SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of  U.S. Air Force Captain

 Samuel Fantle III

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Minnehaha County

November 19, 1939 -- January 5, 1968

Killed in Action in North Vietnam


Samuel Fantle III was born November 19, 1939, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Samuel Jr. and Evelyn (Mochlas) Fantle. He had three siblings: Stephanie, Steve, and Susan. The family owned, among other successful business ventures, a chain of department stores in the Midwest. Samuel attended grade school in Sioux Falls and graduated from Washington High School in 1957. Among his high school activities, Sam was a straight- A student, active in Science Club, Pep Club, Boy’s State, chorus (including All-State) Spanish, track, debate, and was student manager in football. In addition to being a “handsome, popular boy” he was described as a “big, strong guy,” who stood 6’4. Samuel attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He went on to finish his degree at the University of Ohio with a degree in applied mathematics.

Samuel Fantle III first entered the service in September 30, 1960, at Harlingen Air Force Base, Texas. Although he wanted to be a pilot, his asthma, his height, and his superior educational background were factors in his placement as a radar interceptor operator instead. On February 5, 1962, in Houston, Texas, at the Houston Waldorf-Astoria, Samuel married his wife, Mary Louise, whom he had met while he was in flight school. Later Samuel and Mary had two children, Gregory and Melissa. In December 1965, the Air Force approved orders for Sam to attend Stanford University to obtain a Ph.D. in applied mathematics. Samuel, Louise and son Greg were in the process of moving to California when Sam received a temporary reassignment to go to Vietnam to fly the “100” missions requirement. They were redirected to go to Nellis AFB at Las Vegas, NV where Samuel trained for his war mission. Greg was three when his father was first sent overseas to Takhli AB, Thailand in May 13, 1966. In 1967, Louise went into labor with Melissa; while she was at the hospital, a category-5 hurricane, Beulah, destroyed their home. Louise, Greg, and newborn Melissa had no possessions until the Red Cross provided some relief. Shortly afterward, Samuel came back on leave and bought a house for his family in Alamo, Texas.

Stationed in Thailand as an Electronics Warfare Officer in the U.S. Air Force, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Captain Fantle flew aboard an F-105 “Thud” Thunderchief. Called the Wild Weasels, these two-seater aircrafts’ job “was to precede a strike force into the target area, entice enemy surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft radars to come on the air, and knock them out with bombs or with missiles that homed on the radar's emissions. Often they were in a high-threat area for half an hour while the strike force attacked its targets and withdrew,” according to the Air Force Magazine Online.

The following details about Captain Fantle’s death were at On January 5, 1968, Captain Samuel Fantle III, co-pilot of an F-105, went on a combat mission over North Vietnam from the Air Force Base at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base. As the lead plane of four, “at about 35 miles northeast of Hanoi” Fantle’s plane was hit by enemy fire “causing the plane to go out of control and forcing the crew to eject.” A witness saw Samuel landing but “intense hostilities prevented rescue.” At that time, he was officially listed as missing in action and his family was notified.

This was Samuel’s 99th mission and he was set to rotate back to the United States and his family after his 100th. His wife, Louise, remembers clearly the day the three military men drove up to her house. Since they were not living close to the Air Force base, she also knew immediately why they were there. After a long period of waiting, when no further word was received, in January of 1969, Samuel’s parents asked Senator McGovern to meet with North Vietnamese officials who claimed Samuel had “hit a rock on bailout.” Although other plausible scenarios exist as to the fate of Captain Fantle, the official record states that he was considered missing in action until December 9, 1969, “the date on which evidence received in the Department of the Air Force was considered sufficient to conclusively establish the death.” Sometimes after the war was over, Samuel’s remains were “discovered” and returned to U.S. authorities. He was buried with military honors at the Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1976.

Samuel Fantle is survived by his mother, Evelyn, Aurora, Colorado; his sister, Susan Fantle, Denver, Colorado: his widow, Louise Fantle, Aurora, Colorado; his son, Greg (Barbara) Fantle and their three children, Sarah, and twins, Max and Lauren, Littleton, Colorado; and his daughter, Melissa (Thomas) Davis, and their two children, Samuel and Nathan, Hupperath, Germany.

This entry was respectfully submitted by Gavin Cordell, 8th grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, on March 29, 2006. Information for this entry was provided by a South Dakota Vietnam Veterans’ bonus application, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader issue, Sunday January 7, 1968,, and Additional information by Greg Fantle, son, and Louise Fantle, widow. Profile approval by Louise Fantle.


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