LEBERT, RONALD  MERL

Name: Ronald Merl Lebert
Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force, EWO
Unit: 41st TEWS
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Watertown SD
Date of Loss: 14 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 193300 North  1043300 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Category:
Missions:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: EB66C

Other Personnel in Incident: Pilot, Sonnie Mercer, escaped/evaded/rescued
but died from injuries; INST NAV, Pete Pedroli, escaped/evaded/rescued;
EWO Thomas Sumpter, returnee; NAV Irby Terrell, returnee; EWO Hubert
Walker, returnee; EWO Lt. Thompson, escaped/evaded/rescued.

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: 730314 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

RONALD M. LEBERT
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: January 14, 1968
Released: March 14, 1973

I was born and raised in Watertown, South Dakota where my father still works
in the post office and does a little farming in his spare time. I received a
BS in civil engineering at South Dakota State University and on graduation
day, June 6, 1965 was granted a commission through the Reserve Officers
Training Corps as a Second Lieutenant. College summers were spent working in
the construction field as a laborer on the Oahe Dam in Pierre, South Dakota,
working on road crews, surveying, and operating a D-7 caterpillar. In August
1965 I entered Navy School at Mather Air Force Base, California. After
completing electronic warfare school, I volunteered to join EB-66 C squadron
stationed in Thailand. Eight months later, on January 14, sixty miles
southwest of Hanoi, the reconnaissance plane on which I was a crew member,
went down under fire. For seventeen hours I hung suspended in a tree while the
enemy soldiers searched for the crew members of my downed air craft.
Miraculously I had escaped major injuries. I was able to contact the "Sandy"
aircraft and the "Jolly Green Giants" (Air Force Search and Rescue
Helicopters). They conducted a massive heroic rescue effort with considerable
difficulty and danger. One "Jolly Green" crashed into the side of a mountain.
The next day its members were rescued along with three others from my crew.
Despite all rescue efforts, the remaining four of us were captured by the
local militia.

My trip to Hanoi was by foot, bamboo raft, and jeep. The treatment grew worse
as we approached the city. I was abused by the populace, beaten by the guards
during military interrogations, and spent the next five years in fear
alternating with boredom. The fears centered around what unknown scheme or
confrontation the interrogator might use in attempt to wring out propaganda.
The most important thing for morale those days was communication with other
POWs. Regardless of the Vietnamese efforts, everyone took the risk in sending
jokes and mostly trivial information, but it was essential in holding us
together. For in this way it helped diminish the feeling that it was you or
one or two of your roommates against all North Vietnam. It was most difficult
for the many men who endured great lengths of time in solitary confinement.

Treatment improved somewhat in late 1969 and I felt it was due to the aroused
and angered public opinion in the United States and the many letters written
on our behalf. It was heartening to learn of this and also to know of the
fantastic attempted rescue raid at Son Tay. My heartfelt thanks goes out to
those men involved in such a perilous mission, who would risk their lives for
mine. The knowledge of this and the earlier efforts I have mentioned, combined
with the tremendous support and warm welcome shown by the American people, has
given me a new insight on human nature and the inherent good which is
undoubtedly part of it.

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

Ronald Lebert retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He
and his wife Kirstin reside in Washington, DC.

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