“I’m not sure he was given a choice,” James Whited said. “There was some thought of staying in the service and making lieutenant colonel, which would mean taking the assignment in Vietnam, then retiring. But, I’m not sure he was given a choice.”
Once again, the elder Whited brought his family home to Norman.
Maj. Whited deployed to Vietnam.
“We never saw him again,” his widow said Tuesday.
Government documents indicate he was flying a reconnaissance mission over enemy territory in Vietnam on Nov. 19, 1966, when his Mohawk aircraft crashed.
“It was ruled a catastrophic accident,” James Whited said Tuesday. “He was co-pilot and they were making a run from Vietnam to Thailand over Laos. They couldn’t engage the enemy over Laos, so they just looked.
“They were watching the Ho Chi Min Trail. There were two planes on the mission, one flying high the other flying low over the tree tops in the valley.
“Apparently, Dad’s plane was coming up out of the valley, veered a little to the left and clipped a tree top. There are some really tall trees there.
“The plane then nosed toward the ground and erupted into a giant fireball on impact. That’s what they reported seeing from the other plane.
“They were just looking. Something we do with drones today. They learned lessons about working in harsh condititions from cases like Dad’s.”
Annie Whited never remarried and has remained in Norman. In fact, it was through a friendship made while stationed in Dothan that led to the purchase of her home in Norman.
On Sunday, Annie will turn 90 and she admits her memories of her husband have faded a bit.
“It’s been too many years,” Annie Whited said Tuesday. “The kids remember, though. James was 20, and Carolyn was 17.”