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Eugene Lacy Wheeler - Vietnam POW-MIA from Ashville (Pickaway County) Ohio

Eugene Lacy Wheeler
Vietnam POW-MIA

Photos
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Eugene Wheeler circa 1960. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Martin, Colonel, USMC Ret., York, ME)


Eugene L. Wheeler's name appears near the top of the 11 West panel of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The cross symbol beside his name denotes he was missing at the end of the Vietnam War and remains missing and unaccounted for to this day.


This statue stands at the entrance of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.


This is the memorial erected in 1983 at Ted Lewis Park in Circleville, Ohio, which honors soldiers who gave their lives in Vietnam.


The plaque bearing Eugene Wheeler's name on the Vietnam memorial at Ted Lewis Park, Circleville, Ohio.


This plaque dedicates the memorial at Ted Lewis Park, Circleville, Ohio, to the soldiers of Pickaway County who made the supreme sacrifice in Vietnam.


This plaque honoring Pickaway County soldiers lost in Vietnam hangs in the entrance of the Pickaway County Downtown Annex building at 141 W. Main Street, Circleville, Ohio.


This is an OV10A military aircraft similar to the one Eugene Wheeler flew on his final mission for the United States Marine Corps in 1970.


Tributes

Major Wheeler's name is included on a microchip NASA launched into space aboard the Stardust spacecraft in February 1999. In addition to submitted names, the microchip included the name of each fallen soldier inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.


Memories

Personal story from Bruce Martin, Colonel, USMC Ret., about an experience he shared with Eugene Wheeler in the spring of 1960.

If you have photos or other memorials of Eugene L. Wheeler that I can include on this page, please e-mail me using the link below.

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Related Links

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund

Vietnam Veterans of America

The Wall - USA

The Virtual Wall

United States Marine Corps

Library of Congress POW/MIA Database

National League of POW/MIA Families

U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office

September 2005 marked the 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war. After more than a quarter-century, it is appalling to realize that there are still more than 1,800 American soldiers who remain unaccounted for to this day from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Perhaps they died in prison camps. Perhaps they were left on a battlefield. Perhaps they are still alive.

But someone knows what happened to them. Someone holds the secret to their ultimate fate. And America owes a debt to the men it sent into battle to bring them home again, "that they may walk once more on American soil or be buried in it".

This page is dedicated to one of those men. He is a man whose story deserves to be told... a man who deserves to come home.

Name: Eugene Lacy Wheeler

Rank/Branch: O4/US Marine Corps

Unit: VMO-2, MAG 11

Date of Birth: 30 January 1937

Home City of Record: Ashville OH

Date of Loss: 21 April 1970

Country of Loss: South Vietnam

Loss Coordinates: 152501N 1073127E (YC709059)

Status: Missing, Presumed Dead (Current)

Category: 1

Aircraft: OV10A

Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

The following information is from a personal interview I conducted with John Wheeler for an article published in The Circleville Herald in September, 2000.

The Man

Eugene Lacy Wheeler was a Marine Corps Major who was declared missing in action April 21, 1970.

Wheeler, along with his brothers and sisters, was raised by his grandparents in Ashville, Ohio. His parents died when he was seven years old.

His brother, John, remembers Eugene as a loyal and dedicated person.

"He joined the guards when he was in high school over at Ashville-Harrison," said John Wheeler. "He enlisted in the Marines when he graduated. He attended NAPCAD in Pensicola and got his wings to be a pilot. Then he went back to the Marine Corps."

He said his brother gained recognition prior to the war for breaking a world's record as a training pilot in Meridian, Mississippi.

The Mission

On April 21, 1970, Maj. Eugene L. Wheeler was the pilot of an OV10A aircraft on a mission in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam near the border of Laos.

According to military reports and information provided by his brother, Wheeler had just begun his third tour of duty when his plane was shot down and crashed in enemy territory.

"It was him and his co-pilot," said John. "They both ejected and parachuted out. After the crash, they had radio contact with both of them. But when they came in to get them, they came under fire. Gene was supposed to be rescued first because he was the ranking officer on the flight, but he was pinned down by enemy fire and they couldn't get to him. He told them to take Captain Hatch (his co-pilot) instead."

John said his family was informed that radio contact was established with his brother again the following morning, and they knew he survived the night. But again, rescue attempts failed when the helicopters came under enemy fire.

Eugene Wheeler was never heard from again after that morning, and his body was never recovered. He left behind a wife and three children all under the age of seven. He was 33 years old.

The Aftermath

Eugene Wheeler was declared "missing in action" at that time. Years later, his status was revised to "missing, presumed dead". He is one of more than 1,800 American soldiers who remain unaccounted for to this day.

John Wheeler said his family tried for years to get the government to find out what happened to his brother and to bring him home, dead or alive. He said they are still very unhappy with the way the U.S. government handled the situation with POWs and MIAs in Vietnam.

"After all this time, I believe he's probably dead," said John. "I just don't know when that happened. Maybe the gunshots they heard when they came in to get him were him being killed by the enemy. Maybe it was him killing himself to avoid being captured." He has also considered the possibility that his brother was taken prisoner that day. "I don't know," he said. "But somebody knows what happened to him."

John Wheeler said the Vietnamese government continues to deny any knowledge of his brother's ultimate fate.

"My brother was very loyal to this country," he said. "Very dedicated, very loyal." John said he believes his brother and others like him deserved better from their own government.

From "Operation Just Cause":

"The Vietnamese pledged to return all prisoners of war and provide the fullest possible accounting of the missing in the peace accords signed in 1973. They have done neither, and the U.S. has not compelled them to do so.

"The United States government pledged that the POW/MIA issue is of "highest national priority" but has not achieved results indicative of a priority. Wheeler and the more than 1,800 Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia deserve our best efforts to bring them home, not empty rhetoric."

Click here to adopt the cause of an American POW/MIA from Vietnam

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