ACOSTA, HECTOR MICHAEL Name: Hector Michael Acosta Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Date of Birth: 01/12/49 Home City of Record: San Antonio TX Date of Loss: 09 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 191800N 1052700E (WG472339) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Missions: 92 Other Personnel In Incident: Billie J. Williams (remains returned) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 February 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK REMARKS: 730329 RELSD BY DRV SYNOPSIS: Billie Joe Williams was the aircraft commander of an RF4C armed reconnaissance "Phantom" fighter/bomber from the 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. On December 9, 1972, Williams and four F4s were on a reconnaisance mission over North Vietnam for action planned for December 18th when his plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) and downed just south of the city of Nghai Hung in Nghe An Province. When the aircraft was hit, Hector Acosta, the navigator on the RF4C, ejected both seats, and two parachutes were observed by the F4s in the flight to leave the disabled aircraft. Acosta did not know his pilot's condition at that time, but feared that he was already dead. He had ejected the pilot's seat because he did not want his commander to go down with the plane. When Acosta was taken prisoner by the Vietnamese on the following day, he did not see whether Williams was also captured, but thought the Vietnamese had left him where he was. Rescue teams the following day observed a body, apparently Williams, in the middle of a clearing. The rescue helicopter was fired on, and noted that the body did not move in spite of the close proximity to the gunfire. The Vietnamese had used the body as a decoy for the rescue chopper. They failed, but Williams' remains were not recovered. Bill's wife Barbara says, "Bill loved to fly and loved the Air Force. I honestly believe Bill died the way he expressed a desire to. But he always cautioned me to not accept 'just anything.' I'll have to be very sure when the time comes his remains are returned. I have to do that for him." On December 20, 1990, U.S. officials announced that remains had been returned by the Vietnamese which had been positively identified as those of Billie Joe Williams. After nearly 20 years, Billie Joe Williams was home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO HECTOR MICHAEL ACOSTA 1st Lieutenant - United States Air Force Shot Down: December 9,1972 Released: March 29,1973 My name is Hector Michael Acosta, called "Mex" by my friends and fellow flyers in POW camp. I was born in San Antonio, Texas to my parents, Armando and Mary Acosta, on January 12, 1949. I studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood through my high school years and first two years of college. I graduated from St. Mary's University in San Antonio in 1970 and immediately entered the Air Force receiving my commission in August 1970. I went to "Navy Prep School" (pilot training) and was eliminated in November 1970. Still seeking my wings, I entered Navy School (joined by my Christmas season bride, Orphalinda) and began classes on my birthday, 1971. I received my wings in September and after survival schools and RTU was sent to Udorn RTAB, Thailand on the 4th of July 1972 as a Photo Systems Operator (GIB) RF4C, Phantom. I was on a photo reconnaissance mission in North Vietnam (a few miles north of Vihn) when an unseen surface to air missile (SAM) sent my aircraft, piloted by Major Billy Joe Williams (currently MIA), plummeting in flames. I received multiple shrapnel wounds and burns on both arms and right leg in the SAM strike and ejected to safety (two good chutes). This occurred during the early afternoon of December 9, 1972, during, approximately, my ninetieth mission. An extensive rescue effort lasted through the late afternoon of the 10th. No words can express my gratitude to the men who participated in these attempts. At one point after I had been wounded by my captor's gunfire (scalp wound to the top of my hard skull from an AK-47) and was being disarmed and stripped of survival gear, a rescue craft was passing directly overhead, braving intense ground fire on my behalf. Four days later I arrived at the "Hanoi Hilton" a bit worse for wear. Within four days I was removed from solitary confinement and intense questioning to join two F4 crew members, Captain Jim Latham and 1st Lt. Rick Bates, both USAF, Wolf fastfacs, who cared for me during my days of recovery and to whom I owe a debt of unending gratitude. We were soon joined by Lt. Tom Wieland USN, an A-7 jock shot down on the 20th of December. By Christmas and through the intense bombings of those days and until my release, I' had the privilege of the command and leadership of my group SRO (senior ranking officer) Lt. Col. William J. Breckner. By mid-January 1973, with hopes of peace strong in our hearts, our group was transferred to a camp of detention referred to as the "Zoo" and were detained there until our release on the 24th of March 1973. Impressions? Yes, many: awe at the strength of the character, brotherhood, courage, and loyalty of the men with whom I was interred and those who had suffered the rigors of years of detention, who maintained the flame of courage and love of country as an inspiration to us all. Loyalty. Love of Country. The people of America. Her systems of government. And, yes, Faith in God, without which we would not have had the strength necessary to endure; and undying devotion to our loved ones who suffered more than we from fear of the unknown and bore it all so bravely. To all the People of America: Thank you, God love you and keep you! From me, a heartfelt "Keep smiling!" We have much to be thankful for--so very much. My future plans are AFIT bound toward a Doctorate in Psychology with a firm grasp on my wings and the United States Air Force. ========================== Hector Acosta retired from the active duty in the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel in August of 1998. He and his wife Orphalinda reside in Texas.