Official pre-capture photo

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May 1998

May 2017


Freedom Flyer's

Name: Ricahrd L. Bates
Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force
Unit: 435th TFS       
Date of Birth: 02 April 1948
Home City of Record: Plaza ND
Date of Loss: 05 October 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 171200 North  1065000 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4E
Missions: 98 North Vietnam  136 Total
Other Personnel in Incident: James Latham, returnee, pilot

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews.  2021


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

First Lieutenant - United States Air Force
Shot Down: October 5, 1972
Released: March 29, 1973
I was shot down  05 October 1972 while flying as a Forward Air Controller
(FAC) in an F-4 over North Vietnam. Our aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft
fire as we made a low pass to check out a possible target. The plane became
uncontrollable almost immediately and my aircraft commander Jim Latham and I
were forced to eject. I was captured immediately. I could hear bullets
whizzing by me as I came down in the  'chute. My  first thought was: "It's
going to be a very long day." My next reaction was to pray for my wife.
The first  afternoon I was  paraded around the villages near Dong Hoi (the
village in the southern part of North Vietnam where  I was downed)  and the
civilians took turns hitting, kicking spitting and stoning me. It was  like
running the gauntlet for four hours. For the next 35 days I was kept in the
tunnel way  entrance  to a  concrete ammo bunker. It was a 3 feet high,  3
feet wide and about 7 feet long. I was also bound hand  and foot.
It was this time of cramped solitary that was the worst for me. Because we
flew alone, had to eject so quickly and were captured immediately, I knew
that I was an MIA (missing in action). I worried a lot about  my wife and
family. I finally found comfort in prayer. I would pray for any reason. When
I did not have any special prayer, I would say The Lord's Prayer or the 23rd
Psalm. I said them a thousand times.
I was worried why I wasn't being moved to Hanoi. I also worried about my own
well being for five days at the end of October as U. S. air strikes landed
on top of my position. One of my guards sitting next to me received wounds
in the head and leg during one raid. Finally, the trip north began and I saw
Jim, my aircraft commander. In fact, we were shackled together with leg
irons for three weeks! But we were together. We talked much. We got our
stories straight about what we would say or wouldn't say. We also played gin
rummy with a deck of cards I made out of pieces of paper. Jim won 8,200 to
my 4,800. Sixty days after being shot down we finally arrived in Hanoi. We
were separated again for eleven more days solitary. It was then I saw soap
and toothpaste for the first time in sixty days.
The December bombing of Hanoi was a beautiful, but a little terrifying,
sight to us. We saw two B-52's shot down. But we knew our country was
standing firmly behind us. The last sixty days were the very longest. I was
in the last group released. The reception at Clark AFB and back in the
U.S.A. reaffirmed what I knew all along--that my country had not forgotten
me and was behind me all the way. I was only doing my duty to my country and
have no regrets about any of it. My hope is to keep serving and I hope I can
do America justice.
With God's help and your help,  I am again back in our "America the
Words cannot fully convey our gratitude for all  your kindness and concern.
It's people like you that make America the great country it is.


Richard Bates retired from the United States Air Force as a Major. He and
his wife Jeanette reside in Texas.

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