Families of missing servicemen want answers about downed pre-Vietnam War flight

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — After more than 39 years, families of US servicemen on a downed flight that left from Travis Air Force Base are finally getting a memorial.

The mystery of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739 started at Travis Air Force Base in March 1962, when 93 U.S. and 3 South Vietnamese soldiers boarded a plane destined for Saigon, three years before the U.S. officially entered the Vietnam War.

“A whole lot of it has been redacted,” said Donna Ellis, whose dad was onboard.

“And no one has really been able to find out for sure what the flight was for,” Harriet Glassman Snyder said.

But after taking off from Guam, the crew of 11 and 96 passengers were never seen again.

“A ship that was sort of nearby noticed a couple of bright explosions in the sky,” Glassman Snyder recalled.

“They never found anything, no evidence of a plane going down at all,” Clifton Sargent told FOX40.

His brother, Donald Sargent, was onboard.

“It’s been hell for 55 years. We never knew a thing of what had happened,” he said.

He said he remembers his brother acting nervous the days before he left: “He was agitated, he didn’t want to go, he was in and out of the house two or three times to say goodbye.”

Sargent is one of a dozen families who will attend a memorial unveiling at Wreaths Across America’s headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine, next week. It’s the first posthumous honor these men have received.

“All of the passengers will be listed, etched in on this monument,” Ellis said.

Her father, Sgt. Melvin Lewis Hart, was among those lost.

“I was 5 when he was killed,” she said, adding that she believes the men’s names should also be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. “Without them being acknowledged on the wall, they are not acknowledged in their home state memorial or their home county or their home city memorial.”

But to do that, because the plane went down so far away from Vietnam, the mission must be declassified.

“After so many years, everything that was classified was declassified,” Ellis said.

Glassman Snyder also believes the men deserve better recognition. She lost her half-brother, Master Sgt. Robert Glassman, on that flight.

“The government really hasn’t done much to honor these people or really explain as best they could what happened and what the flight was all about,” Ellis said.

Sargent said he knows his brother would want the world to know of their mission.

“Seems though after 50 years, things could be cleared and the families could know what happened,” he told FOX40.

That plane’s disappearance prompted one of the largest air and sea searches in the history of the Pacific. After eight days, 200,000 square miles of open ocean were searched by aircraft and ships from four branches of the U.S. military.

But no wreckage was ever found.

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