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Son seeks answers about dad's mysterious death: 'He told me to be a good boy while he was gone'

Posted at 4:28 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 18:27:42-04

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- The memories Gary Thomas has of his father are mostly the ones he has been told.

Except for one, the last day he saw his dad alive.

"He looked at me and told me to be a good boy while he was gone," the Colonial Heights man recalled.

Master Sergeant John Thomas, a World War II veteran was among 93 U.S. Army servicemen who disappeared on March 16, 1962, on Flying Tiger Line Flight 739.

"No one knows what happened," his son said.

While the exact details of the mission have never been revealed, the flight was en route to Vietnam.

It went missing somewhere between Guam and the Philippines.

The official report details witnesses seeing a mid-air explosion. Nothing was ever found. No official cause was ever determined.

The family kept abreast of search efforts through newspaper articles and telegrams.

One marked April 30, 1962, said MSgt. Thomas was considered perished.

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"These families have no closure whatsoever. A lot of them, including Gary's dad, did not even have a funeral," Rhonda Thomas, MSgt. Thomas' daughter-in-law," said.

Efforts to commemorate the soldiers, including adding their names to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. had been unsuccessful.

But over the weekend, a monument was unveiled in Maine.

With the help of Wreaths Across America, it sits on the ground where the non-profit grows its trees.

Executive Director Karen Worcester said along with giving the families a place to grieve, it can serve to teach others about Flight 739.

"The sacrifice, not only those who perished on the plane but the families who've lived without their loved ones for almost 60 years," Karen Worcester, Executive Director of Wreaths Across America, said.

The Thomas family watched the unveiling online.

While they hope to see the memorial in person this summer, what they really want are answers.

"I'm not anything will unless we get answers," Gary Thomas said.