BABCOCK, RONALD LESTER

Name: Ronald Lester Babcock
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: Troop B, 7th Squadron, 1st Cavalry, 223rd Aviation Battalion
Date of Birth: 08 October 1945 (Lincoln NE)
Home City of Record: Tucson, AZ
Date of Loss: 27 February 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 162753N 1063121E (XD625208)
Status (In 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: OH6A
Refno: 1791
Other Personnel In Incident: Fred Mooney (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 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:

SYNOPSIS: Lam Son 719 was a large-scale offensive against enemy
communications lines which was conducted in that part of Laos adjacent to
the two northern provinces of South Vietnam. The South Vietnamese would
provide and command ground forces, while U.S. forces would furnish airlift
and supporting fire.

Phase I, renamed Operation Dewey Canyon II, involved an armored attack by
the U.S. from Vandegrift base camp toward Khe Sanh, while the ARVN moved
into position for the attack across the Laotian border. Phase II began with
an ARVN helicopter assault and armored brigade thrust along Route 9 into
Laos. ARVN ground troops were transported by American helicopters, while
U.S. Air Force provided cover strikes around the landing zones.

During one of these maneuvers, on February 27, 1971, the Bravo Dutchmasters
were airborne over Laos, their pink teams doing low-level scouting in the
area of operations of the ARVN 1st Infantry Division. Capt. Ronald L.
Babcock was flying one of the OH6A Loaches (serial #67-16256) and his
door-gunner/observer, SFC Fred Mooney was the scout platoon sergeant. A man
in his forties, Mooney was not required to fly, but he volunteered to show
the young draftees that old lifers could be as tough as they were.

After ten minutes in the area, the formation began receiving 51 caliber
ground fire. Skimming low over the trees, the Loach was hit by NVA fire, and
Babcock made several radio transmissions, saying that his observer was hit
and that he didn't have any control over the aircraft. He radioed that they
were going down.

The Command and Control ship chased after the descending ship and observed
the Loach crash on its skids on a dirt road. The last transmission heard
from Babcock was either "sit still" or "don't move." The rotor, which had
lost one blade, continued to turn. The aircraft was still intact, and the
tail boom and windshield bubble had not been damaged extensively. It looked
as if someone had thrown a smoke grenade, as there was smoke in the crash
site area. However, the aircraft had not burned.

A crew chief on one of the airborne helicopters thought he saw Mooney and
Babcock jump out and run across a grassy clearing, whereupon they were cut
down by North Vietnamese in the treeline. The C & C ship commander dropped
to a twenty-foot hover and called on the radio that, from their appearance,
the two were dead. Babcock and Mooney were seen lying face up a few feet in
front of the helicopter. Neither man was moving, and their faces were pale,
with eyes wide open. Both appeared to be bleeding from head and body wounds.
The blood around them had already started to dry, and neither man appeared
to be alive. The chase helicopter then began to receive small arms fire, and
had to leave the site.

Another UH1H sent to the crash site was also able to hover a few feet above
the downed helicopter, but was unable to land. This crew also reported that
two bodies were lying face up in a crumpled position. It appeared that the
crew had been hit with ground fire after leaving the aircraft. Enemy
positions in this area were extremely well-fortified and continued firing,
even after receiving numerous air strikes. Friendly ground troops were
unable to get to the crash site because of enemy activity.

Curiously, the Army did not immediately declare Mooney and Babcock dead, but
waited nearly a year before a status change was made. At the time, the
Babcock family felt that the change was made without tangible evidence of
death. Apparently their impression was that observers were unsure whether
the two men were dead, and the delay in the status change seems to support
this view. Army accounts, however, prepared at the time of the status
change, do not leave room for doubt. It is interesting to note that in many
cases the precise evidence used to support continuation in Missing in Action
status is later used, evaluated in a different manner, as "proof" that an
individual must be dead. It is a small wonder that so many POW/MIA family
members have grown to distrust what the government has to tell them about
their missing man.

Fred Mooney's tour was to be over in May and his plans were to return to
Killeen, Texas and continue his life with his wife and four children. Ron
Babcock graduated from college with a degree in forestry and was anxious to
get home and get on with his career.

Proof of the deaths of Mooney and Babcock was never found. No remains came
home; neither was released from prison camp. They were not blown up, nor did
they sink to the bottom of the ocean. Someone knows what happened to them.

Were it not for thousands of reports relating to Americans still held
captive in Southeast Asia today, the families of the OH6A helicopter crew
might be able to believe their men died with their aircraft. But until proof
exists that they died, or they are brought home alive, they will wonder and
wait.

How long must they wait before we bring our men home?