STUTZ, LEROY WILLIAM
|Name: Leroy William Stutz
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: Udorn Airbase, Thailand 11th TRS
Date of Birth: 13 November 1939
Home City of Record: Effingham, KS
Date of Loss: 02 December 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210124N 1055059E (XJ034923)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Robert R. Gregory (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II and the 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. 2018
REMARKS: 730304 RELEASED BY DVR
SYNOPSIS: Robert Gregory was born to a poor family in Cape Girardeau,
Missouri, and had little time for the games of children. When "Greg" (or
"Bobby") did act more like a youth, his idea of fun was sometimes a bit
ambitious for his buddies.
"He liked to swim across the Mississippi River, rest and swim back," recalls a
neighbor. "He was sort of a modern-day Huckleberry Finn." Another friend
verifies the story and adds, "...he was kind of the leader of our group."
Gregory and a friend lied about their age to join the National Guard.
Despite lacking a college career behind him, Gregory ultimately achieved his
goal of becoming an Air Force officer. On leave in 1958, he eloped with
Marjorie Fisher, a 14-year old girl from a large family in Bell City,
Missouri. Marjorie followed Gregory to assignments in England and Germany.
They had two children, and, as Marjorie says, "We were a pretty happy family.
We had a lot of plans."
Leroy Stutz and Bob Gregory had been paired as a crew together since Sept.
1965 when they went through the RF-4C check out school at Shaw AFB. They
were then paired as a crew in the 9th TAC Recce Sq at Shaw after completing
the check out. In July 1966, they were deployed from Shaw AFB to Udorn
Thailand, assigned to fly a reconnaissance version of the Phantom F4
fighter/bomber, the RF-4C. They were on their 65th mission into North
Vietnam when they were shot down.
Stutz spent his boyhood years on a farm in northeast Kansas, and, following
high school, farmed with his brother-in-law for two years. Stutz joined the
Kansas National Guard, and attended Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
Stutz was subsequently appointed to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where "Elroot"
graduated in 1964. After flight training and reconnaissance photo training,
Stutz was promoted to First Lieutenant and shipped to Vietnam.
On December 2, 1966, Gregory and Stutz were assigned a 55 minute photo
reconnaissance mission over Hanoi, North Vietnam. During a pass over their
target, their aircraft was hit, and the two ejected as their aircraft crashed
in the outskirts of Hanoi. After landing, the two established voice contact
with each other, and both were captured.
Stutz said that he had seen Bob Gregory several times the day of their
capture, but Gregory was unconsicous. Both men were transported to the Hoa
Lo detention facility ("Hanoi Hilton") in Hanoi in the same truck and
arrived on the same day they were shot down. Stutz never saw Gregory again.
Stutz' wife Karen and their young son waited for his return. Marjorie and her
son and daughter also waited. The Air Force showed Marjorie blurred, blown-up
photos they thought was her husband in captivity.
In March 1973, Leroy Stutz was released from Hanoi, one of almost 600
Americans who were freed at the time. Military experts expressed their dismay
that "hundreds" thought to be prisoners were not released, and were named on
no list provided by the Vietnamese. Reports soon began to flow into the U.S.
intelligence community relating to these men. A significant number of them
indicated that Americans could still be alive in captivity.
Marjorie did the best she could with her life and her children. She never gave
up hope that one day, her "doorbell would ring one of these days. He wouldn't
mark me off if I were missing."
In 1987, Robert Gregory's photo and story was published in Life Magazine. By
then, Gregory had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The Kansas City Times
ran an extensive article on Gregory and his family in late November 1987. In
both articles, Gregory was identified as a captive by his back-seater.
Just over 3 months later, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of LtCol.
Robert R. Gregory and returned them to U.S. control. The pain that Marjorie
and her children had experienced for 22 years could finally be laid to rest
with her husband. But the questions will never end. They may never how - or
when - he died.
The Stutz family had a joyful homecoming. The Gregory family's homecoming was
quite different. Over 2000 other families still wait for word of their loved
one, haunted by the still-flowing reports that Americans are still alive in
captivity in Southeast Asia.
(Robert R. Gregory was buried at Cape County Memorial Park attended by an
honor guard from the Roth-Gregory Air Force ROTC unit from Southeast Missouri
State University, which had been named in his honor and that of a World War II
pilot. A Missing Man formation was flown by four RF4C fighter jets.)
(Leroy William Stutz graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in
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
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
LEROY W. STUTZ
Major - United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 2, 1966
Released: March 7, 1973
Major Stutz was born on November 13, 1939 and spent his boyhood years with
his parents and two sisters on a farm in Northeast Kansas. While attending
Atchison County Community High School he was quite active in sports.
Following two years of farming with his brother-in-law, he attended Washburn
University, Topeka, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. In June, 1964 he married
Karen Keirns, his high school sweetheart; they have one son, Brian Scott,
born in 1965.
After flight training and reconnaissance photo training in Alabama and South
Carolina, he was promoted to First Lieutenant; shortly thereafter, he was
assigned to Udorn, Thailand, flying RF4C planes. On December 2, 1966 his
plane was hit 25 miles north of Hanoi while he was on a tactical
reconnaissance flight; thus began his more than six years of imprisonment at
the hands of the North Vietnamese.
Three years after his capture he was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Promoted to Major in 1974, he is presently an Air Officer commanding at the
United States Air Force Academy.
Prior to entering the service, Major Stutz was a Master Mason; since
returning he has completed the Scottish Rite degrees and has become a member
of the Abdallah Shrine at Kansas City, Kansas.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the
people of the United States for their concern, prayers and active support
for the cause of the POWs and MlAs during the past nine years.
Please don't let us forget the true heroes of this conflict - those who gave
their lives and those who are physically impaired as a result of their
service in Southeast Asia. Those of us who have returned have only lost a
number of years from our lives, while others have been killed or can never
return to their former way of living.
It is my hope that with our return, we can all join together to draw the
people of the United States of America closer in a common bond to erase
dissention and keep our country the best, united nation in the world.
P.O.W. Network update September 1996
After serving as an Air Officer Commanding I was the Commandant's Executive
for Honor and Ethics at the AF Academy for two years. I attended the AF
Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB in 1977-78. I served as an
aircraft maintenance officer and as a maintenance squadron commander at
MacDill AFB 1978-84. While there, I was promoted twice to Lt Col in 1978,
and Colonel in 1984. In 1984-85, I attended the Air War College at Maxwell
AFB, and then returned to MacDill AFB as the Deputy Commander for
Maintenance, leaving in December of 1987. My next duty station was Tinker
AFB as the Deputy for Maintenance on the E-3, AWACC aircraft. In July of
1990 I went to Chanute AFB as the Training Wing Vice Commander, and later a
Training Group Commander, and finally the Wing Commander. I retired in June
1994 as a Col and now live in Oklahoma City. My wife, Karen and I have one
son, Brian, and three grand children.
Reprinted with permission of Ted Ballard 12/29/96
Date: Tue, 24 Dec 1996
Christmases In the Dungeons of North Vietnam
by Ted Ballard
On December 24th, 1966, I was living in a small twelve feet by
twelve feet cell. My roommate was Navy Ensign George McSwain. We had no
contact with other American POWs. For seven weeks George had been
undergoing a torture that was called "holding up the wall"-standing facing
the wall with his arms straight over his head. Periodically the guards
would come in and beat him up. The Vietnamese were torturing George in an
attempt to get me to sign a war crimes confession. I will not go into any
details, but earlier they had tortured me for the same thing and failed.
I had spent two months in a cast, from my left ankle to my chest,
and was now using crutches to hobble around the room.
As evening approached, a guard came and took George to be
interviewed by some Vietnamese officers. While he was gone I suddenly felt
the urge to walk without the crutches. I carried them with me but did not
use them and made it all the way around the room. I had given myself a
Christmas present and waited impatiently for George to come back so I could
share it with him.
When George returned he had a few pieces of sugar candy and a
cigarette for each of us. This was a pleasant surprise since I never
thought the Vietnamese would recognize Christmas. George said the quiz room
was full of oranges and bananas and we would receive some later. We never
Later some Christmas music was played over the camp radio. A POW
sang two or three songs. I wondered who he was but never did find out. It
was a sad Christmas Eve for me. As we went to bed, George was silent and
despondent. We did not talk as we normally did. I could only imagine his
thoughts. Mine were of my family and Christmases past.
The gong did not clang as usual Christmas morning. However, a guard
came by and told George to get "on the wall." About three hours later he
was taken to quiz and the officer (whom we called Dum-dum) told him that the
Camp Commander had forgiven him of his "crimes" and he must obey the camp
regulations. We were both jubilant at this news.
George's long ordeal was over. In a way we felt it was a victory
for us since I did not have to write a confession or condemn the United
States government. Several times I came close to calling a halt to the
torture and writing the statement, but George was a tough man and he took it
as he said he could.
The Vietnamese gave us a good Christmas dinner-a piece of meat, lots
of rice, and, for the first time, cabbage soup.
The summer and fall of 1967 was a bad time for the POWs. Many men
were tortured for propaganda purposes, and harassment by the guards was
There were about thirty men in our building, three to each room. My
cellmates were Captain Bob Sandvick and Captain Tom Pyle.
On Christmas Eve we were taken to view a tree the Vietnamese had
decorated. We were given some candy and extra cigarettes to take back to
our rooms. Later in the evening we heard a guard opening the hatches to
each of the cells. When he came to our cell he asked, "Protestant or
Catholic?" We told him we were Protestants and he gave us each a small bag
which contained an orange, several cookies. and small pieces of candy. This
was our first "Gift from the Priest." We found out later that the Catholics
got a tangerine instead of and orange. (Only the Lord knows why!) One POW
who was living by himself told the guard he was neither Protestant nor
Catholic. The guard closed the hatch without giving him anything! Next
Christmas he decided to be a Protestant!
Some Christmas music was played over the camp radio. We also had to
listen to a tape recording by a Vietnamese Catholic Priest. He allowed that
we should pray to God for forgiveness of our crimes against the Vietnamese
Bob, Tom, and I reminisced about our families and other Christmases.
It was a quiet evening for us. Our prayers were for those POWs who were
still suffering from wounds.
Christmas Day we had a good dinner of meat, vegetables, and rice.
In quantity it was about the size of an average American meal, but about six
times our normal ration.
The senior ranking officer of our building initiated a "Home for
Christmas" prayer. Each day at noon a signal was passed to all rooms. We
would then recite the Lord's Prayer.
In the spring of 1968, I was moved to another camp. Living
conditions were somewhat improved. There were nine of us in a twenty-one by
twenty foot room. Even though harassment and treatment by the guards was
about the same, it was great to have more Americans to talk to. Peace
negotiations had begun in Paris, but by the time Christmas came around our
high hopes for an early settlement had vanished.
We had continued our daily "Home for Christmas" prayer. One day one
of the men said, "What will we do if we don't make it home for Christmas?"
Someone answered, "We will continue to pray for next Christmas."
As the season grew nearer the men began writing down the words for holiday
songs. We used toilet paper, pens made form strips of bamboo, and ink from
a mixture of cigarette ashes and water. Of course we kept these carefully
hidden from the Vietnamese.
One of the men received a package from home. He shared everything
he had with the rest of us. What a wonderful treat! Actual goodies from
Again we received a "gift from the Priest."
I shall never forget that Christmas Eve. A group of men quietly
singing such carols as "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night."
Before retiring, Jim Hivner said, "Everybody who believes in Santa
Claus, hang a sock on your mosquito net. Remember, those who believe will
I did not hang up a sock because I needed to wear them to try to
keep warm. We each had two thin blankets but I had to use one of mine as
cushion for my bad hip.
In the quiet of the night, as I had done the two previous Christmas
Eves, I mentally shopped for, bought, and wrapped gifts for Ruth and Kevin.
How are they? Are they well? Please, God, let them live normal and happy
lives, and know that my thoughts are with them. May God bless and keep
them, as well as the other members of the great Ballard family.
When I awakened the next morning I found a Christmas card inside my
net. The other men had one in their stockings. Jim Hivner had made them
without any of us knowing about it!
The first ten months of 1969 were the worst for the POWs. An attempt
to escape had failed and the Vietnamese had retaliated with extreme
In late October, however, a marked improvement in our living
conditions came about. We did not know the reason, but the death of Ho Chi
Minh may have had something to do with it. I believe now that it was the
outstanding support of the American people and the pressure they put upon
the North Vietnamese government that brought about the changes.
In December we were allowed to write our first letters home. I had
about 800 million things to say to Ruth and questions to ask, but of course
this was impossible in a six-line letter.
Several of us received packages from home, which we shared. In mine
was a set of thermal underwear for which I was most grateful. One of my
cellmates, Jim Sehorn, had given me one of his blankets. Finally, I could at
least stay warm during those long, sleepless, miserable nights.
We made Christmas cards for the men in the other buildings. These
were "air-mailed" by tying a rock to the paper and throwing them from our
courtyard to theirs.
For a Christmas tree, we decorated a small swiss-type broom with
strips of cloth and paper with various designs. Mike McGrath was quite a
good artist and enjoyed doing things with his hands. He used one of his
black pajama tops as a background and drew a tree on it. From paper and
cloth he made stars and other ornaments and attached them to the tree. Small
packages with each of our names were also attached. This was kept hidden
during the day but was hung on the wall in the evenings for our enjoyment.
We exchanged gifts that Christmas, both real and imaginary. I gave
away gift certificates and treated everyone to a dinner at the Fireside Inn
in Las Vegas. One man, who had lost most of his hair, was given a wooden
comb. I was given ear plugs and a nose clip so I would not be disturbed at
night by nearby neighbors!
Christmas Eve the guards came around and gave us the "gift from the
priest," also cookies and cigarettes. We were in a good mood and talked and
quietly sang carols til fairly late.
Before retiring we each tied a stocking to our nets. I had saved some peanut
butter candy from my package Ruth had sent and planned to put some in each
man's stocking while they were asleep. I lay awake for about an hour and
was just about ready to get up when I heard a noise and looked up. A POW was
putting something in my stocking. He moved quickly from net to net and then
sneaked back under his own. Ten minutes later another man got up and did the
same thing. It took almost two hours for all eight of us to play Santa
Early Christmas morning I was awakened by a loud shout from Jim Sehorn:
"Merry Christmas, everybody! Get up!. He did it! Santa Claus came! Get up!
Get up!" What a sight - Jim running from net to net pulling everybody out of
bed. Our stockings were full of candy, gifts, and greeting cards.
Later that day the guards came in and removed Mike's shirt with the
decorations on it. He was taken to Quiz and the officers told him they were
impressed with his art and were going to take it to the museum. Mike told
them, "No, you are not." He jerked it off the table and tore it up!
In November, 1970, there was an unsuccessful attempt by the United States to
rescue some POWs from a camp at Son Tay. Within the next few days all of the
POWs were moved to downtown Hanoi to a large complex of jails named Hoalo
Prison. We called it the Hanoi Hilton. Finally, after so many years, we were
all in the same camp, with 25 to 56 men per cell. We became better organized
militarily, academically, and religiously.
That Christmas season was a fairly good one for us. Many men had received
packages from home and were allowed to keep the items in their cells.
However, a few days before Christmas, the guards removed everything from the
cells except for what they had given us. In October I had received my first
letter from home, after more than four years as a prisoner. Included in the
letter was a picture of Ruth and Kevin. I prized that picture more than
anything in the world and I cannot describe my feelings when the guard took
We began again to scrounge materials for academic purposes, etc. We drew
names for gifts. Jim Sehorn gave me a wand and a pendulum to use with my
course in hypnotism. I gave him the use of my services for a whole week to
hold his legs while he did sit-ups and other exercises.
Christmas Eve the men put on an outstanding play. It was the POW version of
Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Scrooge was played by Dave Ford with
Jerry Venanzi directing.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas carols sung by a 15-man choir. The
singing was disrupted once when a Vietnamese attempted to take pictures
through the barred windows.
Again we received a "gift from the priest."
That night was a sad one for me. I was reminiscing over past Christmases
when I had a strong feeling that my Mother had died. (She passed away in
August 1969, but I was not notified until our release.)
Christmas morning I was again awakened by Jim Sehorn - with the same
enthusiasm and excitement. About this time a most fascinating event occurred
- big Tom McNish (six feet, two inches tall) was running up and down the
long room with a large bag slung over his shoulder. Tom was dressed in white
long-handled underwear and continued his prancing until everyone was up.
Then he set down his bag, opened it, and out jumped Santa Claus! Rod Knutson
had on a red suit, black "boots", stocking cap, and a white beard and
mustache! I never found out where or how they scrounged all that material.
Rod then proceeded to give out hilariously funny imaginary gifts to
We had an exceptionally good meal Christmas Day, and everyone was becoming
optimistic about going home soon.
Our optimism suffered a setback in early 1971 due to the torturing
of many individuals and especially the senior ranking officers. This was in
retaliation for our attempts to conduct religious services and to gain
improvements in living conditions. The United States had resumed the bombing
of North Vietnam.
Ten of us had been removed to another large cell along with thirty
four other POWs, all considered to be "die-hards" or trouble makers by the
Christmas, 1971, was about the same as the year before. The choir
sang carols which I thoroughly enjoyed. Six of us non-singers put on a skit
imitating the choir.
Ed Davis sang a lovely song, one I had never heard before, having to
do with Mary and her unborn child, Jesus.
I'll never forget Gobel James and his beautiful rendition of "O Holy
One man entertained us with his version of "How the Grinch Stole
Tom McNish and Rod Knutson did their Santa Claus number again. Rod
gave me some silver oak leaves indicating my promotion to Lieutenant
Colonel. Ruth had written me that it was Autumn in Carolina and the silver
oak leaves were falling!
Dwight Sullivan presented me with a small poker table which he had
made from bread and sticks. It even had ash trays. I kept the table for
almost a year until the guards finally found it and took it away. I gave my
friend Leroy Stutz an imaginary book, "How to Play Winning Poker" and
allowed him to "pin" me at his discretion once per week for a whole month.
The bombing of North Vietnam continued into 1972, and many targets
near our camp were being attacked. In May over 200 of us were moved to a
camp within a few miles of China, in mountainous terrain. Our food and
living conditions greatly improved. We were permitted more time outside,
given canned meat and various types of vegetable soup to eat with the
ever-present rice. Periodically the Vietnamese would go to a nearby village
and kill a buffalo and cook it for us. We conducted weekly bridge and chess
I spent one week in solitary confinement due to a minor disagreement
with the Vietnamese officers. During this time my thoughts were mostly with
my wife and son. Kevin is now thirteen years old. Graduating from high
school soon. Hard to believe. I had missed so much of his growing up. One of
these days he will come to me and ask for an automobile.
Most of us were given letters and packages from home that Christmas.
There was a picture of Ruth and Kevin on a motorcycle. A black dog lay
nearby. I could imagine the companionship that the dog provided for Kevin. I
mentally composed a letter to "Blackie." I was both thankful for him and
envious of him. He knew more about my son than I did - his habits, stomping
grounds, and hiding places.
One of the men heard from the guards that the United States was
bombing targets in Hanoi with big bombers night and day. We were jubilant at
this news and felt that the attacks would continue until the Vietnamese
agreed to release all prisoners.
Christmas Eve, 1972, was a quiet one for us. The choir sang some
carols and that was about it. Our thoughts and prayers were about the
In January 1973, we were taken back to the "Hanoi Hilton" and were
told that the war was over and we would all be going home soon. What would
it be like? How have things changed after six and one-half years of
isolation from the real world?
I was among the group of prisoners that was released on March 4,
1973. I did not look back at the camp. I said a prayer that went something
We thank you for taking care of us for such a long time.
We now ask that you give us the courage to face the future
and to accept the changes that have taken place.
POW in Photo Identified
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