Flying Tiger Line Flight 739: The 62-year-old aviation mystery many have never heard of

This weekend marks the 62nd anniversary of one of the biggest unsolved aviation mysteries – the disappearance of Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, a secret mission that resulted in the loss of nearly 100 U.S. Army soldiers

The flight went missing in the early days of the Vietnam War on March 16, 1962. No trace of the plane or its passengers were ever found, despite the largest peacetime air-and-sea rescue mission that followed. The flight went missing after a refueling stop in Guam and never arrived at its next stop in the Philippines, according to The History Channel

Onboard were 93 U.S. Army soldiers, 11 civilian crewmembers and four Vietnamese citizens. 

"A lot of people don't know the story because everything was all in top secret. And so that's why 62 years later, all the family that are surviving were never told of what this mission was because it was top secret," said Jen Kirk. 

She spoke with LiveNOW from FOX about what her family knows – and still does not know, to this day –  about what happened to her uncle. 


A Lockheed Constellation, similar to the aircraft that disappeared. Getty Images

Her grandmother was first alerted that Specialist 4 Donald A. Sargent was missing. 

"And so for a few days, it was, ‘They were missing,’" she said. "And my grandmother just locked herself in her room, wouldn't believe it. Just brought massive stress to the siblings. And when they declared them lost and passed, my grandmother would not believe it. She believed to her dying death that he was coming home." 

Kirk said authorities searched for eight days in what she said is still the biggest land and sea search since Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. 

She said her family has written letters to the government begging for any bits of information about what happened. 

"Nothing was ever given to them," she said. "I just think, if things would have been handled differently, all of the family members (of) all of the 92 rangers and crew would have had a little bit of peace had things been handled just a little bit differently."

Wreaths Across America founder Morrill Worcester erected the only monument that bears the names of the soldiers that died, which is located in Maine. 

The nonprofit organization that places wreaths on veteran graves says the families have made every attempt to get the names of their loved ones on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. but that they have been met with the response, "they weren’t in combat operations or a combat zone."

RELATED: How the military’s new X-65 plane might revolutionize aircraft design

On the anniversary, Wreaths Across America has also begun paying tribute to the lives lost with a special ceremony, something that Kirk is especially grateful for. 

"It brought together a lot of family members that were still surviving, to be able to grieve together because every family member grieved alone during that time and (for) a long time for not knowing anything."

Kirk said a documentary is in the works that has followed the families’ alongside their plight to government authorities and for the monument unveiling.

This story was reported from Detroit.