americans. After he arrived in the US his story changed. In 1986, Somdee appeared in a video produced by a hack producer and later Somdee appeared on national TV with a completely different story. Somdee now claimed that he had been arrested by the Laotian communists (a fact) and that he had encountered two Americans in a prison camp in the 1970s. Somdee was shown a high school yearbook, opened to the page containing the photograph of David Nelson, Phoenix 16 -- Somdee pointed to Nelson's photo as that of one of the two Americans he had seen in the prison camp.
You can imagine how the MIA cult jumped on this story. Here, they claimed, was proof that Americans were held in captivity after the war. When I testified before Congress as to the facts of the Somdee case -- that fact that he was lying -- Billy Hendon responded by playing a videotape of Somdee's TV performance. The MIA cult constantly tells us what a gentle man Somdee is and how he cries a lot.
We interviewed Somdee and polygraphed him. He completely busted the polygraph -- he was lying about encountering Americans in prison but he was telling the truth when he told us that he had been paid for his story and that he was coached on which photo to select. We interviewed other people who had been held in the same prison camp. They remembered Somdee (actually, they remembered him as a camp snitch) and they reported that there were no Americans in the camp. We interviewed the individual who had originally interviewed Somdee a few hours after he had fled from Laos into Thailand -- Somdee told him nothing about Americans, even though he was asked.
Somdee is lying and his story is bogus; he can shed all the tears he can muster, but that will not wash away the fact that he's a dirtbag. Read this article for the full Somdee story.
Earl Hopper, Jr.
Earl Hopper, Jr., 1LT, USAF, was the backseater and CAPT Keith Hall, USAF was the aircraft commander of a F4D that was hit by a surface-to-air missile on 10 January 1968 over North Vietnam. Other members of the four-aircraft flight observed the Hall-Hopper aircraft to be burning and they radioed Hall and Hopper to eject. Hall ordered Hopper to eject. Hopper replied that he had tried to eject but that his ejection system was not working. Hall told Hopper a second time to get out and Hopper responded again "I pulled it and it won't go" -- his ejection system was not working. Hall ejected and was captured. Hopper never got out of the aircraft.
Earl Hopper, Jr.'s father is Earl Hopper, Sr., a retired US Army Reserve colonel. Hopper is a mental midget who has made quite a reputation for himself as an MIA activist. This article tells the entire Hopper story -- read it as I am not going to repeat the story here.
The important part of this story involves Earl Hopper, Sr., and a woman named Patty Skelly. Hopper and Skelly are the sole members of an organization that they call Task Force Omega -- TFO consists of Skelly, Hopper, and an Internet connection, though they would have you believe that they are legion. Hopper and Skelly met in the mid-1980s and soon were an item among MIA families -- basically, old Earl was using MIA family activities as an excuse to bonk Patty -- all the while his wife, Earl, Jr.'s mother, Betty -- was fully aware of this but was powerless to do anything about it. While I was assigned to the DIA POW-MIA Office, I spoke at many family member meetings, some of them attended by Hopper, Skelly, and Betty Hopper. After hours at these meetings, some of the family members would talk to me informally and many of them were upset with the way Hopper and Skelly were making no attempt to hide their affair and with the way Hopper was treating Betty. Betty Hopper died in 1998 or 1999 -- I forget which -- and Hopper and Skelly are now married.
Hopper claims to have extensive experience in Army intelligence. This is typical of his lies and misrepresentations. In his last job in the Army, Hopper was assigned as Director of Intelligence and Security at a small Army base -- this is a typical retirement assignment because it requires no real activity, leaving the incumbent free to concentrate on retiring. Such positions have no real intelligence duties -- but Hopper would have you believe that he was a colleague of Agent 007. In his dreams. One DIA admiral, a man with long experience in the intelligence field, and a man who had considerable dealings with Hopper, gave me this assessment of Earl Hopper, Sr: "He couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions written on the sole."
Now, in November 2000, I have been sent a couple of e-mail messages originated by Patty Skelly. It seems that she is claiming that David Nelson, aircraft commander of Phoenix 16, was not killed in the explosion of his aircraft and she has taken it upon herself to lecture combat aviators about what they saw and what they know of the loss of Phoenix 16. Here are copies of the e-mails between Patty Skelly and a guy who flew helicopters for three combat tours. These e-mails are reproduced here exactly as Skelly sent them; the only change is that I have inserted (sic) at her grammatical errors and deleted the name of the guy involved. (Note: Skelly signs herself variously as Patty Skelly Hopper, Patty B. Hopper, and Patty Hopper -- whatever, it's the same old shit.)
E-mail number 1
I think I can help clear up a couple things for you where this loss incident is concerned.
David Nelson and his crew were always listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered, not Missing in Action. It would not have made any difference whether or not another pilot questioned if the explsion (sic) was from his Huey or a Cobra because that was never a factor in how they were listed right from the start.
As a research/analyst, I want you all to know how exceptional your site is, and the information provided on it. The official information about this loss indicates that Action Lead got into the LZ, off-loaded the ARVN, then began the return flight to Khe Sanh. This point is critical when looking at the results of the crash site excavation ---- there were literally no remains at all attributed to the 11 ARVN on board.
Further, your site provides badly needed data on just how hot that area was, and what kind of incredibly capable - and brave - every one of you who participated in this operation were. It must have been horrific!
On the same day that David Nelson and his crew were officially buried in Arlington, Senator Jesse Helms entered an excellent speech into the Congressional Record entitled "The Mock Burial of MIAs." It outlines just how this sham was carried out in this case, which is how the USG continues to operate where remains identification is concerned.
I think I can add additional information about Somdee that will answer at least some of your questions. At the time his information was received in Congressman Bill Hendon's office, my husband was on the Congressman's staff as a special advisor on this issue. We would spend a week to two weeks every month or so in the Washington office, therefore, were witnesses to how all of this came about.
Somdee was a Royal Lao officer - Captain, I think - who received training in the US. He was captured and incarcerated by communist forces in Laos, and at least after the war, was held with two American POWs.
After escaping captivity, he made his way out of SEA and into the US as a refugee. He made a life for himself and his family long before sharing any information about his experiences with any American. When he shared his information with the school's principle (sic) - and I'm sorry, while I can picture him in my mind, I cannot for the life of me remember his name - it was not to garner anything for himself. The priciple (sic) is also a Vietnam Vet and they talked as veteran to veteran. It was the priciple (sic) who recognised (sic) the importance of Somdee's information, not the other way around. The principle (sic) is the one who called Bill Hendon and Bob Smith's offices and made arrangements to travel with Somdee to Washington to be interviewed. Somdee came willingly. He provided information willingly and completely. He provided solid information that could be varified (sic) - information that was not part of any public record.
Because David Nelson and Stanley Smiley - the other POW he was held with - were both carried as KIA/BNRs, there were no pictures of them in the USG's precapture photo album, or anywhere else where Somdee could have become familier with their faces before being interviewed by DIA analysts. When he positively and accurately identified both men, it was after even the USG had search for photos of them to include in a massive "photo lineup."
Somdee had nothing to gain by coming forward and much to loss including his reputation. Both Earl and I were in the Congressional hearing room when Steven Solarz lied about Somdee by stating that "Somdee recanted his information abouut being held with American POWs and decided not to testify before the hearing."
We saw the tears streaming down Somdee's face as he kepts (sic) repeating, "I told the truth, I did not lie, why is he saying these things?" He was standing only a short distance from us. As soon as Solarz announced that Somdee would not be testifying, he recessed the hearing and departed by a back door before anyone could challenge him. It was a typicle nasty political ploy that - as usual - worked.
Politics is a dirty, nasty, ugly business when you get a chance to observe it up close.
A question I would like you to consider: Is it possible that at least David Nelson was blown out of the aircraft and not blown up with it?(Comment: Right. Then he survived a fall from over 2,500 feet altitude?)
Somdee also provided detailed information about David Nelson's place of burial. Hopefully one day his real remains will be returned to his family, friends and country. David deserves no less - so do all of you who flew with him and loved him.
Craig Wilbanks has finished putting the corrected bios for David and his crew on our web site. I invite you to look them over as well as any other bios you might be interested in. If you find something wrong, or have additional information, please feel free to contact us any time.
I'm also attaching a paper we've written dealing with the remains return and identification issue. I think it will help you understand what has happened and where the families stand on it.
The web site address iswww.taskforceomegainc.org
Task Force Omega, Inc.
Stepmother of POW/MIA
Lt. Col. Earl P. Hopper, Jr.
USAF, 10 Jan 68, VN
E-mail number 2
I queried CIL-HI for specific data concerning the identification of remains for David Nelson, Michael King, Joel Hatley and Ralph Moreira. I'm enclosing the response I received. If you have additional questions about how and what what identified, I would strongly recommend you contact Dr. Tom Holland directly. His e-mail address is: HollandT@cilhi.army.mil
Points to keep in mind:
1) Those 44 bone fragments were all too small to yeild MT-DNA material for testing.
2) Only 10 teeth portions were recovered; and only 5 were correlated to a specific member of the crew - there were no whole teeth recovered.
3) No remains - teeth or bone fragments - were attributed to any of the ARVN passengers known to be on board.
4) One unrestored #18 tooth was id'd as Ralph Moreira based on the fact that of the 4 Americans, each of the other 3 had fillings in their #18 tooth. There were 7 ARVN by the CIL-HI manifest, 11 ARVN by your data. Tell me, how many ARVN did you know in SEA with fillings?
5) Were the 44 bone fragments all human, or were some possible human and others not?
6) Michael King was identified by 4 tooth portions, not teeth in a skull or even a portion of a jaw.
I'm going to incorporate the following data into our bios for these Americans as soon as possible.
(Name deleted), understand there are many other people besides those of you who knew and flew with these men who care about them. Further, none of this is a game to us --- and we are not playing.
Patty Skelly Hopper's version of events is nonsense of the highest order. Somdee was a liar -- read the article about him. Nelson's aircraft exploded in mid-air at 2,500 feet plus; we were fortunate to recover 44 bone fragments 20 years after the explosion and crash.
Now, for the conclusion
So, there we have it. Hopper and Skelly are not content to spread bullshit and lies about Earl, Jr.'s loss, now they want to lie about other losses. Well, team, let's get serious here -- Skelly says that she is not playing games -- neither am I.
Earl Hopper, Jr.'s crashsite was investigated and excavated several times. During the excavations, bone fragments and teeth were found; these were the remains of Earl Hopper, Jr. Furthermore, the excavation turned up a large quantity of pilot-related equipment: (1) items that were in Hopper's survival kit attached to his ejection seat; (2) pieces of his ejection seat; (3) pieces of uniform and boots; and, (4) data plates with serial numbers that were traced through USAF records to Hopper's aircraft. All this evidence proves the Hopper never got out of his aircraft. If Hopper had exited the aircraft, none of this would have been in the aircraft wreckage.
As far as I know (as of November 2000), Earl, Sr. not yet accepted the identification of his son. Read this article to see the lies that Hopper tells about his son's loss -- he argues that Earl, Jr.'s beeper was found by a CIA team, he argues that Mark Smith had information that Earl, Jr. was to have been freed several years ago, and on and on. And now, Patty Skelly -- who did not meet Earl, Sr. until fifteen years AFTER Earl, Jr. was lost -- is sending e-mail signing herself as Earl, Jr.'s "stepmother." And I'm the King of England.
Earl Hopper, Sr. is in a real trick now that his son's remains have been recovered and now that analysis of the crash site proves that Earl, Jr. did not get out of the aircraft. For years Hopper has based his reputation on confronting the government's "lies" about his son. If Earl Hopper, Sr. were now to accept the fact that his son's remains and equipment were found in the crashsite, his credibility with the MIA cult would go in the toilet -- suddenly, Hopper would be in the position of acknowledging as fact what he has denounced for years as lies. He has spread this crap for so long that he is now a prisoner of his own lies.
In late 1999, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) a request for all documents relating to the excavation of Hopper's crash site. These reports are not classified nor are they privacy documents; in December 1999 I received a large envelope with the documents describing the investigations and excavations of the crash site. I have refrained from putting this material on the Internet because I did not want to do so before the identification was complete and accepted by the family. No longer. It's one thing for Hopper and Skelly to screw around with Earl, Jr.'s loss, it's quite another thing when they attempt to desecrate other heroes. Here it comes. I am listing here the items that were found in the excavation of Earl Hopper, Jr.'s crashsite. You read this and make up your own mind about Earl Hopper, Jr.'s fate. (I have inserted notes at a few places in this list -- my notes are in (parentheses) in this typeface.)
The items listed above were examined by USAF life support specialists -- the people who design the life support parts of aircraft -- ejection seats, survival gear, G-suits, anything having to do with enabling the crew to survive. This is what the life support specialists who examined the material from Hopper's aircraft said:
The excavations also recovered several bone fragments and teeth that have been confirmed as Hopper's.
Here is a summary table of the preliminary investigations and the excavations of Hopper's crash site.
If you wish to view a copy of the actual message from the Joint Task Force -- Full Accounting that reports on the various excavations, visit this site -- it contains large jpeg files and takes a minute to load. I had no intention of putting this information on the WWW but now that Paty Skelly has taken it on herself to trash the crew of Phoenix 16, I believe it is time to lay out these facts and expose her and Earl, Sr. for the fabricators they are.
Earl Hopper, Jr., went in with his aircraft. He was a hero who died in the heat of battle. He deserves a hero's burial; he does not deserve to lie in a box in a laboratory in Hawaii while his father and "stepmother" continue their lies about him and other missing men.
Some folks have asked me why I am so hard on the MIA cult -- do you now understand the depth of these people's venality? Do you now understand that they will stop at nothing to keep themselves in the public eye? Do you now understand that for people like Skelly, Hopper, Sampley, Daly, Murray, Hendon, Smith (both of them), and others in this cult it's not about grief or finding answers -- it's all about making themselves appear to have some special knowledge, appear to be victims of some non-existent government cover-up -- it's all about ego, about being special staff members for a congressman, about getting up on stage at a veteran's meeting and posing as an "expert" -- all the while, spreading bullshit. Puke.
November 18, 2000