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.