CAMEROTA, PETER PAUL

Name: Peter Paul Camerota
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, EWO
Unit: 22nd Bomber Wing, Utapao Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 21 June 1944
Home City of Record: Gibbstown NJ
Loss Date: 22 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212500N 1062500E (WJ866264)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D

Other Personnel In Incident: Thomas W. Bennett; (missing); Peter Giroux; Louis
E. LeBlanc (both returned POWs in 1973); Gerald W. Alley; Joseph B. Copack
(remains returned)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 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. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK.

REMARKS: 730329 RELSD BY DRV

SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs were
dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press
Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs
were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force.

In early December 1972, several men stationed at Utapao, Thailand sent Christmas
presents home and readied themselves for a few final runs they would have to
make before Christmas. They were looking forward to returning to Thailand in
time to see Bob Hope on December 22. They never saw Bob Hope, and none of them
returned for Christmas.

On December 22, a B52D crew consisting of Capt. Thomas W. Bennett, co-pilot;
LtCol. Gerald W. Alley; Capt. Peter P. Camerota, bombardier; 1Lt. Joseph B.
Copack, Jr., navigator; Capt. Peter J. Giroux, pilot; and MSgt. Louis E.
LeBlanc, tailgunner; departed Utapao on a bombing mission over Hanoi.

When the B52D was about 50 miles northwest of Hanoi, it was hit by Surface to
Air Missiles (SAM). Bennett called the mayday and manually ejected the pilot,
who had blacked out and then bailed out himself. The tailgunner later reported
that he observed in the bright moonlight that the entire crew of six had
deployed parachutes. Three of them, Camerota, Giroux and LeBlanc were released
from prisoner of war camps in Hanoi a few months later in the general prisoner
release of 1973. The U.S. was not expecting them. They had not known that the
three were being held prisoner. Alley, Copack and Bennett were not released and
remained Missing in Action.

During the month of December, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft were shot down and
captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were released in 1973. The remains
of about a dozen more have been returned over the years, and the rest are still
missing. At least 10 of those missing survived to eject safely. Where are they?

As reports mounted following the war convinced many authorities that hundreds of
Americans were still held captive in Southeast Asia, many families wonder if
their men were among those said to be still alive in captivity, and are
frustrated at inadequate efforts by the U.S. Government to get information on
their men.

On June 23, 1989, the U.S. announced that the Vietnamese had "discovered" the
remains of Gerald W. Alley and Joseph B. Copack and had sent them home at last.
For 17 years, Alley and Copack - alive or dead - were prisoners in enemy hands.
Their families at last know for certain that their sons are dead. What they may
never know, however, is how - and when - they died, and if they knew that their
country had abandoned them.


Gerald W. Alley was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Thomas W. Bennett was
promoted to the rank of Major and Joseph B. Copack was promoted to the rank of
Captain during the period they were maintained missing.


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

PETER P. CAMEROTA
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 22, 1972
Released: March 29, 1973
                      
My story is quite short compared to most, thank God. I have spoken with
several of the "old guys", and have nothing but profound admiration for the
outstanding way in which they have served our country while imprisoned.

After obtaining my degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Drexel Institute
of Technology, I joined the Air Force and was commissioned in September 1967.
I attended Navigation, and then Electronic Warfare Training schools, and was
assigned to March AFB, in November 1969.

On a night mission over Hanoi, on 22 December 1972, my B-52 was hit by a SAM.
A successful bomb release was accomplished, and about three minutes later, the
aircraft commander signalled the crew to bail out. My egress system worked
perfectly. I landed in a rice paddy, and, hearing loud voices nearby, took
only my emergency beeper and ran along the levees. I stopped a couple of times
to see if I could contact anyone on my radio, to no avail. My destination was
a thick group of trees, but as I approached, I saw that it was actually a
hill, about 700 or 800 feet high.

Upon reaching the base of the hill, I found a cave at ground level. I stayed
there for about three days, venturing out only at  night to attempt radio
contact. Since I received no radio response, I decided to climb higher.
Luckily, I found another cave. Also, a very slight trickle of water was coming
off the rocks, so I had a taste of water. Unfortunately, I still had no radio
contact. After about four days of that, I decided I'd better get to the top,
to increase my radio range.

On the morning of 30 December, at the top of the hill, I made a successful
radio contact. The pilot marked my position, and left. About three hours
later, I contacted another aircraft, but he could do nothing more than the
last aircraft had done. I realized that I was in a very "hot" area, and that
my chances of being rescued were very slim. Those two aircraft were the only
ones that I had two-way communication with, although I later found that other
aircraft had heard transmissions that I had made.

So, in the late afternoon of 3 January 1973, due to extreme exhaustion, I
signalled to some of the villagers who were returning from their work in the
fields. The villagers turned me over to the North Vietnamese regulars, and
they took me to the "Hanoi Hilton," where I was placed in solitary
confinement. The next day, 4 January, I had my first taste of food in 12 days.
There was very little variety in the food during my confinement at the
"Hilton." It was bland, watery cabbage soup, with small amounts of potato, and
an occasional portion of turnips or fat back. Then on 19 January, I saw my
first American in 29 days, when twelve of us were taken to the camp we called
"The Zoo."

The rest of the time spent in Hanoi was relatively uneventful. Obviously, the
news of the peace treaty was greeted with much joy and relief. WE WERE GOING
HOME!!

The most important event after that was the arrival of the Red Cross packages
on 10 March. The goods were very much appreciated, but the best part was the
realization that SOMEONE - SOMEWHERE knew that I was alive. Since the Red
Cross knew it, then my wife and our families must also know. That realization
lifted an enormous mental burden from me. My wife, Joy, never knew for sure
that I was alive until the POW list was released. Her faith and confidence
were unshakable, even with no certain information. I was very concerned,
additionally so, as we were expecting a child in June. I was relieved and
gratified to learn of her cool-headed and steady demeanor, and to find that
she had not been a burden to anyone, once she had left U-Tapao, Thailand, for
home.

Freedom day for me was 29 March 1973, when the last group of POWs left the Zoo
- a great day, but diminished in elation due to the unknown fate of 1300 plus
men still Missing in Action, including three of my crew. Let us not forget
them. My feelings about being free again can best be described by this verse I
found inscribed on the wall while I was in solitary:

                      Freedom has a taste to those
                      Who fight and almost die for it,
                      That the protected shall never know.


==============================

Peter Camerota retired from the United States AIr Force as a Major. He and
his wife Joy reside in New Jersey. He is an avid motorcycle enthusiast.