AYRES, GERALD FRANCIS
Remains identified 10/21/94 [One of three men individually identified -- nine others were identified only as a group] Name: Gerald Francis Ayres Rank/Branch: O4/USAF Unit: 16th SOS (PAF), Ubon, Thailand Date of Birth: 23 February 1937 Home City of Record: Newcastle DE Date of Loss: 18 June 1972 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 161500N 1071200E (YC343978) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A Refno: 1879 Other Personnel in Incident: Jacob Mercer; Richard Nyhof; Robert Wilson; Leon A. Hunt; Larry J. Newman; Paul F. Gilbert; Stanley Lehrke; Robert Harrison; Donald H. Klinke; Richard M. Cole; Mark G. Danielson (all missing) 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, interviews. Updated by the P.O.w. NETWORK. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: Lockheed's versatile C130 aircraft filled many roles in Vietnam, including transport, tanker, gunship, drone controller, airborne battlefield command and control center, weather reconnaissance, electronic reconnaissance, and search, rescue and recovery. The AC130, outfitted as a gunship, was the most spectacular of the modified C130's. These ships pierced the darkness using searchlights, flares, night observation devices that intensified natural light, and a variety of electronic sensors such as radar, infared equipment and even low-level television. On some models, a computer automatically translated sensor data into instructions for the pilot, who kept his fixed, side-firing guns trained on target by adjusting the angle of bank as he circled. The crew of these planes were, therefore, highly trained and capable. They were highly desirable "captures" for the enemy because of their technical knowledge. 1LT Paul F. Gilbert was the pilot of an AC130A gunship assigned a mission near the A Shau Valley in the Republic of Vietnam on June 18, 1972. The crew, totaling 15 men included MAJ Gerald F. Ayres, MAJ Robert H. Harrison, CAPT Robert A. Wilson, CAPT Mark G. Danielson, TSGT Richard M. Cole Jr., SSGT Donald H. Klinke, SSGT Richard E. Nyhof, SSGT Larry J. Newman, SGT Leon A. Hunt, and SGT Stanley L. "Larry" Lehrke. During the mission, the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) and went down near the border of Laos and Vietnam. In fact, the first location coordinates given to the families were indeed Laos, but were quickly changed to reflect a loss just inside South Vietnam. Three survivors of the crash were rescued the next day. After several years of effort, some of the family members of the other crewmembers were able to review part of their debriefings, which revealed that a bail-out order was given, and that at least one unexplained parachute was observed, indicating that at least one other airman may have safely escaped the crippled aircraft. In early 1985, resistance forces surfaced information which indicated that SGT Mercer had survived the crash and was currently held prisoner. Parents of another crew member, Mark G. Danielson, discovered a photograph of an unidentified POW printed about 6 months after the crash, in their local newspaper whom they were CONVINCED was Mark. It was several years, however, before the U.S. Government allowed the Danielsons to view the film from which the photo was taken. When they viewed the film, their certainty diminished. The hope that some of the twelve missing from the AC130A gunship has not diminished, however. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government, including over 1,000 first-hand live sighting reports. Families who might be able to lay their anguish and uncertainty to rest are taunted by these reports, wondering if their loved one is still alive, abandoned and alone. Since a large portion of the information is classified, it is impossible for the families to come to their own conclusions as to the accuracy of the reports. The fate of the twelve missing men from the gunship lost on June 18, 1972 is unknown. What is certain is that the governments of Southeast Asia possess far more knowledge than they have admitted to date. A large percentage of the nearly 2500 missing Americans CAN be accounted for. There can be no question that if even one American remains alive in captivity today, we have a moral and legal obligation to do everything possible to bring him home.