I've been researching the story of Lt. Daniel Dawson, a pilot shot down over Vietnam in November of 1964, and his older brother Donald. I first heard of the Dawson brothers' story in a sermon that quoted Edmund Clowney's own sermon, Sharing the Father's Welcome. You can read the following excerpt in its entirety, here.

During the war in Vietnam, Army Lieutenant Daniel Dawson’s reconnaissance plane went down over the Vietcong jungle. When his brother Donald heard the report, he sold everything he had, left his wife with $20, and bought passage to Vietnam. There he equipped himself with a soldier’s gear and wandered through the guerilla-controlled jungle, looking for his brother. He carried leaflets picturing the plane and describing in Vietnamese the reward for news of the missing pilot. He became known as Anh toi phi-cong—the brother of the pilot. A Life magazine reporter described his perilous search.

The Life magazine article in question was called "A Haunted Man's Perilous Search," from the March 12, 1965 edition of Life. Life is no longer in print but it is owned by time, and I'm still trying to find a back-issue of the article.

Time, however, did have a brief follow-up article on Donald's search, found here:

Californian Donald C. Dawson, 25, emerged from the jungle north of Bien Hoa airbase and reported that his reckless, obsessive search for his brother, Army Lieut. Daniel Dawson, was over after nine months—four of them as a Viet Cong prisoner. "They told me he was dead and gave me a flight vest he wore, and then they told me to go," said Don sadly. He never saw the grave, but the Viet Cong claimed they would tend it until Dawson could come back after the war to recover the body of his brother, shot down last Nov. 6 in a light reconnaissance plane. For Don, it was time to go home to his wife and four children in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The story really kicked me in the gut the first time I heard it related, and its one I'd like to write up in detail. I've found a couple more detailed but somewhat conflicting recounts of Donald's time in Vietnam here(from The First Marine Captured in Vietnam, by Donald Price) and here (from Honor Bound, by Stuart Rochester, Frederick Kiley).

In the meantime, more searching.


valb said...

I am truly amazed that someone from your generation cares about that era. With McCain's loss it seems like being a Vietnam vet no longer matters to many Americans anymore. Good luck on your quest.

Anonymous said...

There are several newspaper articles on newspaperarchives.com about the Dawsons. Some are from their hometown newspapers.

slaphappy said...

In October 2001 an associate and I traveled to Nanaimo Island, BC and interviewed Don Dawson for a potential motion picture project of his experiences searching for his brother in Vietnam. He died of cancer 2 or 3 years later. It's been a while, but I'm sure we still have hours of video / audio of the interviews. At the time we also had an original copy of the Life magazine with the article, which is also likely still around.

David said...

Hi slaphappy - I can't access your profile but I would really appreciate the opportunity to contact you, I would very much like to get a copy of the Life article if at all possible. If you read this, would you please email me at allkindsoftime@gmail.com?


Timothy said...

I am a pastor in Florida and I just preached on the Luke 15 parables so I was familiar with this story also from Edmund Clowney's sermon. I was able to find the Life Magazine article at a local college library - hardbound and not on microfiche. So there are copies out there.

You can check out this link for the service record on Danny Dawson:


Good luck - Tim

life said...

I just finished reading an article in Life magazine, March 12, 1965, about Don Dawson's quest to find his brother. I googled his name and discovered your web site. My husband served in Vietnam 1966-67, so that's why this was interesting to me.
If you want to pay the shipping cost, I'll be glad to send you this magazine.

David said...

Hi Rosalee - Thanks for your comment and the very kind offer. Would you please email me at allkindsoftime@gmail.com? I'd like to arrange the details to pay you for the shipment if your offer still stands. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Life just went online with back issues:

xox Sara xox said...

I used to be Don Dawson's neighbor when he lived in Wrightwood, California in the early 1970s. I had no idea about his journey or the story in LIFE magazine until he told me a brief, poignant version of what happened as we sat in a local bar. Shortly after, I wrote about the experience in short story form for a college essay in 1974. Just today I came across the essay in a box of old things and out of curiosity did a google search which brought me to this page. I have never seen the edition of LIFE in which his story appears and would be interested in reading it if anyone has it or if it is available online.

xox Sara xox said...

In the early 1970s when he lived in Wrightwood, California, I was one of Don Dawson's neighbors. One night in a local bar, he told me a brief, poignant story about his search for his brother. It made a tremendous impact on me, and I wrote an essay for my college class about it. Today as I was going through some boxes of old personal items I came across my essay, and it piqued my curiosity to do a google search and found this site. Though he mentioned the LIFE magazine article in our conversation, I had and still have not seen it and would be very interested in finding a copy.

looking for family said...

Does anyone know how to contact the family now???? Believe it or not, my brother-in-law was given Lt. Dawson's name on the bracelet in school and has kept it all this time. We were thinking that maybe the family would like it as a memento.

Timetrip1 said...

I came across a March 12, 1968 LIFE Magazine with the Dawson story inside. Every time I turn a page, a small part of the magazine crumbles (so sad).

Anyhow, a truly remarkable story. What I'm still trying to find is what was the end results, did he ever find his bother?