RIP May 29, 2010

Name: Louis Henry Bernasconi
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force
Unit: 307th Strat Wing
Date of Birth: 21 May 31
Home City of Record: Napa CA
Date of Loss: 22 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210125N 1055100E (WJ880210)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: B52

Other Personnel in Incident: Gary L. Morgan; William T. Mayall; David I.
Drummond; William W. Conlee; John H. Yuill (all released POWs)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 1990 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.


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 air
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.

Linebacker II flights generally arrived over Hanoi in tight cells of three
aircraft to maximize the mutual support benefits of their ECM equipment and flew
straight and level to stabilize the bombing computers and ensure that all bombs
fell on the military targets and not in civilian areas.

The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS" surrounded
Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. 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 successful 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."

To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick to
a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes were
anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight
paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from the

Still, aircraft were shot down near the end of the campaign. On December 22,
1972, a B52 was shot down near Hanoi. Its crew included LTCOL John H. Yuill,
LTCOL Louis H. Bernasconi, LTCOL William W. Conlee, CAPT David I. Drummond, 1LT
William T. Mayall, and TSGT Gary L. Morgan. This crew was exceptionally
fortunate--they were all were captured by the North Vietnamese. The captured
crew was held in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, at which time they were released in
Operation Homecoming. The U.S. did not know all of them had been captured.

Linebacker II involved 155 Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers stationed at
Anderson AFB, Guam (72nd Strat Wing) and another 50 B52s stationed at Utapoa
Airbase, Thailand (307th Strat Wing), an enormous number of bombers with over
one thousand men flying the missions. However, the bombings were not conducted
without high loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of December 1972,
61 crewmembers onboard ten B52 aircraft were shot down and were captured or
declared missing. (The B52 carried a crew of six men; however, one B52 lost
carried an extra crewman.) Of these 61, 33 men were released in 1973. The others
remained missing at the end of the war. Over half of these survived to eject

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports have been received relating to
Americans missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. The crew of
the B52 shot down on December 22 was lucky to have survived and only have a few
weeks imprisonment. Many authorities are now convinced that many Americans are
still held captive in Southeast Asia. It's time we found them and brought them

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

Lieutenant Colonel - United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 22, 1972
Released: March 29, 1973

A happy Californian returned home 26 pounds lighter from his ordeal in the
prison camps. Lt. Col. Bernasconi was shot down December 22, 1972 during a
raid over North Vietnam. When his B-52 bomber was hit, shrapnel cut a tendon
in his leg.
Just before Christmas his family received notification that he was missing in
action. Then within hours of the notification a reclassification was made to
POW as he was paraded with his fellow crewmen in Hanoi for publicity. The
photographs were distributed via the wire services throughout the United
Upon arrival he said "On behalf of our group returning today we want to thank
you sincerely for   this wonderful, wonderful greeting on this beautiful
Sunday here at Travis Air Force Base in California."
His mother said "He's awfully thin but he will be okay." His stepfather
commented "He's great, God bless him,  he's great. He's got a little limp but
he looks so much better than he did over there (on television). He's in high
spirits. I don't know what the problem is with his foot! but he's in a lot
better condition than we thought he would be."
Before joining the Air Force he went to Napa College in Napa California where
he played football  and was college student body president. He then went to
Fresno State University. Later he entered the Air  Force Reserve Officers
Training Corps. With many years invested in the Air Force he intends to remain
in the service of his country.


Louis Bernasconi retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He
and his wife Sara resided in New Mexico until his death after a series of
ailments, May 29, 2010.

His service has tentatively been scheduled for June 18, but linking to the
French Funeral-Cremation website will eventually announce the actual date.
The site: < >.