The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

October/November 2003
SDIT REPORT
   
 

Daughter of William Crisp

BY KAREN SPEARS ZACHARIAS


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 hostile
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 said.

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 1993.

"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 bear.''

Bill Crisp made his daughter one last promise before leaving for Vietnam.

"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 back.''

Kathy is interested in hearing from any veterans who served with her father. She can be reached via e-mail at kwebbtexas@yahoo.com

   

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