BEBUS, CHARLES JAMES
Remains Returned October 1988
Name: Charles James Bebus
Rank/Branch: E3/US Air Force, gunner
Date of Birth: 04 February 1951
Home City of Record: Minneapolis MN
Date of Loss: 21 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210200N 1054500E (WJ779258)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Donovan Walters; Robert R. Lynn; Edward Johnson
(remains returned October 1988); Lynn R. R. Beens; James Y. Nagahiro (both
returned POWs); Keith R. Heggen (remains returned in 1974)
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 2020.
SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated ait
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings", 40,000 tons of bombs
were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White
House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only
when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized
cease-fire was in force.
The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the
most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of
strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic
targets was so successfull that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken
the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in
Hanoi and marching them southward."
The B52 bomber saw heavy duty in Vietnam. From June 1965 to August 1973 no
fewer than 126,615 B52 sorties were flown. Of these, 125,479 reached their
targets, and 124,532 dropped their bombs. Six percent of these sorties were
flown in North Vietnam, and 17 B52s were lost to hostile fire in North
Vietnam. During the month of December 1972, 62 crewmembers of B52 aircraft
were shot down and captured or went missing over North Vietnam. Of these 62,
33 men were released in 1973. The remains of 14 more have been returned over
the years, and 15 are still missing. At least 10 those missing survived to
eject safely. Where are they? Where have they been?
On December 21, 1972, a B52G bomber stationed on Guam was ordered to take
part in the Christmas bombings. The crew of this B52 consisted of James Y.
Nagahiro, pilot; Donovan K. Walters, co-pilot; Robert R. Lynn, electronic
warfare officer; Charles J. Bebus, gunner; and crewmembers Lynn R. Beens;
Keith R. Heggen and Edward H. Johnson.
The B52G was outfitted more or less as were the other B52 models, equipped
with 50-callibre M-3 guns and 27-750 pound bombs, but with the additional
capacity to carry aerial mines.
LtCol. Nagahiro's aircraft successfully completed its mission, but was hit
by a surface to air missile (SAM) in the tail section shortly after turning
toward the safety of Thailand. Nagahiro gave the order for the crew to
The fate of the crew is varied. Nagahiro, Beens and Heggen were captured,
and Heggen died in captivity. Until his release, the U.S. did not know
Nagahiro had been captured. After their release in 1973, Nagahiro and Beens
were able to fill in further information on the missing crew members.
Nagahiro relates that he saw Donovan Walters eject from the plane and heard
four others, Lynn, Bebus, Heggen and Beens, go out from behind him. Beens
states that he saw Walter's identification card in a stack of cards on a
desk at Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton) prison in Hanoi. Nagahiro saw Johnson's name
written on a pad at the prison. Hegger was captured alive, but died in
Although the Vietnamese returned the remains of Keith Heggen in March 1974,
they have consistently denied knowledge of any of the rest of the crew.
In October 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Bebus, Johnson,
Lynn and Walters and returned them to U.S. control. For 16 years, they were
political prisoners - alive or dead - of a communist nation.
Mounting evidence indicates that hundreds of Americans are still alive in
captivity in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Government has regular "talks" with
the Vietnamese and has negotiated the excavation of a crash site and the
return of about 200 remains, but has failed to successfully negotiate for
the return of those Americans still held captive.
If the U.S. had negotiated more aggressively, would Bebus, Johnson, Lynn and
Walters come home dead? Or alive?