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Late Vietnam War pilot’s name added to Veterans Blvd in Merced. Here’s his story

See ceremony adding names to Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The names of three Vietnam War veterans are added to the California Vientam Veterans Memorial on Saturday, October 13, 2018 during a ceremony that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the memorial in Sacramento's Capitol Park.
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The names of three Vietnam War veterans are added to the California Vientam Veterans Memorial on Saturday, October 13, 2018 during a ceremony that celebrates the 30th anniversary of the memorial in Sacramento's Capitol Park.

A Vietnam War pilot whose plane was shot down in 1972 was honored with a plaque on Veterans Boulevard-M Street Monday.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Wayne Bolte, a Merced resident, and five other crew members took off from Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base on April 2, 1972 in an EB-66 Destroyer, according to a city news release.

They were running an electronic countermeasures mission over South Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the release states. But while over their target, a nearby “escort” plane observed a surface-to-air missile explode near Bolte’s plane, which started breaking into pieces before crashing.

No parachutes were deployed, but one survivor was rescued 12 days after the crash, according to the release. The other five members, including 37-year-old Bolte, are believed to have died.

Bolte was posthumously promoted to the rank of colonel and memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

With the plaque dedication at 12th and M streets Monday, Bolte’s name joined those Merced residents who lost their lives in military service to the country.

Bolte was stationed at Castle Air Force Base before shipping out to Vietnam, Merced spokesperson Mike Conway said. Bolte left behind a wife, son and daughter.

“I’m appreciative of the City of Merced for what they did,” said Bolte’s son, Mark Bolte, who assisted with the dedication. Mark Bolte, who grew up and lives in Merced, is a Marine veteran.

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Merced veteran Mark Bolte holds a plaque with his father’s name before it is memorialized along M Street and 12th Street Monday, May 20, 2019. Mark Bolte’s father, Wayne Bolte, was a U.S. Air Force pilot and was killed when his plane was possibly hit and crashed during the Vietnam War.

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