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.

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