This picture was taken in front of his F4 the day before he was shot down.
Major - 04 - United States Air Force
25th Tactical Fighter Squadron
8th Tactical Fighter Wing
7th Air Force
Tour of Duty Began September 17, 1969
26 Years Old
February 10, 1944 to March 19, 1970
Denise Goodwin honors Dennis...
I was a high school sophomore in 1972 when my mother bought us
MIA bracelets. The name on mine was Cpt. Dennis G. Pugh and I
wore it every day. One day it broke from a teenager taking it
off and on for showers. It sat in the top of my jewelry box for years.
Years later I took it out after watching a show about POW/MIA's. I
decided to write our Congressman asking for information if he ever came home.
I did receive a letter stating he was still listed as Missing in Action with
no other information. I had wanted to contact Dennis' family to let them
know I had not forgotten him.
I am sorry to say that I no longer have the bracelet. My mother made a
trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C and took
my bracelet with her so she could look for his name on the wall. Much
to my dismay she left it there at the wall where his name is. So it now
resides with all the others that have been left there.
Years later I was also able to visit D.C. and I searched for Dennis' name
and cried thinking of a man who gave his life, someone I never knew
except by a name on a bracelet. May God Bless his family who loved
him dearly, and may God Bless Maj. Dennis G. Pugh.
Steve Davis honors Dennis...
To all of the great men who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. I live today
in thanks and hope that God takes them into his heavenly arms, and watches
over their families and our brothers and sisters who are still serving
to make this country safe. I hope that all remember the truly great hero's
like Dennis and lest we never forget.
The panel from The Moving Wall that has the name of Dennis Pugh is dedicated
at St. John's Military School in Salina, KS, September, 2005.
Colonel Eric Peck (Chief of Staff, Kansas National Guard), Jim Cole, Jim Deister,
Lee Alley (DSC recipient at FSB Cudgel), Colonel Fox, Dale Pugh, Brigadier
General Dana Pittard (Deputy Commanding General, Ft. Riley), and LTG
(Ret) Dick Sietz.
Dale Pugh comments on his brothers situation...
Dennis G. Pugh was born February 10, 1944, in Hutchinson, Kansas. His father was,
at the time, an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps who was wounded on the island of
Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Dennis was raised in Salina and graduated first in his
class from Salina High School in 1962. After one year at the University of Kansas, Dennis
was appointed a Cadet in the Class of 1967 at the United States Air Force Academy. Upon
graduation with honors, he earned a Master's Degree in Quantitative Analysis from
UCLA and then graduated first in his class from Navigator training at Mather AFB. Dennis
was sent to Southeast Asia in September, 1969, where he was initially a navigator in B52
bombers. In March, 1970, Dennis was assigned to the WolFac at Ubon Air Force Base,
Thailand. As a member of this elite flying squadron, Dennis' mission was to navigate an
F4 Phantom fast and low over enemy territory to identify potential bombing targets.
On his very first mission with the WolFac on March 19, 1970, 1st Lt. Dennis Pugh was shot
down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Plain of Jars, an area heavily concentrated
with North Vietnamese regulars and Pathet Lao troops in northeast Laos. After successfully
ejecting from his aircraft, Dennis landed in a river and climbed up into a tree to assist the
rescue attempt for himself and his pilot, Maj. Richard Rash. Maj. Rash sustained serious
injuries during his ejection and landing and found himself immobilized several hundred
yards across a dense jungle from Dennis' position.
Rescue efforts were begun on March 20, 1970, and contact was made with Dennis. After
several hours, Dennis requested that ordnance be deployed on his position in an attempt
to move the enemy away and assist in his extraction. Ultimately, contact with Dennis was
lost after he destroyed his radio upon being overrun by the enemy. SAR pilots on the
mission characterized the last transmissions from Dennis as indicative of his having been
captured. Maj. Rash was successfully rescued on March 21, 1970, despite the loss of one
SAR aircraft and the death of that pilot whose body was recovered in 1995.
Dennis was promoted to Captain and listed as Missing-in-Action. No information was
received concerning his fate and neither he, nor any of the more than 300 other pilots lost in
Laos, was returned with other Prisoners-of-War in 1973. In 1979, a status hearing was held
by the Air Force. Although the vote was split in one of only four such cases in over 2,000
hearings, it was recommended that Dennis' status be changed to Killed-in-Action. In January,
1981, newly promoted Major Dennis Pugh was the second to the last serviceman declared
KIA in Southeast Asia.
In 1986, a refugee from Laos told American officials in Thailand that he had heard a story
from villagers in Laos which specifically matched the events of March, 1970. The refugee
advised that the airman who had landed in the river and climbed into a tree had been captured
and held in a POW camp by Pathet Lao forces. The refugee further advised that the airman
had died with two other POWs when their camp was bombed by the Americans in December,
1971. The refugee was able to pinpoint the location of the downed aircraft and provided the
tail number which matched Dennis' plane. Since that time, there have been at least six visits
to the area by American officials who located the aircraft but found no evidence of the fate of
In the early 1990s, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report was allowed to view
artifacts at the archives of the North Vietnamese Army in Hanoi. Among the items he
catalogued was the Air Force identification card for 1st Lt. Dennis Pugh. Over the years
the U.S. government has provided conflicting information concerning who shot down
Dennis' plane and who might have knowledge of his fate. The conflict between whether the
Pathet Lao or the North Vietnamese Army was the enemy on the ground in March, 1970,
has not been definitively determined.
Today, Major Dennis Pugh is one of the most recognized names among those lost in Southeast
Asia but whose circumstances have yet to be determined. His name appears on memorials
in Hawaii, at the U.S. Air Force Academy, on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.,
on several memorials in Kansas and hundreds of Freedom Trees throughout the nation.
The panel from the Vietnam Memorial Wall traveling exhibit bearing his name, was installed
at St. John's Military School in Salina in September, 2005. There, Major Pugh's medals
and memorabilia from the Air Force Academy are on display.
If you would like to post your remembrance
about Dennis, please click here.