December 1968. From Saigon to San Francisco

When Zodiac killed a couple of teenagers on Lake Herman Road, Vallejo, on 20 December 1968, was not yet known as Zodiac, and he wouldn’t be for about seven months. Nobody claimed to have murdered David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, at the time. Investigators were far from identifying the perpetrator until a man who would call himself the same as a dive watch brand phoned the Vallejo Police Department after a second attack in a parking lot at Blue Rock Springs Park. The location of the phone booth was at Tuolumne and Springs roads. Agent Nancy Slover listened to the caller and stated that he told her:

«I want to report a double murder. If you will go one mile east, on Columbus Parkway to the public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They were shot with a 9 mm Luger. I also killed those kids last year… Good-bye.»

Why did Zodiac not send letters and call the police immediately after the murders on 20 December as he would do in the other cases? Probably, he wasn’t able to play with the police in the days that followed the killings at Lake Herman Road, like someone who had got back to the front line.

At the moment I just could say that, at the beginning of December 1968, Joe was almost at the end of his tour of service in Vietnam. He was stationed at Cu Chi near Saigon, serving the 27th Infantry Regiment as intelligence and operations sergeant. The Army had recently awarded him the Silver Medal, Soldier’s Medal, and Purple Heart. Joe could ask his Command a leave of a few days which he could spend also out of the country like all the American soldiers who were in Vietnam for a tour of service.

Vietnam Honolulu R&R Zodiac

Pan Am flight – 1966

I found using just the Pan Am timetables that Joe had six opportunities at least to reach San Francisco for celebrating his 33rd birthday on 20 December 1968 there, spending this way his 7 days of rest & recuperation.

He could also have:

  • easily packed a .22 caliber gun in his checked baggage (it was allowed at the time – link), or have stored it in a locker somewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area before his departure to Vietnam.
  • bought one box of cartridges (and his .22 caliber pistol too) at a gun shop in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • rented a car at the airport or/and have taken his personal car which might have been parked in a military base in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • driven on Lake Herman Road for many reasons: a dinner at an Italian restaurant in Vallejo, a lonely trip in the Bay Area the night of his birthday… The spot where Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday were killed was popular among young people. Joe could have seen cars parked there in the days before the murders as he could have followed the couple the same night they were killed.

17 – 23 DECEMBER

Saigon to San Francisco and return – PAN AM 814 and 841 (timetable’s here)

17 December, Pan Am 814 Saigon – San Francisco, departure 2.20 p.m / arrive 7.45 p.m (due to time zone differences)

Saigon San Francisco

Saigon to San Francisco – December 1968

3 full days in San Francisco
17 December, from the night
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December, until night

21, 22, 23 December, Pan Am 841 San Francisco – Saigon, departure 9.00 p.m. / arrive 10.45 a. m. (23 Dec, due to time zone differences)

San Francisco Saigon

San Francisco to Saigon – December 1968

18 – 25* DECEMBER

Saigon to San Francisco and return – PAN AM 842 and 841** (timetable’s here)

18 December, Pan Am 842 Saigon – San Francisco, departure 11.50 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

3 full days in San Francisco*
18 December, from the night
19 December
20 December
21 December
22 December,  Pan Am 841 San Francisco – Honolulu, departure 9.00 p.m. / arrive 0.10 a. m. (22 Dec)*

1 full day in Honolulu*
23, 24 December, until morning

24, 25 December, Pan Am 841 Honolulu – Saigon, departure 1.30 a.m. / arrive 10.15 a. m. (25 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*The return journey was on Christmas Eve / Christmas. Joe might have spent one day more in San Francisco taking an extra leave for Christmas and come back on December 26.
**On Sunday, December 22 (timetable), there were other 5 Pan Am flights from San Francisco to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 / arrive 12.10), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m / arrive 14.10), 801 (departure 13.00 pm / arrive 16.10), 835 (6 p.m. / 9.10 p.m.).

Pan Am 1968 Vietnam

PAN AM R&R Flights Saigon to Honolulu and return + Honolulu to San Francisco and return (attachments 2 and 3)

Joe could have also taken a combination of different flights for his journey on a special leave.
In December 1968, there was plenty of choice of flights from Honolulu to San Francisco and return (attachment 2). The following ones are just those from the Pan Am timetables for December 1968. They are a combination of special Rest & Recuperation flights from Saigon to Honolulu and normal ones from Honolulu to San Francisco compatible with the day of the murders in Vallejo on December 20, 1968.

16 – 23 DECEMBER

16 December (Saigon – Honolulu timetable)
P208 Saigon – Honolulu, departure 10.10 a.m. / arrive 5.25 a.m. (due to time zone differences)
P208a Saigon – Honolulu, departure 5.10 p.m. / arrive 12.25 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

16 December (Honolulu – San Francisco timetable)
842 Honolulu – San Francisco, departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m.*
814 Honolulu – San Francisco, departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.

4 full days in San Francisco
16 December, from the evening/night
17 December
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December, until evening
Pan Am 835 San Francisco – Honolulu, depart 6.00 p.m. / arrive 9.10 p.m.**

22, 23 December 
P207 Honolulu – Saigon, depart 1.00 a.m. / arrive 8.55 a.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)
P207a Honolulu – Saigon, depart 8.00 a.m. / arrive 3.55 p.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*On Tuesday, December 16 (attachment 2), there were other 2 Pan Am flights to San Francisco: 836 (departure 10.30 a.m. / arrive 5.15 p.m.) and the following 814 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.).
**On Saturday, December 21 (attachment 2), there were other 5 Pan Am flights to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 a. m./ arrive 12.10 p.m.), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m. / arrive 2.10 p.m.), 801 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 4.10. p.m.), 841 (9 p.m. / 0.10 a.m. – 22 Dec).

17 – 24 DECEMBER

Saigon to Honolulu and return (P208 or P208a) + Honolulu to San Francisco and return (several)

17 December (Saigon – Honolulu timetable)
Pan Am P208 Saigon – Honolulu, depart 10.10 a.m. / arrive 5.25 a.m. (due to time zone differences)
Pan Am P208a Saigon – Honolulu, depart 5.10 p.m. / arrive 12.25 p.m. (due to time zone differences)

17 December (Honolulu – San Francisco timetable)
Pan Am 842 Honolulu – San Francisco, depart 9.30 a.m. / arrive 4.15 p.m.*
Pan Am 814 Honolulu – San Francisco, depart 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.

4 full days in San Francisco
17 December, from the evening/night
18 December
19 December
20 December
21 December
22 December, until evening
Pan Am 835 San Francisco – Honolulu, depart 6.00 p.m. / arrive 9.10 p.m.**

23, 24 December
P207 Honolulu – Saigon, depart 1.00 a.m. / arrive 8.55 a.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)
P207a Honolulu – Saigon, depart 8.00 a.m. / arrive 3.55 p.m. (24 Dec, due to time zone differences)

*On Wednesday, December 16 (timetable), there were other 2 Pan Am flights to San Francisco: 836 (departure 10.30 a.m. / arrive 5.15 p.m.) and the following 814 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 7.45 p.m.).
**On Sunday, December 21 (timetable), there were other 5 Pan Am flights to Honolulu: 817 (departure 9.00 a. m./ arrive 12.10 p.m.), 833 (departure 9.30 a.m. / arrive 1.45 p.m.), 831 (departure 11.00 p.m. / arrive 2.10 p.m.), 801 (departure 1.00 p.m. / arrive 4.10. p.m.), 841 (9 p.m. / 0.10 a.m. – 22 Dec).

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