RIP 04/16/2020

Name: Fernando Alexander
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force, RAD/NAV
Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Utapao AB TH
Date of Birth: March 8, 1929 , Dallas, TX
Home City of Record: Dallas TX
Loss Date: 19 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 205900N 1054359E (WJ762203)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D

Others In Incident: Richard W. Cooper; Charlie S. Poole (both missing);
Charles A. Brown Jr.; Hal K. Wilson; Henry C. Barrows (all POWs released in

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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.


SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs
were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House
Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all
U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in

On the first day of Linebacker II, December 18, 129 B52s arrived over Hanoi in
three waves, four to five hours apart. They attacked the airfields at Hoa Lac,
Kep and Phuc Yen, the Kinh No complex and the Yen Vien railyards. The aircraft
flew in tight cells of three aircraft to maximize the mutual support benefits
of their ECM equipment and flew straight and level to stabilize the bombing
computers and ensure that all bombs fell on the military targets and not in
civilian areas.

The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS" surrounded
Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. The first night of bombing, December 18
and 19, two B52s were shot down by SAMs.

Onboard the first aircraft shot down on December 18 was its pilot, LTCOL
Donald L. Rissi and crewmen MAJ Richard E. Johnson, CAPT Richard T. Simpson,
CAPT Robert G. Certain, 1LT Robert J. Thomas and SGT Walter L. Ferguson. Of
this crew, Certain, Simpson and Johnson were captured and shown the bodies of
the other crew members. Six years later, the bodies of Rissi, Thomas and
Ferguson were returned to U.S. control by the Vietnamese. Certain, Simpson and
Johnson were held prisoner in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, when they were
released in Operation Homecoming.

Capt. Hal K. Wilson was in the lead aircraft of a B52 cell from Utapoa. Also
on board his aircraft were crew men MAJ Fernando Alexander, CAPT Charles A.
Brown, Jr., CAPT Henry C. Barrows, CAPT Richard W. Cooper Jr. (the navigator),
and SGT Charlie S. Poole (the tailgunner). Wilson's aircraft was hit by a SAM
near his target area and crashed in the early morning hours of December 19,
sustaining damage to the fuselage. In the ensuing fire, there was no time for
orderly bailout, but as later examination of radio tapes indicated, all six
crewmen deployed their parachutes and evidently safely ejected. The aircraft
damage report indicated that all six men were prisoner.

Radio Hanoi announced that Poole had been captured and that he was uninjured.
Whether Cooper's name was also reported is unknown, as the airman who heard
this report on Guam heard only part of the broadcast, and being a friend of
the Poole family, remembered vividly only the parts concerning Charlie Poole.
When the war ended, however, only four of the crew returned from Hanoi
prisons. Hanoi remained silent about the fate of Charlie Poole and Richard

The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the
most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of
strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic
targets was so successful that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the
entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and
marching them southward."

To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick
to a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes were
anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight
paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from
the ground.

Linebacker II involved 155 Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers stationed at
Anderson AFB, Guam (72nd Strat Wing) and another 50 B52s stationed at Utapoa
Airbase, Thailand (307th Strat Wing), an enormous number of bombers with over
one thousand men flying the missions. However, the bombings were not conducted
without high loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of December
1972, 61 crewmembers onboard ten B52 aircraft were shot down and were captured
or declared missing. (The B52 carried a crew of six men; however, one B52 lost
carried an extra crewman.) Of these 61, 33 men were released in 1973. The
others remained missing at the end of the war. Over half of these survived to
eject safely. What happened to them?

Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still
held captive in Southeast Asia. Are Poole and Cooper among them? Do they know
the country they love has abandoned them? Isn't it time we found them and
brought them home?

Fernando  Alexander retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel.

His wife Mildred still resides in California.