Hints on How to Search

We have provided two search forms, each of which operates differently and should be used for different purposes. To get the most out of our searchable database and to ensure you find what you're looking for, please read the rest of this page.

UPPER SEARCH FORM (Records Search)

Of the two search forms, the upper one on the Search Forms page is the easiest and more intuitive one, although it has a great many more search categories to choose from (First/Middle Name, Last Name, Day, Month, Year, Aircraft Type, Military Unit, Service, Home Base, and Disposition). It is very easy to input just one or two things and get a list of 500 results, so it is best to narrow your search criteria whenever possible; however, IF YOU'RE LOOKING FOR ONE PERSON, YOUR BEST BET IS TO SIMPLY PUT THEIR LAST NAME IN THE "Last Name" BOX AND HIT "Enter."

We've had several failed searches because too much information was entered and something in that list of things was wrong. In one instance, someone put "F4" as Aircraft Type, which is the old WWII designation of aircraft. The correct entry is "F-4". In another instance, someone knew that two people were lost in the same aircraft, so they put both last names in the "Last Name" block. That block is for one last name at a time. In still another instance, someone read our "First/Middle Name" block literally and put "John/Michael" in that box. The Upper Search Form cannot accept punctuation (except a hyphen). Since no one has the exact name "John/Michael" the search will fail.

The search results list is numbered, so you can readily see just how many results you got; however, if you're using the search engine to count losses of some type, you would be better served to go through our extensive Statistics pages first. Perhaps we've already added up what you're looking for. Besides, in most instances, the count of search results in a list of returns does not indicate the number of losses of that type. That may bear some explanation:

  • In the upper search form, if you put anything in First/Middle Name, Last Name, or select anything in the Disposition dropdown, it will return a list of Names that met your search criteria. If there are multiple people with similar names or partial names that meet your criteria that were involved in the same event, then the total of results will not be an accurate count of the number of lost aircraft since some will be counted more than once.
  • In that same upper search form, if you do not put anything in the First/Middle Name, Last Name, or the Disposition selection, the results list will be Aircraft that were involved in losses that met your search criteria. When aircraft were involved in the same event (one that could be described accurately through a single Narrative of what happened), they are grouped in the database in the same record. The total of results in the list would not necessarily equal the number of losses, unless all of those incidents involved a single aircraft. There are multiple records in the database of more than one aircraft being involved. In fact, there are up to six aircraft in a single event in the database, just as there are up to 30 people involved in a single event in the database.

In the upper search form, you may input only part of a name, and you will retrieve all names that contain those letters in sequence, anywhere in the name. For example, if you put "smith" without quotes (no quotation marks or parentheses or other punctuation will be accepted), you could get "Smithson" as well as "Goldsmith" if there were people with those names in the database. The downside of being able to input a partial name is that the system will not allow quotation marks, for instance. If you attempt to use them, it will return no results, telling you that there is no one in the database that has quotation marks in their name.

When searching for a name, remember that, for the most part, the names in the database are formal names, not nicknames. If you search for Tom, the system will not recognize Thomas as a match.

When searching for an aircraft carrier (as a Home Base), use the name of the ship, not its number; that is, search for USS Midway (NOT U.S.S. Midway) or just Midway, rather than CVA-41. The database does not have the numerical designation of aircraft carriers in it. Additionally, neither aircraft carriers nor air bases are the "Military Unit" for aircraft; they are the "Home Base." To search for the "Military Unit", you must use squadron information. For home bases other than aircraft carriers, just search for the name. There are some air bases that were commonly referred to as AB (Air Base) rather than AFB (Air Force Base), so it is safer to simply search for Clark or Andersen or Kadena or Atsugi, etc. Just like the names of personnel, home bases will accept part of a name, so searching for "anders" (without the quotes) will retrieve Andersen-based losses.

It is a good practice when making multiple searches in the upper form to make liberal use of the "Clear" button. Inadvertently leaving something in one of the blocks when conducting additional searches will either narrow your search more than you intended or frustrate you by returning no results when you know there should be something there. So, make it a habit to Clear the search form and start fresh each time you conduct a search.

Whether you search for a name/disposition and retrieve a list of names or you search without a name/disposition and retrieve a list of aircraft, the date of the loss will be a hyperlink that will take you to a page with all the details of that loss. Additional information is also included in the list of names or aircraft to help you determine if your search returned the results of interest. The list of search results that met your criteria will be in chronological order.

LOWER SEARCH FORM (Narrative Search)

The lower search form is an entirely different animal. It uses a different search mechanism called a Boolean full-text search. It searches only the Narratives in the database, that is, the write-up describing the circumstances surrounding the loss of an aircraft. In this search box, partial words are not accepted with one caveat: if you append an asterisk (*) to the end (and ONLY the end) of a word, it will consider that a "wild card" representing any number of additional characters added to the end of the letters you have entered. For example, if you wanted to read every Narrative associated with the Ravens, the best way to search for that is to input "Raven*" (without the quotes). That will return anything that begins with Raven, such as Raven, Ravens, and Raven-like. To repeat, you may not use that "wild card" at any other place in a search term other than at the end.

Our database has been indexed down to two-letter words, rather than four-letter words that most databases are indexed for. The reason is that there are so many geographic names in Southeast Asia that contain two- and three-letter words. That can also pose a problem because the letters "an" and "to" are contained in several geographic names, yet they are common words in English. Accordingly, if you input [an loc] without the brackets, you will get results that contain the word "an" which will be a lot of things you aren't interested in. It will also return anything with the word "loc". So, you'll get results with "Phu Loc" included, for example. This is not only because we indexed two-letter words but also because entering two or more words without any modifiers (called "Boolean Operators") included will be treated as a search for any records that contain either word one OR word two.

So, that brings us to Boolean Operators. The ones that the system understands are: + [results must include the word], - [results must not include the word], * [a wildcard representing any number of letters only at the end of a word], () [to group words or phrases for adding operators that apply to all words in the group], > or < [to increase or decrease the relevance value of a keyword], ~ [to negate a word's ranking value], and " " [to define an exact phrase that must contain everything between quotation marks to be included in the results returned].

First, a simple example: if you want to find all mentions in Narratives of An Loc, then input "An Loc" (including quotation marks), and the system will return all results where those two words are spelled exactly that way and are adjacent to each other with only one space between them and no punctuation. It is NOT case sensitive.

Some other examples:

To search for Narratives that contain at least one of the two words: air or craft, use

air craft

To search for Narratives that contain both words: air and craft, use

+air +craft

To search for Narratives that contain the word “air”, but you want a higher ranking for the Narratives that also contain “craft”, use

+air craft

To search for Narratives that contain the word “air” but not “craft”, use

+air -craft

To search for Narratives that contain the word “air” but you want to rank the result lower if it contains the word “craft”, use

+air ~craft

To search for Narratives that contain the words “air” and “craft”, or “air” and “training” in whatever order, but you want the Narratives that contain “air" and "craft” ranked higher than “air training”.

+air +(>craft <training)

To find Narratives that contain words starting with “viet” such as “vietnam”, “vietnamese”, “viet minh”, “viet cong”, etc., use


When we mention "ranking" that means how high up in the results list the record meeting that criteria will be listed. Without any of the Operators being employed, the results are listed in order of "relevance." Without the Operators, the only relevance applied to that ranking is the frequency with which the word is found in a given Narrative. If all results contain the keyword only one time, the results will be ranked in chronological order.

When you use the lower search form on the Search Forms page, your results will be listed with a date, which is a hyperlink to get to the details of the loss event, along with other information to help you decide which of the results you want to click on. Among that information will be a list all of the aircraft types involved in that specific event and all the last names of personnel involved in that specific event.

Good hunting!

© Chris Hobson and David Lovelady. All rights reserved.