HEGGEN, KEITH RUSSELL
Remains Returned March 13, 1974
Name: Keith Russell Heggen
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 01 September 1931
Home City of Record: Renwick IA
Date of Loss: 21 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210200N 1054500E (WJ779258)
Status (in 1973): Killed in Captivity
Found in the Hanoi
army museum. In the exhibition there were also helmets of American
aircrew. One of them carries what was observed to be a Dymo tape
saying “HEGGEN. K”.
Source: Compiled 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 in 2000 with information
provided by son, Kirt.
Other Personnel In Incident: Charles J. Bebus; Donovan Walters; Robert R.
Lynn; Edward Johnson (remains returned October 1988); Lynn R. R. Beens;
James Y. Nagahiro (both returned POWs)
REMARKS: 740313 REMS RETD
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 ait
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.
The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the
most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of
strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic
targets was so successfull that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken
the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in
Hanoi and marching them southward."
The B52 bomber saw heavy duty in Vietnam. From June 1965 to August 1973 no
fewer than 126,615 B52 sorties were flown. Of these, 125,479 reached their
targets, and 124,532 dropped their bombs. Six percent of these sorties were
flown in North Vietnam, and 17 B52s were lost to hostile fire in North
Vietnam. During the month of December 1972, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft
were shot down and captured or went missing over North Vietnam. Of these 62,
33 men were released in 1973. The remains of 14 more have been returned over
the years, and 15 are still missing. At least 10 those missing survived to
eject safely. Where are they? Where have they been?
On December 21, 1972, a B52G bomber stationed on Guam was ordered to take
part in the Christmas bombings. The crew of this B52 consisted of James Y.
Nagahiro, pilot; Donovan K. Walters, co-pilot; Robert R. Lynn, electronic
warfare officer; Charles J. Bebus, gunner; and crewmembers Lynn R. Beens;
Keith R. Heggen and Edward H. Johnson.
The B52G was outfitted more or less as were the other B52 models, equipped
with 50-callibre M-3 guns and around 60,000 poundd of bombload, but with the
additional capacity to carry aerial mines.
LtCol. Nagahiro's aircraft successfully completed its mission, but was hit
by a surface to air missile (SAM) in the tail section shortly after turning
toward the safety of Thailand. Nagahiro gave the order for the crew to
The fate of the crew is varied. Nagahiro, Beens and Heggen were captured,
and Heggen died in captivity. Until his release, the U.S. did not know
Nagahiro had been captured. After their release in 1973, Nagahiro and Beens
were able to fill in further information on the missing crew members.
Nagahiro relates that he saw Donovan Walters eject from the plane and heard
four others, Lynn, Bebus, Heggen and Beens, go out from behind him. Beens
states that he saw Walter's identification card in a stack of cards on a
desk at Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) prison in Hanoi. Nagahiro saw Johnson's name
written on a pad at the prison. Hegger was captured alive, but died in
Although the Vietnamese returned the remains of Keith Heggen in March 1974,
they have consistently denied knowledge of any of the rest of the crew.
In October 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Bebus, Johnson,
Lynn and Walters and returned them to U.S. control. For 16 years, they were
political prisoners - alive or dead - of a communist nation.
Mounting evidence indicates that hundreds of Americans are still alive in
captivity in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Government has regular "talks" with
the Vietnamese and has negotiated the excavation of a crash site and the
return of about 200 remains, but has failed to successfully negotiate for
the return of those Americans still held captive.
If the U.S. had negotiated more aggressively, would Bebus, Johnson, Lynn and
Walters come home dead? Or alive?
From - Thu Jul 06 18:05:36 2000
My name is Lt Col Ed Bredbenner. I'm a maintenance officer stationed at
Robins AFB GA.
I just want to first say up front that your web site in one of the finest
As a young Sgt B52 crew chief serving in Guam in 72-73, I was one of the
unfortunate few maintainers who lost his aircraft during the Operation
Linebacker II. For years, I have wondered what happened to those brave war
fighters. To finally be able to read about them on your web site put
closure to this chapter of my life.
I knew only one of the crew members--Col Keith Heggen. He was TDY from the
same base I was from (Blytheville AFB ARK). Prior to engine start that
night, we stood in front of my Buff and reflected a little on why we were
there and of course talked about home and going back soon. I still remember
kneeling under the fuselage, looking up into the cockpit at the crew just
before closing the entrance hatch (the crewmembers looking down at me), the
pilot (Lt Col Nagahiro) telling me to disconnect my ground interphone and
pull the chocks (he thanked me for a great launch and said he would buy me
some beer when he got back), and saluting after marshaling them out of the
parking spot. When I returned the next night and was told they were shot
down, I was devastated. The realization that we were fighting a war where
people were dying hit me like a bucket of ice water.
I had a chance to speak with Col Nagahiro a few months. He now lives in NH.
Col Heggen will forever be a part of my life. Every time I have the
opportunity to go to Wash DC, I visit with the Col at the Vietnam Wall and
assure him that his sacrifice was not in vain....
....Again, thanks for your outstanding web site. I will continue to pass
the word to all my fellow war fighters that the POW Network truly represents
those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Lt Col Ed Bredbenner
Subject: Re: Information for my father
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 22:07:10 EDT
I am interested in giving the reader a more detailed accounting of the
conditions the crews had to deal with and the offical reports leave out a
lot of information as to not upset the familes. Because at one time it was
the present. The report below is on display at the Barksdale AFB museum and
provides information about the conditions the crews went through.
Kirt R Heggen
NETWORK NOTE: THESE ENTRIES WERE ON 3 HANDWRITTEN PAGES AND ARE QUOTED IN
THEIR ENTIRETY except for the removal of the Social Security Numbers of the
Review of the flight with Capt Green and his crew indicated the following.
Approached Hanoi area from the North.Inbound course was about 170 degrees.
Target was the railroad yards at Keno (sp). Flying about 35000'. Bomb
release point was 7 miles north of the rail yards. Exit course from the
target was to move to the west on about 285 degree. Believe Olive 1 was hit
as it turned away from the target to go westbound. Olive 2 went through a
thin cloud over target area and did not see Olive 1 hit or go down. They
tried to contact Olive 1 for 30 to 40 minutes before they determined from
other aircraft that Olive 1 had been hit. Olive 2 said they saw lots of
missiles - about 25. They were scared. Olive 3 only reported 3 missiles.
Olive 2 was avoiding missiles after the target area and in doing so headed
straight southwest a bit before going west. When they contacted Olive 3
again he was 14 miles ahead of them instead of behind.
A B-52D aircraft was ahead of Olive 1. (Gunner in the tail). The gunner
report sad that Olive 1 took a direct missile hit and descended.
The crew of Olive 2 in discussing the situation with the gunner, and from
aircrew who were in airplanes behind Olive all believe that Olive 1 burst
into a fireball about 10000' below the altitude they were flying.
Olive 2 did not indicate they heard any parachute beepers but indications to
them from other crews following were 1 to 4 different beepers about that
time. No determination if they came from Olive 1 although one of them could
have been from the navigator, Capt Boens, who is listed as a POW.
B-52G # 58.198 Call Sign Olive 1
Brief 9pm 20 Dec 72 Takeoff miDnight to 1 am 21 Dec flying time about
15 hours Landing time about 3 pm Thursday afternoon 21 Dec
Col James Y Nagahiro Pilot
Capt Donavan K Walters Co-Pilot
Maj. Edward H Johnson Radar Navigator
Capt Lynn R Boens Navigator POW
Capt Robert R Lyon Elect. Warfaaare
A/C Charles J Bebus Gunner
Lcol Keith Higgen Airborne Commander
Crew from Fairchild AFB Wash
Olive 2 in aircraft 8249 was Capt Don W Green
from Matthew AFB Crew E-13
Olive 3 in aircraft 6513 was Boyd from Barksdale E-17