SEEBER, BRUCE GIBSON Name: Bruce Gibson Seeber Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 49th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Yakota, Japan (TDY to Takhli AB TH), pilot Date of Birth: 16 January 1933 Home City of Record: Lowpoint IL Date of Loss: 05 October 1965 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 213100N 1061700E (XJ329796) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D Incident # 0160 Missions: 48+ Other Personnel in Incident: none Dean A. Pogreba Incident # 0162 (missing); from USAF F4 on same day nearby location: James O. Hivner; Thomas J. Barrett Incident # 0161 (both released POWs); Phillip E. Smith Incident # 0149 (released POW) captured from an F104C downed over Chinese territory on September 20. Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, personal interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2010. REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV SYNOPSIS: On September 20, 1965 an American pilot named Capt. Phillip E. Smith was shot down over the Chinese island of Hai Nan Tao. The case of Capt. Smith ultimately became entwined with those of other American pilots lost in North Vietnam the following month. Capt. Smith was flying an Air Force F104C and his loss over Hai Nan island is perplexing. The Lockheed F104 Starfighter was an unusual aircraft created in the mid-1950's to fill a need for a more maneuverable, faster fighter aircraft. The result was a Mach 2-speed aircraft thrust into a combat-aircraft world of Mach 1 and below. The aircraft itself is spared looking like a rocket by its thin and extremely short wings set far back on the long fuselage, and a comparatively large tailplane carried almost at the top of an equally enormous fin. One less apparent peculiarity was an ejection seat which shot the pilot out downwards from under the fuselage rather than out the canopy of the cockpit. The Starfighter was primarily a low-level attack aircraft capable of flying all-weather electronically-guided missions at supersonic speed. Why Capt. Smith was flying a strike aircraft over 40 miles inland in Chinese territory is a matter for speculation. While the flight path to certain Pacific points from Vietnam may take a pilot in the general vicinity of the island, China was denied territory. According to one pilot, "Hai Nan was on the way to nowhere we were supposed to be, and on the way back from the same place." Either Smith was unbelievably lost or was on a mission whose purpose will never see the light of day. Capt. Smith was captured by the Chinese. Lieutenant Colonel Dean A. Pogreba was an F105D pilot attached to the 49th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Yakota, Japan. In the fall of 1965, Pogreba was given a temporary duty assignment to fly combat missions out of Takhli (Ta Khli) Airbase, Thailand. The aircraft flown by Pogreba, the F105 Thunderchief ("Thud") flew more missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which caused the aircraft to be constantly under revision. On October 5, 1965, Pogreba departed Takhli as flight leader of a five-plane combat section on a bridge strike mission north of Hanoi in North Vietnam. Capt. Bruce G. Seeber was Pogreba's wingman on the mission. Capt. Seeber was in a single seat aircraft. At a point near the borders of Lang Son and Ha Bac provinces, both Seeber's and Pogreba's aircraft were hit by enemy fire and crashed. The location of loss given by the Defense Department is approximately 40 miles southwest of the city of Dong Dang, which sits on the border of North Vietnam and China. The area was "hot" with MiGs, surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and anti-aircraft fire. On the same day, an Air Force F4C Phantom fighter/bomber was shot down approximately 5 miles from the city of Kep, and about 10 miles south of the official loss location of Pogreba and Seeber. The crew of this aircraft consisted of Major James O. Hivner and 1Lt. Thomas J. Barrett. Curiously, Radio Peking announced the capture of an American pilot that day, giving the pilot's name and serial number. It was Dean Pogreba that had been captured. The U.S. never received separate confirmation of the capture, however, and Pogreba was listed Missing in Action. Gradually, it became known that the crew of the F4, Barrett and Hivner had been captured by the North Vietnamese. Likewise, Bruce Seeber was also identified as a prisoner of war of the Vietnamese. Dean Pogreba's fate was still unknown. When American involvement in Vietnam ended, 591 Americans were released from prisoner of war camps in Southeast Asia. Among them were Hivner, Barrett, Seeber and Smith. Smith was released by the Chinese. Pogreba was still missing. None of the returnees had any information regarding his fate, and all believed he had died in the crash of his plane. Reports of an American POW held in China that had fueled hopes for the Pogreba family were correlated to Phillip Smith upon his release. The Pogreba family thought this was hastily and summarily done. According to others in the flight with Pogreba, Dean's plane had actually strayed into Chinese territory. Although no information at all was forthcoming from the Chinese, the Pogrebas still believed there was a good chance Dean had been captured. Years passed, and no word of Pogreba was heard. Under the Carter Administration, most of the men still listed prisoner, missing or unaccounted for were administratively declared dead because of the lack of specific information that they were alive. The Pogrebas, although haunted by the mystery of Dean's disappearance, finally resigned themselves to the fact that he was most probably dead, and went on with their lives. Dean's wife, Maxine, with children to raise alone, ultimately remarried. Then in 1989, Maxine Pogreba Barrell received some shocking news. Through an acquaintance, she learned of a "high-ranking friend" of Dean's who claimed to have visited Vietnam and spoken with her former husband. When she contacted this retired Air Force Brigadier General, he told her a story quite different from the official account given to Dean's family. According to the General, Dean had indeed been shot down in China, but had been brought back across the border into North Vietnam in 1965 by "friendlies." Several attempts to rescue him had failed; two helicopters had crashed in the effort. Then food and supplies were dropped to Dean and his rescuers; recovery efforts were deemed impractical because of the hostile environment. The General stated that he had never given up on Dean, and had made it his mission to find the "gray-haired colonel" which he claimed he did in 1988 and 1989, traveling to Vietnam on a diplomatic passport. He told Dean's family that Dean was alive and well and had adjusted to his "situation," which was a solitary life in a village. Dean, he said, leaves the village daily to work. Mrs. Barrell does not know how much credence to give the story. On one hand, she says, the General asked nothing from them. He did not seek them out. On the contrary, she and her family sought him out. Shortly after they spoke, the man told her that he was in "trouble" with the U.S. Government and would not speak with her again. On the other hand, there is absolutely no way Dean's family can verify or discount the General's story. A family, at relative peace for over a decade, is once again suffering the uncertainty that comes with not knowing. The U.S. Government simply isn't talking to them about it. One cannot simply fly to Hanoi and beg permission to visit one's relative when Hanoi denies he even exists. Unfortunately, the Pogreba story is not an aberration. Many cases of Americans missing in Southeast Asia are fraught with inconsistencies, some to the point of outright deception. Still others are hidden under the cloak of "national security" classification; some cannot be revealed until after the year 2000. These families will have to wait almost half a century to know the truth about what happened to their men. Since the war ended, U.S. intelligence agencies have conducted over 250,000 interviews and perused "several million documents" related to Americans still missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Many authorities, including a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, having reviewed this largely classified information, have concluded that scores of Americans are still alive in captivity today. As long as even one American remains held against his will, we must do everything in our power to bring him home. How can we afford to abandon our best men? 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). BRUCE G. SEEBER Lieutenant Colonel - United States Air Force Shot Down: October 5, 1965 Released: February 12, 1973 I grew up in Illinois, entered the Air Force in December 1952 and plan to continue my career in the Air Force. I am a graduate of the University of Omaha and was married in 1959 to my wife, Jane. We have two daughters-Suzanne, 12, and Sally, 11. I have flown the F-86, and F-100 and was flying an F-105 when I was downed in October 1965. Even though the only news the North Vietnamese gave us was of anti-war demonstrations, riots and remarks by outspoken senators, we knew that the majority of the American people were supporting us and our government. This has been proved by the warm welcome we have received throughout the nation. The experiences of my captivity have taught me that the spirit of a man can remain free, can rise above adverse conditions; the will of a man cannot be shattered, nor can his pride be destroyed. Though I have lost seven years I have gained in the bonds of friendship forged in North Vietnam, in (appreciation for our country and our way of life, and in the strength that comes from faith in God and reliance in His justice. --------------------------- Bruce Seeber retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He and Jane live in Louisiana.