Name: Richard Duane Appelhans
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 29 October 1937
Home City of Record: Dodson MT
Date of Loss: 16 October 1967
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 160600N 1072300E (XC961808)
Status (In 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C
Refno: 0862
Other Personnel In Incident: George W. Clarke (captured)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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.


SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in South
Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary,
as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. The
border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was used for transporting weapons,
supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop
this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, search and rescue teams
in Vietnam were extremely successful and the recovery rate was high.

Still there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down along
the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the passes through the border mountains between Laos
and Vietnam. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact with search and
rescue and other planes; some were known to have been captured. Hanoi's
communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke of American prisoners
they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated, Laos was not included,
and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos.

On October 16, 1967, the RF4C Phantom reconnaissance jet flown by Capt. Richard
D. Appelhans disappeared while flying over Saravane Province, Laos. Flying as
backseater on this flight was Capt. George W. Clarke.

Radio and radar contact with the aircraft was lost at grid coordinates
XC961808, which is located in the northeast portion of Saravane Province, Laos.
Aerial searches were conducted, but no trace of the missing aircraft or its
crew were found.

American POWs who were released early (1968) reported that they had seen George
Clarke as a prisoner, and all stated that they last saw him alive. A number of
reports relating to Clarke were received by his parents, and his status was
changed from Missing in Action to Prisoner of War. No further information was
received on Richard Appelhans.

Just before December 1971, Clarke's wife was informed by the Air Force that "it
had come to their attention" that her husband needed eyeglasses. Mrs. Clarke
has a photograph of an individual in captivity she believes is her husband.

The U.S. maintains Clarke's case among those called "discrepancy" cases which
are regularly presented to the Vietnamese as those that could be resolved.

Were it not for the thousands of reports concerning Americans still held captive
in Southeast Asia, the Clarke and Appelhans families might be able to close this
tragic chapter of their lives. But as long as Americans are alive, being held
captive, Clarke and Appelhans could be among them. It's time we brought these
men home.

Both Clarke and Appelhans were promoted to the rank of Major during the period
they were maintained Prisoner of War and Missing in Action.




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On October 16, 1967, an RF-4C Phantom II (tail number 65-0855, call sign "Kodak 64") with two crew members took off on a single-aircraft night photo reconnaissance mission over the western section of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam. The crew made radio contact with ground control radar during the flight, and eventually radioed to report they were changing radio frequencies for artillery clearance in the target area. Clearance was granted, and the crew was instructed to exit the target area to the south following their target run, which they acknowledged. However, the crew was not heard from again, and searches for the lost aircraft and crew were unsuccessful. 

Captain Richard Duane Appelhans entered the U.S. Air Force from Montana and served in the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. He was the pilot of the Phantom when it went missing and his remains were not recovered. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Air Force promoted captain Appelhans to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col). Today, Lieutenant Colonel Appelhans is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Deferred.

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