ALLEY, GERALD WILLIAM Remains Returned 15 December 1988 - ID Announced 23 June 1989 Name: Gerald William Alley Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force, RAD/NAV Unit: 22nd Bomber Wing, Utapao Airfield, Thailand Date of Birth: 28 July 1934 Home City of Record: Pocatello ID Loss Date: 22 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212500N 1062500E (WJ866264) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D Other Personnel In Incident: Thomas W. Bennett; (missing); Peter Camerota, Peter Giroux; Louis E. LeBlanc (all three returned POWs in 1973); Joseph B. Copack Jr. (remains returned) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 31 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. REMARKS: 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 force. In early December 1972, several men stationed at Utapao, Thailand sent Christmas presents home and readied themselves for a few final runs they would have to make before Christmas. They were looking forward to returning to Thailand in time to see Bob Hope on December 22. They never saw Bob Hope, and none of them returned for Christmas. On December 22, a B52D crew consisting of Capt. Thomas W. Bennett, co-pilot; LtCol. Gerald W. Alley; Capt. Peter P. Camerota, bombardier (electronic warfare officer); 1Lt. Joseph B. Copack, Jr., navigator; Capt. Peter J. Giroux, pilot; and MSgt. Louis E. LeBlanc, tailgunner; departed Utapao on a bombing mission over Hanoi. This aircraft, "Scarlet One," was the lead in a three-aircraft cell on a strike against storage facilities located near Bac Mai airfield. When the crew boarded the aircraft, they noted that the ship's radar system had failed on a previous flight. Maintenance had been unable to duplicate the problem, thus could not correct it before the aircraft was needed again. All went well during the flight over Thailand and Laos, but as Scarlet One approached the initial point, the radar began to deteriorate. Giroux instructed Scarlet Two to take the lead and began to drop back to take up position three in the cell. In this position they could take their bomb release instructions from the tail gunner in the number two aircraft. As Scarlet One rolled out into its new position, the radar failed completely and, at about the same time, LeBlanc (the tail gunner) called for the TTR maneuver. This was designed to counter enemy radar, but when the gunner called for it, it meant MiGs had been sighted. Giroux began the maneuver, realizing it would back the bomber out of the cell slightly and affect the protective ECM shield. A second or two later the gunner called for flares and began shooting at the attacking MiGs. The flares were designed to lure the incoming infrared missiles away from the heat signature of the eight aircraft engines, and the ploy worked. Two of the missiles passed under the aircraft as Giroux continued the maneuver. The gunner continued to fire until the attackers broke away. The reason for the MiGs' departure soon became evident. Directly below were two surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and they were headed right for Scarlet One. Giroux turned the ship hard back to the right, but one of the missiles hit the aircraft somewhere near the centerline and towards the front of the aircraft. Another SAM went by the tail but failed to explode. Giroux had been hit in the legs and wrists by shrapnel, but was not seriously injured. The left wing was on fire, engines five and six were burning, and the flames were reaching past the tail of the aircraft. Giroux blacked out (probably from the depressurization) and regained consciousness as the aircraft was plummeting towards the ground. Air Force records indicate that Bennett called the mayday and manually ejected Giroux, who had blacked out and then bailed out himself. The tailgunner (LeBlanc) later reported in his debrief that he observed in the bright moonlight that the entire crew of six had deployed parachutes. Giroux had been partially unconscious during his descent to the ground. Camerota, who landed some 25 miles from Giroux and LeBlanc, had seen three other parachutes. The occupant of one, he believed, was unconscious. Camerota evaded capture until January 3. LeBlanc and Giroux were captured immediately and taken to the "Hanoi Hilton." Camerota, Giroux and LeBlanc were released from Hanoi a few months later in the general prisoner release of 1973. The U.S. was not expecting them. They had not known that the three were being held prisoner. Alley, Copack and Bennett were not released and remained Missing in Action. During the month of December, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft were shot down and captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were released in 1973. The remains of several more have been returned over the years, and the rest are still missing. At least 10 of those missing survived to eject safely. Where are they? As reports mounted following the war convinced many authorities that hundreds of Americans were still held captive in Southeast Asia, many families wonder if their men were among those said to be still alive in captivity, and are frustrated at inadequate efforts by the U.S. Government to get information on their men. On June 23, 1989, the U.S. announced that the Vietnamese had "discovered" the remains of Gerald W. Alley and Joseph B. Copack and had sent them home at last. For 17 years, Alley and Copack - alive or dead - were in enemy hands. Their families at last know for certain that their sons are dead. What they may never know, however, is how - and when - they died, and if they knew that their country had abandoned them. Gerald W. Alley was promoted to the rank of Colonel, Thomas W. Bennett was promoted to the rank of Major and Joseph B. Copack was promoted to the rank of Captain during the period they were maintained missing.