Name: Harold Kahler
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 27 January 1923
Home City of Record: Lincoln NE
Date of Loss: 14 June 1969
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 201051N 1035449E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Copyright 1991 Homecoming II Project.
SYNOPSIS: Maj. Harold Kahler was the pilot of an F-105D Thunderchief aircraft sent on a mission over Laos on June 14, 1969. His aircraft was the number two plane in a flight of two. The flight was trying to locate some 20 trucks on a highway in northwest Laos, but were unable to do so. They located a bridge in the target area and were given permission to release their ordnance on the bridge. The lead aircraft rolled in on the target followed by Kahler in the number two aircraft. As the lead F-105 was coming off the target he saw a flash of light in his rear-view mirror.
The lead aircraft immediately tried to contact Kahler by radio, but was unsuccessful. He had enough fuel to make just one pass over cloud coverage and monsoon weather, but did not see a parachute indicating Kahler successfully ejected from his aircraft. The aircraft went down about 18 miles northeast of Sam Neua.
The Sam Nuea area is noted for caves in which American prisoners of war were held during the war. After the plane went down, a team reached the site and found the cockpit of the plane empty with no parachutes either inside or on the ground nearby. It was thought at the time that Kahler was working his way to a safer area where he could be rescued. The plane itself was in fair condition, considering the violent impact. This information was given to one of Kahler's family members during an information-seeking trip to Laos. The relative was able to see the jungle area near the crash.
On June 14, the Pathet Lao acknowledged shooting down an F-105 and stated that the pilot was "suitably punished." The mission had been Kahler's 81st combat mission. The aircraft went down about 18 miles northeast of Sam Neua. Nothing has been learned of Harold Kahler's fate since that time.
Kahler is one of nearly 600 Americans who were lost in Laos. None were successfully negotiated for at the end of the war. Many of the thousands of reports concerning Americans still held captive come from Laos. While the U.S. has limited diplomatic relations with the communist government of Laos, it has failed to negotiate the freedom of those American prisoners.
Kahler was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, and took pilot training in Lubbock, Texas, where he received his wings in 1943. He trained pilots during World War II. Following the war, he remained in the Air Force until he was sent to Vietnam. His wife and two children lived in Tempe, Arizona in 1974. Kahler was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained as Missing In Action.