BEUTEL, ROBERT DONALD
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
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
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.
(Uncle and Designated Primary Next of Kin)