ZEMPEL, RONALD LEE
Name: Ronald Lee Zempel
Rank/Branch: E3/US Navy
Unit: Helicopter Support Squadron 1, Detachment Lima, USS BON HOMME RICHARD
(CVA 31)
Date of Birth: 17 December 1944 (Township MN)
Home City of Record: Grand Rapids MN
Date of Loss: 27 February 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 171708N 1074109E (YE855130)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH2B
Refno: 0602
Other Personnel in Incident: Edward N. Letchworth; Bernard J. Sause;
Litchfield P. Huie (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 April 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.
REMARKS: BLOWN OFF CV - SANK - NORECV - J
SYNOPSIS: The USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31) saw early Vietnam war action. A
World War II Essex-class carrier, she was on station participating in combat
action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Her aircraft carried
the first Walleye missiles when they were introduced in 1967. In November
1970, the BON HOMME RICHARD completed its sixth combat deployment and was
scheduled for decommissioning by mid-1971.
LT Litchfield P. Huie was a pilot assigned to Helicopter Support Squadron 1,
Detachment LIMA onboard the aircraft carrier USS BON HOMME RICHARD in 1967.
On February 27 of that year, Huie launched from the aircraft carrier with
his crew: LTJG Edward N. Letchworth, Airman Ronald L. Zempel, and Airman
Bernard J. Sause, Jr. Airman Zempel was an aircrew survival equipmentman,
and it is assumed that this crew normally conducted pilot rescue operations.
As the UH2B flown by Huie was launched from the carrier, it lifted tail
high, flipped and partially recovered just prior to striking the water. Upon
striking the water the helicopter broke apart on impact. A search helicopter
was immediately over the scene and was later aided by two Navy destroyers.
The search was terminated with negative results.
Huie, Zempel, Sause and Letchworth were declared Killed/Body Not Recovered.
They are listed among the missing because no bodies were found to return
home. Their accident is listed as non-combat related.
Since the war ended in Vietnam, refugees have flooded the world, bringing
with them stories of American soldiers still held prisoner in their
homeland.  Many authorities now believe that hundreds were left behind as
living hostages.
The Uh2B crew did not survive the accident on February 27, 1967. Their
families have accepted that they are dead. They no longer expect them to
come home someday. But hundreds of families wait expectantly and in the
special agony only uncertainty can bring. Hundreds of men wait in caves,
cages and prisons. How much longer will we allow the abandonment of our best
men? It's time we brought them home.