Name: Donald Ray Burns
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
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
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C

Official pre-capture photo

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 2019.

*Many bios are based on audio taped interviews (information included, in most cases,
unit data and narrative
information from death certificates,) received by The Last Firebase
decades ago, and confirmed over the years as POW/MIA families received copies.
There ARE errors.  Those errors are NOT edited, but corrections are appended to the
bios for each individual. The only way we found to show how many errors in incident/casualty
reporting existed is to leave them as is.... and add the correct information as it is received.



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* {see notes below}  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

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

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!


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,

Bill Finch

NOTE:  05/2019

Col Donald Burns was discharged as a Command Pilot.  He was the pilot on this
flight, despite the official report having had him as the weapons/systems


Col Burns died of cancer 26 April 1996.


MORE INFO/photo:    http://www.veterantributes.org/TributeDetail.php?recordID=1036