HOUSTON – Pat Jones knew Mike Wall, as did many in this close-knit community in the spring of 1970.
Wall was a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force when was shot down in Vietnam piloting an intelligence gathering EC-47 and died in the crash. Jones, who also flew in the 1970’s and currently flies for Fed Ex, was the keynote speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony that saw the names of all 72 Chickasaw County war dead read and remembered.
“I knew Mike,” said Jones. “He lived on Pontotoc Street, water skied, played in the Houston High School band and even had his own band call the ‘Trumpet Trio.’
“He drove a white Ford Fairlane,” Jones said. “He graduated from high school in 1962 and went on to Mississippi State and got a degree in Chemistry in 1966. He joined the Air Force and was doing his duty when we died serving his country.”
Jones said he talked with three other EC-47 pilots about Wall – one who flew in the same outfit with Wall. Jones gave this account of the flight that took Wall’s life.
Wall’s plane took off about 3:30 a.m. April 22, 1970 and flew along the border of Vietnam and Laos gathering radio communications. About 9:30 a.m., the multi-engine plane was hit by anti-aircraft shells and one engine blew out.
Jones, who obtained radio traffic of the crash, said Wall kept the plane under control and flew it into the jungle. Wall and radio operator Mike Conner died on impact. The six remaining crew members were rescued by helicopter as the enemy closed in.
“He is buried in Houston Cemetery,” said Jones. “We don’t ever need to forget him.”
Monday’s ceremony also saw the Pilot Club Missing Man Table set up on the Courthouse Lawn.
The invocation was given by former Houston Mayor and veteran Bill Smith. Veteran Frank Pemper and Johnny Kimbrough read the names of those who died in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Veteran attending Monday’s event were asked to stand and were given a round of applause.
Houston Memorial Day ceremony coordinator Rex Sanderson recognized the memory of brothers Luther and Mark Jolly. Sanderson said the VFW and American Legion is actively seeking the names and history of all local residents who served in the military.
Monday’s ceremony was concluded with the playing of Taps.