BATES, RICHARD L. Name: Ricahrd L. Bates Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force Unit: 435th TFS Date of Birth: 02 April 1948 Home City of Record: Plaza ND Date of Loss: 05 October 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 171200 North 1065000 East Status (in 1973): Returnee Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E Missions: 98 North Vietnam 136 Total Other Personnel in Incident: James Latham, returnee, pilot Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. REMARKS: 730329 RELEASED BY DRV 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 RICHARD L. BATES First Lieutenant - United States Air Force Shot Down: October 5, 1972 Released: March 29, 1973 I was shot down 05 October 1972 while flying as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in an F-4 over North Vietnam. Our aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire as we made a low pass to check out a possible target. The plane became uncontrollable almost immediately and my aircraft commander Jim Latham and I were forced to eject. I was captured immediately. I could hear bullets whizzing by me as I came down in the 'chute. My first thought was: "It's going to be a very long day." My next reaction was to pray for my wife. The first afternoon I was paraded around the villages near Dong Hoi (the village in the southern part of North Vietnam where I was downed) and the civilians took turns hitting, kicking spitting and stoning me. It was like running the gauntlet for four hours. For the next 35 days I was kept in the tunnel way entrance to a concrete ammo bunker. It was a 3 feet high, 3 feet wide and about 7 feet long. I was also bound hand and foot. It was this time of cramped solitary that was the worst for me. Because we flew alone, had to eject so quickly and were captured immediately, I knew that I was an MIA (missing in action). I worried a lot about my wife and family. I finally found comfort in prayer. I would pray for any reason. When I did not have any special prayer, I would say The Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm. I said them a thousand times. I was worried why I wasn't being moved to Hanoi. I also worried about my own well being for five days at the end of October as U. S. air strikes landed on top of my position. One of my guards sitting next to me received wounds in the head and leg during one raid. Finally, the trip north began and I saw Jim, my aircraft commander. In fact, we were shackled together with leg irons for three weeks! But we were together. We talked much. We got our stories straight about what we would say or wouldn't say. We also played gin rummy with a deck of cards I made out of pieces of paper. Jim won 8,200 to my 4,800. Sixty days after being shot down we finally arrived in Hanoi. We were separated again for eleven more days solitary. It was then I saw soap and toothpaste for the first time in sixty days. The December bombing of Hanoi was a beautiful, but a little terrifying, sight to us. We saw two B-52's shot down. But we knew our country was standing firmly behind us. The last sixty days were the very longest. I was in the last group released. The reception at Clark AFB and back in the U.S.A. reaffirmed what I knew all along--that my country had not forgotten me and was behind me all the way. I was only doing my duty to my country and have no regrets about any of it. My hope is to keep serving and I hope I can do America justice. With God's help and your help, I am again back in our "America the Beautiful." Words cannot fully convey our gratitude for all your kindness and concern. It's people like you that make America the great country it is. ==================================
Richard Bates retired from the United States Air Force as a Major. He and his wife Jeanette reside in California.