Name: Robert Donald Beutel
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 06 April 1946
Home City of Record: Tremont IL
Date of Loss: 26 November 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 162000N 1045800E (WC015965)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1781-0-2
Other Personnel In Incident: James E. Steadman (missing)


Source: Compiled 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 in 1999 with
information from next-of-kin.  2020

SYNOPSIS: 1Lt. Robert D. Beutel flew backseater for Capt. James E. Steadman
on an F4D Phantom jet assigned to the 497th TFS at Ubon, Thailand. On
November 26, 1971, the two were flying a mission out of Thailand and over
Laos. Just inside Laos, in Savannakhet Province, their plane disappeared. No
one knew for sure if it was hit, or had mechanical trouble - it just
vanished. No remains or wreckage of the plane was ever found.

Bob Beutel and Jim Steadman were declared Missing in Action. The Air Force
maintained them in that classification for 7 years, and then declared them
dead, because there was "no evidence" to believe they were alive. There was
also no evidence that the two were dead.

Bob Beutel was packed for R & R in Australia after being overseas for 6
months. He was on his last flight before his departure. Jim Steadman, a
young officer from the Air Force Academy left a wife of only a short
duration to wonder what happened to him.

Beutel and Steadman are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos
during the war with Vietnam. Although the Pathet Lao stated on several
occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners, not a single
man held in Laos was ever released - or negotiated for.

Thousands of reports have been received which cause experts to believe that
hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity. Even the most skeptical
believe a number of prisoners may be held in Laos today. What must these
men, who willingly went to serve their country, be thinking of us? It's time
we brought them home.

The Library of Congress lists a LIVE SIGHTING report in his file.

December 31, 1998

Thanks for sharing whatever you could to help me get a better idea of the
whereabouts of my MIA nephew, Robert D. (Bob) Beutel.

I'm sending along a report of the highlights of what I learned in 1998,
which, in short, is:

1.       a denial by the National Security Agency of my FOIA request for
         relevant documents which remain classified SECRET and

2.       JTF-FA Field Investigators were turned away by the Lao Ministry of
         Defense from getting to a cave where Bob may have been held.

               Overview of Search Effort Results During 1998

1.       Joint Task Force - Full Accounting (JTF-FA) issued an Additional
         Information Report dated 21 July 1998 declaring exclusive
         correlation of crash site UC3018, previously thought likely to
         correlate to 1781, to Case 1455-0-1, James William Grace.

         Sharing information about this with the Grace family may be of
         mutual value.  Help in facilitating contact with the Grace family
         would be appreciated.

2.       JTF-FA issued a Report, dated 30 July 1998, relating to a 19 May
         through 21 June 1998 JTF-FA Field Investigation of Uncorrelated
         Incident 3030.  This incident is based on a CIA rallier report in
         which a source reported the Pathet Lao allegedly displayed two
         Americans in mid-December 1971 at the Savannakhet Provincial
         Military Headquarters to Villagers from Ban Dongbang and Ban
         Nammeng Savannakhet Province.  Refno 1781 is the prime possibility
         for correlation.

         The report indicates a Lao Ministry of National Defense (MND)
         Official halted the investigation when a witness was found who was
         willing to lead them to a cave where Americans may have been held
         during the war.  The MND also told the team they could not ask
         detailed questions when the team found witnesses with information
         on captured Americans.

         Additionally, although the team coordinated to interview Vilabouli
         District Officials, the MND Official refused to allow the team to
         interview the Vilabouli Police Chief, claiming the interview of
         that specific Official was not previously coordinated.

         Finally, the MND Official told the team that it would never be
         permitted to visit the cave, which was the Provincial Military,
         Headquarters where Americans may have been held.

         JTF-FA recommends continued investigation.

3.       In a letter, written under date of 1 1 December 1998 (received 18
         December 1998) The National Security Agency denied access to two
         SECRET classified NSA-originated documents responsive to a 21
         November 1997 FOIA request.  An appeal is possible, if initiated
         within 60 days.  Guidance by anyone familiar with the appeal process
         would be appreciated.  Although unconfirmed, the implication seems
         to be that these documents relate to UC3030.

4.       An archivist at DPMO indicates he has access to a CIA database and
         has offered to search for keywords apt to be in documents relating
         to case 1781.  Suggestions of apt words for search would be

If you know of anything new, I will again be grateful if you share it.

Elmer Getz
(Uncle and Designated Primary Next of Kin)                   




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On November 26, 1971, an F-4 Phantom II (tail number 66-7752, call sign "Owl 08") conducted a forward air control mission over a heavily wooded, mountainous jungle area in eastern Laos. The last radio contact with the aircraft occurred as it was en route to the target area in Savannakhet Province in the vicinity of (GC) VD 964 056. Weather conditions were extremely poor, with rain, clouds and low visibility. When controllers could not re-establish radio contact with the crew of the Phantom, a seven day search and rescue effort began. Continuing bad weather and the rugged terrain hampered visual and photographic searches, and radio and electronic contact could not be established. The search was unsuccessful and the crew were declared missing.

First Lieutenant Robert Donald Beutel, who joined the U.S. Air Force from Illinois, served with the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. He was the weapon systems operator aboard the Phantom when it disappeared, and his remains were not recovered. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Air Force promoted First Lieutenant Beutel to the rank of Captain (Capt). Today, Captain Beutel is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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