Laurent Lee Gourley
Wall of Honor Level:Air and Space Friend
Dedicated Panel:F100 Super Sabre Society
Honored By:Elzene E. Gourley
Sep. 5, 1944
Aug. 9, 1969, Laos
Major Gourley - United States Air Force Fighter Pilot - was on a reconnaissance mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in central Laos when his plane disappeared. Major Gourley was designated Missing In Action on 8/9/69 and designated died while missing on 11/29/78. Major Gourley's remains were found on 2/11/2001 and identified on 8/9/2002. He was promoted to Major on 12/9/77 while Missing In Action.
Laurent was born to Walter & Betty Gourley and grew up on a farm at Morton's Mill, Iowa with his three siblings, Floyd "Butch", Elzene, and Fred. He was active in football and baseball and was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated as Valedictorian from Villisca High School in 1962. Laurent graduated with Highest Honors from the US Air Force Academy with a majors in Astronautics and was Commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the USAF in 1966; and got his Masters' degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1967.
During 2001-2002, a joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic team excavated a plane crash site in Xepon District, Savannakhet Province, Laos. Major Gourley's recovered remains were interred at the Villisca Cemetery in October, 2002.
Major Gourley is honored on the Vietnam Memorial Wall 20W118.
Walter Lee Gourley (1915 - 1986)
Betty A. Arnold Gourley (1915 - 2004)
Remains Returned 12/11/2001
Remains Identified 08/08/2002
Name: Laurent Lee Gourley
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 416th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Tuy Hoa Airbase, South Vietnam
Date of Loss: 09 August 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161800N 1063900E (XD762026)
Other Personnel In Incident: Jefferson S. Dotson (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one or more of the following:
raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews: 01 January 1990. Updated by the
P.O.W. NETWORK 2003.
SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in SouthVietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. The border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was used for transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Scores of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful and the recovery rate was high. Still, there were nearly 600 who were not rescued in Laos. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos and Vietnam.
In the early morning of August 9, 1969, 1Lt. Jefferson S. Dotson, rear seat co-pilot, and Capt. Lee Gourley, pilot, departed Tuy Hoa Airbase located on the coast of central South Vietnam on a "Misty" Forward Air Control (FAC) mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in central Laos.
Lee Gourley had written home early that same day saying that all missions for that day had been scrubbed due to bad weather. He did not expect to have to fly that day - and he had time to write his family. Gourley had been working with Misty for some time as a volunteer. Misty FAC volunteers were chosen from among the best and most experienced pilots. He had delayed a trip to Hawaii for R & R until the Misty duties were complete in another week, knowing his time in the Vietnam arena would be short following his return. The FAC mission had come up
The aircraft Dotson and Gourley flew, the F100 Super Sabre, had been specially modified a few years before to include a second crewman. The F model, introduced in 1965, had the latest technology in radar signal detectors. The initial shipment of F100F's were called "Wild Weasel I" and were an important element in several combat operations. Gourley and Dotson were not on a Wild Weasel mission, however, and on the FAC mission this day, no bombs were loaded. They were to fly low and fast over their objective area and presumably analyze targets for future air strikes, or assess the potential need for further strikes. FAC reconnaissance missions in the traditional sense were often flown by light observation aircraft rather than fighter/bombers, but the necessary element for this mission was low altitude and high speed, as well as the ability to cover a large territory. Although there was normally no scheduled air backup or escort on a FAC mission, and Gourley and Jefferson had none, other aircraft which happened to be in the area provide information as to what happened to Dotson and Gourley as they flew near Sepone in Savannakhet Province, Laos. One passing aircraft intercepted a radio transmission from the F100F, "We've been hit, we're going to try to get out." Observers from the passing aircraft
then saw the F100 go up in flames, and observed one fully deployed parachute. (NOTE: The standard ejection called for the rear-seater, Dotson, to make the first ejection, then the pilot, and a fully deployed chute indicated the successful ejection of a crew member.) Dotson and Gourley were classified Missing in Action. Their families understood that they might have been captured, and like the families of others who were missing, wrote regular letters.
Laurent Lee Gourley graduated from the U. S. Air Force Academy in 1966.
US Government said they identified Gourley's remains when they excavated an F-100F plane crash site in Laos 33 years after the crash. Lee Gourley is buried next to his Dad in Villisca, Iowa.