BURNS, DONALD RAY Deceased
Name: Donald Ray Burns Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Mineral Wells TX Date of Loss: 02 December 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 214400N 1052000E (WF344995) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C
Other Personnel in Incident: Bruce C. Ducat (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 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 2010.
REMARKS: 730304 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
1Lt. Bruce C. Ducat was the pilot and Maj. Donald R. burns the weapons/systems operator of an F4C sent on a combat mission over North Vietnam on December 2, 1966. During the mission, the aircraft was shot down about 40 miles northwest of Hanoi and both men were captured by the North Vietnamese.
During the years before the war ended, families waited until their loved ones who had been captured were returned. Knowing the torture being received by U.S. POWs in the hands of the Vietnamese, Ducat's father publicly offered an exchange - himself for his son. The Vietnamese ignored the offer.
In 1973, 591 Americans were released by the Vietnamese in Operation Homecoming. One of them was Donald R. Burns, but Ducat was not among them. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of his fate.
Then on March 18, 1977, the Vietnamese "discovered" and returned the remains of Bruce C. Ducat. For eleven years, Ducat, alive or dead, was a prisoner of war.
It is comforting for each family to receive, after years and years of grief and wonder, the remains of their loved ones. However, it is tragic to receive the remains of persons such as Bruce Ducat and others who were known to have been POWs when the Vietnamese continually denied knowledge of them. The U.S. points to such returns of remains as "progress" on the POW/MIA issue, when actually, we are subjugating our honor to our long-ago enemy, and gratefully accepting the "gift" of remains which should have been returned decades ago. We have allowed the Vietnamese to use the remains as political leverage.
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. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive today. In light of this information, it is doubly questionable that the U.S. is pursuing an honorable solution of the POW/MIA issue.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
DONALD R. BURNS Colonel - United States Air Force Shot Down: December 2, 1966 Released: March 4, 1973
I was born 2 January 1929 in Mineral Wells, Texas. I graduated from Mineral Wells High School in 1946 and from Midwestern University, Wichita Falls, Texas in 1950 with a BA in Business. I was married 1 June 1950 and have two children, Rebecca Dee, born 22 August 1956 and Darrell Edward, born 29 October 1959
In March 1951 I enlisted in the Air Force and was commissioned from Officer Candidate School in March the following year. I attended Pilot Training at Bartow Air Base, Florida and Bryan AFB, Texas and received my rating in October 1954. I attended Gunnery Training in the F-86F at Nellis AFB, Nevada. My assignments since that time have been: Chitose AB, Japan; Robins AFB, Georgia; Shaw AFB, South Carolina; RAF Station, Sculthorpe, England; Chaumont AB, France; Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam; and Da Nang AB, South Vietnam. I have flown the following aircraft T-6, T-28, T-33, F-86 E & F, B-66, F-4.
I was shot down 2 December 1966 by a SAM (surface to air missile) approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Hanoi I was released on 4 March 1973. My future plans are to continue my Air Force career.
Throughout my captivity in North Vietnam I never had any doubt that I would someday be released. I knew I would be released because I am a citizen of the United States of America. I knew that the President and the loyal, patriotic people of the United States would ensure my release. I also knew that had I been from any other country in the world I would not have had that assurance.
The reception that we have been given since our return has been absolutely overwhelming. I shall forever be grateful. It's wonderful to be an American and it's wonderful to be home. Thanks America!
NOTE: Oct 4, 2005 To Whom It May Concern,
In reading the biography of Colonel Donald Ray Burns as quoted from "We Came Home" on your website, I have discovered an error that should be corrected as soon as possible. At the time of his capture, then Major Burns was the Pilot of the F4/C Phantom. 1st Lieutenant Bruce Ducat was the Weapons Systems Officer. The biography incorrectly reverses their roles. Colonel Burns own narrative statement correctly identifies his role.
An additional note of interest in a cultural sense was the fact that 1st Lieutenant Ducat was allegedly shot and killed by the North Vietnamese immediately upon their capture because he was very tall and the NV were afraid of him due to his size. (Related to me by Mrs. Margarite Burns, widow of Colonel Burns).
Thank you for your attention,
Col Burns died of cancer 26 April 1996.