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Military Memories Memorials

POW/MIA Jet Crash

Name: Ronald Lee Zempel , Rank/Branch: E3/US Navy, Unit: Helicopter Support Squadron 1, Detachment Lima, USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31), Date of Birth: 17 December 1944 (Township MN)  Home City of Record: Grand Rapids MI  Date of Loss: 27 February 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/ Over Water Loss, Coordinates: 171708N 1074109E (YE855130)
Status (in 1973):  Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 5, Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH2B
Other Personnel in Incident: Edward N. Letchworth, Bernard J. Sause, Litchfield P. Huie
(all missing)  Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 April 1990 from one or
more of the following: raw data from  U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. REMARKS: BLOWN OFF CV - SANK - NORECV - J
SYNOPSIS:  The USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31)  saw early Vietnam  war action.
A World War II Essex-class carrier, she was on station participating in combat action against the Communists
as early as August 1964. Her aircraft carried the first Walleye missiles when
they were introduced in 1967. In November 1970, the BON HOMME RICHARD completed its sixth combat deployment and was scheduled for decommissioning by mid-1971.  
  LT Litchfield P. Huie was a pilot assigned
to Helicopter Support Squadron 1, Detachment
LIMA onboard the aircraft carrier USS BON HOMME RICHARD
in 1967. On February 27
of that year,
Huie launched from the aircraft carrier with his crew: LTJG Edward N. Letchworth,  Airman Ronald L. Zempel, and Airman Bernard J. Sause. Jr. Airman Zempel was
an aircrew survival equipmentman,  and it is assumed that this crew normally conducted pilot rescue operations. As the UH2B flown by Huie
was launched from the carrier, it lifted
tail high, flipped  and partially recovered just prior to striking the water. Upon striking the
water the helicopter broke apart on impact. A search helicopter was immediately over the
scene and was later aided by two Navy destroyers.  The search was terminated with negative results.
Huie, Zempel, Sause and Letchworth were declared Killed/Body Not Recovered. 
They are listed among the missing because no bodies were found to return home.  Their
accident is listed as non-combat related. Since the war ended in Vietnam, refugees have
flooded the world, bringing with them stories of American soldiers still held prisoner in their homeland. Many authorities now believe that hundreds were left behind as living hostages.
The Uh2B crew did not survive the accident on February 27, 1967. Their families have
accepted that they are dead. They no
longer expect them to come home someday. But
hundreds of families wait expectantly and in the special agony only uncertainty
can bring. Hundreds of men wait in caves, cages and prisons. How much longer will we allow the abandonment  of our best men? It's time we brought them home.

Name: Donald Elmer Paxton, Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force, Unit: 8th Bomb group Date
of Birth: 03 November 1928, Home City of Record: Cedar Rapids IA, Date of Loss: 22 February 1969 Country of Loss: Laos, Loss Coordinates: 163200N 1061600E (XD351297), Status (in 1973): Missing In Action, Category: 2 , Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B57B  Other Personnel In Incident: Charles Macko (missing), Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project (919/527-8079) 01 April 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Copyright, 1991 Homecoming II Project.
SYNOPSIS: In mid-February, 1969, U.S. Defense policy for response on U.S. operations in Laos was, "The preferable response to questions about air operations in Laos is 'no comment'." We "weren't" in Laos.  The B57 Canberra was one of the aircraft used by the U.S. Air Force
to bomb the  Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Canberra first came to the Vietnam theater at the time of  the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. It proved too vulnerable and difficult to  repair for working targets over North Vietnam, but proved effective in the armed  reconnaissance Trail operations
of Operation Steel Tiger. The Canberra was  sometimes used in conjunction with other, more sophisticated aircraft, such as  the C130, and was especially effective on night missions.  LtCol. Donald E. Paxton and Maj. Charles Macko were in Laos. Paxton was the  pilot and Macko the co-pilot of a B57 bomber sent on a mission over Savannakhet  Province, Laos, on February 22, 1969. During the mission, the aircraft was shot down and both men were declared Missing In Action.  Macko and Paxton are two of nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos during  the Vietnam War. Although Pathet Lao leaders stressed that they held "tens of  tens" of American prisoners, they stated that those captured in Laos would be  released in Laos, hoping to gain a seat at the negotiating table in Paris where  the U.S. and Vietnam were negotiating an end to the war.  The U.S. did not include Laos in the Paris Peace Accords, and no Americans held  in Laos were released. In America's haste to leave Southeast Asia, it abandoned its finest men. Since the end of the war, the U.S. has received thousands of  reports convincing many that hundreds of Americans are still held captive today.  In seeming disreguard for the Americans either held or having been murdered by  the Pathet Lao, by 1989, the U.S. and the Lao devised a working
plan to provide  Laos with humanitarian and economic aid leading toward ultimate full
diplomatic  and trade relations while Laos allows the excavation of military crash sites at
sporadic intervals. In America's haste to return to Southeast Asia, we are again abandoning our men. Charles Macko and Donald E. Paxton were both promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period they were maintained missin

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