Keeping memory alive on the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - March 16, 2022 marks the 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Flying Tiger Flight 739
Jennifer Kirk, a family member of a soldier aboard the flight, spoke about how the disappearance affected her family. Her uncle was Donald A. Sargent, and he was just 22 years old when he boarded the Flying Tiger Line aircraft.
According to Kirk, Sargent joined the army to create a life better for himself than how he was raised. “That’s why he joined the army at first,” she said, “to be able to get out and find work, and make something of himself. Then, when this happened, it crushed the whole family.”
The flight was on its way to Vietnam from Travis Air force base in California during March of 1962 in the middle of the Vietnam War.
Sargent was one of 93 soldiers and 11 civilians aboard when the flight disappeared after refueling in Guam. The families of the soldiers were sent a heart-breaking telegram, informing them that the soldiers were officially declared dead after only eight days of searching for any remains of the plane.
“We never got any information about what mission they were on or anything,” Kirk said. “We just knew that the plane disappeared and they were headed to Saigon.”
Growing up, Kirk was not allowed to assume that her uncle was dead. Her grandmother, the fallen soldier’s mother, was always determined that he would make it home one day. She would talk about him as if he was living and would tell stories of him when he was young.
Once her grandmother passed, Kirk’s father, the brother of Sargent, began to tell her more about her uncle Donald and how the disappearance affected him. Kirk’s curiosity grew as she got older and she decided to begin her own research, which led her to other people who were family members of soldiers on the plane.
After connecting with those family members, Kirk, her family and four other families decided to meet up in Washington in 2016. All of the families were, for the first time, able to talk about their heartaches with fellow family members who understood how they felt.
Kirk told us, “There’s connection, and we can talk about it. I hook my dad up on the computer so he can talk to people, and he’s like ‘ok, there’s other people out there I can talk about this now.’ He was standing upright with a smile on his face, and it was like a whole new dad.”
Wreaths across America does have a monument for the fallen soldiers of Flying Tiger Flight 739, but the families are still continuing to push for the passing of a bill that would get the soldiers’ names on the Vietnam Veteran’s memorial wall in Washington, D.C..
“None of the flight crew or those rangers will ever be forgotten,” Kirk said.
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