The Long Road Home


The purpose of this site is to share the story of the men who died on the night of 21 December, 1972 while fighting aboard Spectre 17. These men spent 13 long years in the jungles of Laos before being returned to their loved ones in 1985. My father, John Q. Winningham, was one of the crew members on Spectre 17 that night. 

There has been been quite a bit of controversy over the years regarding the number of airmen who survived the crash, whether any airmen were captured by the Pathet Lao, and concerns over the positive identification of the remains that were recovered in 1985.

This story is one of facts as best they can be established. I’ve spent years talking to people who were there that night in an attempt to document as much of the truth as possible. I’ve traveled to two Spectre reunions and one Raven reunion to interview people as well as spent countless hours combing Air Force documents, making telephone calls, and corresponding via email. 

The one fact that is irrefutable is that the men of the 16th Special Operations Squadron displayed amazing bravery and heroism in the face of enemy fire night after night, year after year. The feats performed by these men and many others such as the Ravens, Air America and the PJs would make a Hollywood action movie seem boring in comparison. 

Unfortunately, the entire story of the men of Spectre 17 will never be known as the fog of war never reveals all of it’s secrets. 


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