Meet Kathy Crisp Webb of
Greenville, Texas. A self-described "Daddy's girl,'' Kathy
was the second of four children born to Master Sergeant
William Crisp and his wife, Peggy Lou. Kathy was 9 years old
when her father was killed in action in Vietnam. Sister
Linda was 12; brothers Billy, 6, and Mark, 20 months.
Bill Crisp, 37, was serving as a flight engineer with the
Air Force's 345th Troop Carrier Squadron out of Dyess AFB
when he was killed on Dec. 20, 1965. He'd been in-country
only a month when the C-130, carrying 13 tons of fuel,
crashed on approach at the Tuy Hoa airstrip. Also killed
were Lt. Donald Smith, pilot; Lt. David Wax, co-pilot; Capt.
Terry Katterhenry; and A1C Willie Mitchell. Due to the
intense enemy activity in the area, the plane was listed as
having been shot down. Bad weather, however, also was deemed
a factor in the crash.
Although a burning yuletide might delight others during the
holiday season, for Kathy, the sight of a Christmas fire is
chilling. On Tuesday, December 21, 1965, while visiting
relatives, the family was notified. A man from Western Union
placed a call and read a telegram from U.S. Air Force
officials to Peggy Crisp's 16-year-old niece, who had
answered the phone. The niece wrote down what she was told.
Her Uncle Bill's plane was missing. It had gone down over
territory. A search was underway. It was possible that Crisp
and the others onboard had been taken captive.
"I will never forget the look on my mother's face as my
uncle told her to read message. All color drained from her
face,'' Kathy recalled. "My grandmother always said the
wails that followed would have been enough to curdle milk.''
On Christmas Eve - the couple's 14th wedding anniversary -
another message arrived. Written by the base commander, Col.
Charles Christmas, the letter stated that intense enemy fire
had made a ground investigation impossible. Col. Christmas
said an aerial observation had ruled out hope that anyone
could have survived the crash.
Days turned to weeks before the U.S. Air Force sent a
uniformed officer to the Crisp home. MSgt. Bill Crisp was
listed as missing in action until February 6, 1966, when his
body was recovered. The remains were sealed and never
identified by any family member. None of his personal items
were identified, either.
"That lack of proof has always haunted our family,'' Kathy
The family was not told that the remains of the co-pilot
were not recovered with the other crewmen. Lt. David Wax's
remains eventually were discovered and returned after they
were turned over to U.S. officials by a Vietnamese farmer in
"I do not know how far from the plane Lt. Wax's remains were
found or how they got there,'' Kathy said. Rumors that an
officer was seen roaming the same area raised questions as
to whether all died at the time of the crash. "We will never
know,'' Kathy said.
Crisp was buried at East Hill Cemetery in Roff, Oklahoma, on
February 14, 1966 - Valentine's Day.
"As my cousins went off to school, with smiles on their
faces and packing stacks of cards to share with their
friends, I dressed up in my new white blouse, teal blue wool
skirt, and new white gloves. I wept by my father's grave as
a 21-gun salute blasted the blue sky above,'' Kathy said.
Kathy recalled her last memories of her father: "We were
with him when he received his orders for Vietnam. He'd just
arrived back home in Abilene, Texas, from a three-month tour
flying troops and supplies in and out of Vietnam. He and my
mother stood beside the car, hugging one another and crying.
Just the thought of leaving his young family for a year and
going to a dangerous country was almost more than he could
Bill Crisp made his daughter one last promise before leaving
"He told me that he'd be gone for a year and that I would be
in 5th grade when he returned. He asked me to help my mother
and to watch after the boys. He assured me that we would all
enjoy a big Christmas with Grandma in Oklahoma when he got
Kathy is interested in hearing from any veterans who
served with her father. She can be reached via e-mail at