ROBINSON, LEWIS MERRITT Remains identified 04/16/99
Name: Lewis Merritt Robinson Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 01 February 1921 Home City of Record: Saginaw MI Date of Loss: 04 June 1967 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 161558N 1064259E (XC834990) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1E Refno: 0722 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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 1998.
SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable, propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or utility aircraft. The E model generally carried two crewmen. The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air Command to equip the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency operations in South Vietnam, and later used in a variety of roles, ranging from multi-seat electronic intelligence gathering to Navy antisubmarine warfare and rescue missions. The venerable fighter aircraft was retired in the spring of 1968 and had flown in more than twenty model variations, probably more than any other U.S. combat aircraft.
LTCOL Lewis M. Robinson was the pilot of a Spad sent on a mission which took him over Saravane Province, Laos on June 4, 1967. When the aircraft was about 25 miles south of the South Vietnamese city of Khe Sanh, it was struck by enemy fire and crashed.
LTCOL Robinson was declared Killed/Body Not Recovered. The fate of the second crewman, if there was one, is unknown. Because of the tactical situation in this area, the U.S. Air Force believes the enemy may know details about the fate of LTCOL Robinson.
Nearly 600 Americans were lost in Laos during the war in Vietnam. Although the Pathet Lao stated on several occasions they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, Laos was not included in the agreements ending American involvement in the war, and the U.S. has not negotiated for the freedom of these men since that day. Consequently, not one American held in Laos has ever been released.
There is no solid proof that Lewis Robinson died the day his Spad went down. As a participant in missions over Laos, he was undoubtedly warned that he could be killed or captured. He may not have dreamed he would be abandoned.
No. 057-M MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS April 16, 1999
The remains of six American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial in the United States.
They are identified as Air Force Capt. Dean A. Wadsworth, Clarendon, Texas; Marine SSgt. Harold E. Reid, Salt Lake City, Utah; Navy Lt. David L. Hodges, Chevy Chase, Md.; Air Force Lt. Col. Lewis M. Robinson, Saginaw, Mich.; Air Force Capt. Douglas K. Martin, Tyler, Texas; and Air Force Capt. Samuel L. James, Chattanooga, Tenn.
On Oct. 8, 1963, Wadsworth and his South Vietnamese crewman were flying their T-28B Trojan on a combat support mission approximately 50 miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam. As he completed his bombing run over the target, his aircraft broke apart in mid air, crashed and exploded, as reported by another pilot on the mission. A massive search and rescue operation was initiated that day by two Marine helicopters but they disappeared during the mission. At dawn on the following day, Marine heli copters airlifted two companies of South Vietnamese infantrymen to the area of the downed aircraft. As the helicopters landed, enemy troops fired on them, wounding three Marine crewmen and killing a Vietnamese soldier.
Two T-28s, B-26s and a South Vietnamese A-1 aircraft responded by strafing enemy positions. An American L-19 light observation aircraft directing the strike was hit, the Vietnamese observer was wounded, and the aircraft made a forced landing. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese ground troops found both Marine helicopters that had disappeared on the first day. Ten bodies were recovered, but two remain missing in action to this day. In the days during the search and rescue operations, 207 missions were flow n, three aircraft were lost and four others damaged. Fifteen South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and seven were wounded.
In late 1993, a Vietnamese local turned over remains he said were recovered near the crash site. In May of the following year, a joint U.S./Vietnamese team, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, visited the area of the crash, interviewed villagers and obtained some aircraft debris and pilot-related equipment. In September, another joint team examined the crash site and found more debris, but no remains. Then in May 1995, another team excavated the site where they found remains, as well as two identification tags of Wadsworth.
On Sept. 13, 1967, Reid completed his tour guarding an observation post near a river in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam. Before dawn, he crossed the bridge to visit a friend on the south side of the river. He was never seen again. A joint U.S./Vietnamese team in August 1993 interviewed local informants who claimed to have buried an American Marine who had been shot by the Vietcong near the river. The informants stated that the body had been moved and re-buried at another location, but the team could not locate it. In September 1995, another team interviewed other informants, but obtained little information.
Then in April 1996, a third team excavated the reported burial site about 1,000 meters from the southern end of the bridge where they found remains as well as material evidence and personal equipment.
On Oct. 7, 1967, Hodges was leading a strike mission near Hanoi, North Vietnam when his A-4E Skyhawk was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile. His wingman reported receiving a radio transmission from the lieutenant that his engine had flamed out. As the wingman watched, Hodges' burning aircraft rolled to the right, entered a steep dive, and crashed. No parachute was sighted and no emergency beeper signals were heard. Because of enemy control of the area, there was no search and rescue missi on mounted.
Acting on information obtained from Vietnamese wartime documents, a joint U.S./Vietnamese team interviewed villagers in July 1995 who claimed to have visited the site shortly after the crash and buried the pilot. But the crash crater had been filled with dirt to allow farming, so the team found no evidence of a crash. But the following April, another team mounted an excavation at the site where they did recover remains, a wristwatch fragment, pilot-related items and aircraft wreckage. Later, in S eptember 1996, a third team continued the excavation and found additional remains among the wreckage.
Robinson was flying his A-1E Skyraider on a close air support mission over Saravane Province, Laos, on June 4, 1967, when he was struck by enemy ground fire. His aircraft pitched up abruptly, struck the wing of another aircraft, went into an inverted spin and crashed amid an explosion. None of the other pilots in the flight reported seeing a parachute nor hearing emergency beeper signals. Hostile threats in the area prevented air or ground searches of the crash site.
In early 1988, representatives of the Laotian government turned over remains to the U. S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the unit leading joint recovery operations in Southeast Asia at the time. A joint U.S./Lao team traveled to the area of the crash site in November 1993, interviewed villagers, surveyed the area and recovered skeletal fragments, aircraft wreckage and pilot-related equipment. Then in January 1998, a second joint team excavated the site and recovered more remains and personal equipment.
Martin and James were flying a forward air control mission over Cambodia on April 18, 1973, when they descended below a 6,000-foot layer of haze in their F-4E Phantom. They radioed they had the target in sight, but their wingman was unable to maintain visual contact. He asked Martin and James to give him an automatic direction-finder signal but there was no response. On several passes over the target, the wingman noted fires and explosions near the target area. There were no parachutes sighted, nor emergency beeper signals. Enemy activity in the area prevented a ground search, but aerial reconnaissance the following day noted aircraft debris at the site.
In 1993, 1995 and 1997, three joint U.S./Cambodian teams developed leads through interviews with local villagers and surveys of the crash site. The informants noted that the crash site had been heavily scavenged and that remains had been present at one time. Then in January 1998, a joint team excavated the site where they found remains amid numerous pieces of aircraft wreckage. Anthropological analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii confirmed the identification of all six of these servicemen. With the accounting of these six, there are now 2,063 Americans unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. Since the release of American POWs in 1973, 520 MIAs from Southeast Asia have been accounted-for and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and the Kingdom of Cambodia that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority. -END-