BROWN, CHARLES ARTHUR JR.
Name: Charles Arthur Brown, Jr. Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, co-pilot Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Utapao AB TH Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Boston MA Loss Date: 19 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 205900N 1054359E (WJ762203) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D
Others In Incident: Richard W. Cooper; Charlie S. Poole (both missing); Henry C. Barrows; Hal K. Wilson; Fernando Alexander (all POWs released in 1973).
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. NETWORK 2003.
REMARKS: RELDS 730329 BY DRV
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.
On the first day of Linebacker II, December 18, 129 B52s arrived over Hanoi in three waves, four to five hours apart. They attacked the airfields at Hoa Lac, Kep and Phuc Yen, the Kinh No complex and the Yen Vien railyards. The aircraft flew 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 first night of bombing, December 18 and 19, two B52s were shot down by SAMs.
Onboard the first aircraft shot down on December 18 was its pilot, LTCOL Donald L. Rissi and crewmen MAJ Richard E. Johnson, CAPT Richard T. Simpson, CAPT Robert G. Certain, 1LT Robert J. Thomas and SGT Walter L. Ferguson. Of this crew, Certain, Simpson and Johnson were captured and shown the bodies of the other crew members. Six years later, the bodies of Rissi, Thomas and Ferguson were returned to U.S. control by the Vietnamese. Certain, Simpson and Johnson were held prisoner in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, when they were released in Operation Homecoming.
Capt. Hal K. Wilson was in the lead aircraft of a B52 cell from Utapoa. Also on board his aircraft were crew men MAJ Fernando Alexander, CAPT Charles A. Brown, Jr., CAPT Henry C. Barrows, CAPT Richard W. Cooper Jr. (the navigator), and SGT Charlie S. Poole (the tailgunner). Wilson's aircraft was hit by a SAM near his target area and crashed in the early morning hours of December 19, sustaining damage to the fuselage. In the ensuing fire, there was no time for orderly bailout, but as later examination of radio tapes indicated, all six crewmen deployed their parachutes and evidently safely ejected. The aircraft damage report indicated that all six men were prisoner.
Radio Hanoi announced that Poole had been captured and that he was uninjured. Whether Cooper's name was also reported is unknown, as the airman who heard this report on Guam heard only part of the broadcast, and being a friend of the Poole family, remembered vividly only the parts concerning Charlie Poole. When the war ended, however, only four of the crew returned from Hanoi prisons. Hanoi remained silent about the fate of Charlie Poole and Richard Cooper.
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 ground.
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 safely. What happened to them?
Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia. Are Poole and Cooper among them? Do they know the country they love has abandoned them? Isn't it time we found them and brought them home?
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
CHARLES A. BROWN Captain - United States Air Force Shot Down: December 19, 1972 Released: March 29, 1973
My name is Captain Charles A. Brown (Charlie Brown) and I was shot down and captured over Hanoi in North Vietnam on December 19, 1972 while on a B-52 bombing mission. My feeling at the time was initially one of great sadness because it was within three days of being reunited with my wife, who was scheduled to board a plane to come and visit me eighteen hours after I was shot down. I found out later that she got as far as Los Angeles Airport before she was told the bad news. Her parents live in California so everything worked out for they picked her up at the airport and she went home with them.
My initial reaction to imprisonment was, of course, one of shock mixed with deep sorrow for me, my family and all my friends. I was kept in solitary for only 36 hours, due to the fact that during the period of December 18 to 28, 1972 the "Hanoi Hilton" received a lot of uninvited guests. The short solitary confinement helped to ease any feelings of loneliness that I might have had. I knew of the negotiations in Paris and I had the hope that the agreement would be signed soon. Thank God it was signed at the end of January and I was only in jail for 101 days-a short stay but still too long.
In the sixty-one days between January 28 and March 28, 1973, the Vietnamese "fed" us a rather steady diet of propaganda and generally maintained the same war footing with us. A big morale booster to us was the fact that our prison ("The Zoo") was so situated that for every release we could see the American C-141 coming to the Gia Lam Airport and going out with the released prisoners. Just the sight of an American airplane made us cheer and the fact that fellow prisoners were going home really made for a joyous occasion. When the occasion came for our release, which was the last from North Vietnam, on March 29, 1973, I was overjoyed and I almost cried when I first entered the C-141 and saw the American Flag. lt was the happiest day of my life.
Now that my imprisonment is over, I plan to stay with my wife and start a family. I will separate from the service on about August 1, 1973 and enter civilian life.
My message to the American People: We never know what we have until we lose it and freedom is one of the most important facets of life that is all too easily taken for granted. Throughout history, and even today, men are enslaved throughout the world while America stays free. Cherish your freedom, for it is very precious and very hard earned throughout the years. God HAS blessed America!
Charles Brown Jr. retired from the United States Air Force Reserves as a Lt. Colonel. He and his wife Marty reside in Massachusetts.
Former POW celebrates 30 years of freedom
by Senior Master Sgt. Sandi Michon 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
04/05/03 - WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- As U.S. prisoners of war in Iraq await their freedom, Col. Charles Brown, 439th Maintenance Group commander here recalled the end of his own POW experience 30 years earlier.
On April 1, 1973, a young, Captain Brown walked off a C-9 Nightingale onto the tarmac here after spending 101 days as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese. He was imprisoned at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" after his B-52 Stratofortress was hit by a missile Dec. 19, 1972.
Brown's experience as a POW takes on renewed significance in light of current events in Iraq. "It brings back old memories," he said.
Brown's most vivid memories as a POW are his first day of confinement and the jarring transition from combatant to prisoner.
"The first day is the most dangerous," he said, explaining that most POWs first survive a firefight and other forms of enemy brutality before reaching their permanent place of confinement.
Brown appeared on television after his capture, and he said he feels that it may have saved his life.
"If you end up on camera, you generally get released because of the increased accountability it creates," he said. "In a larger sense, it's more dangerous to not appear on camera."
Brown sees similarities between North Vietnam and Iraq.
"Both situations involve dictators that have little value for human life," he said.
Three decades have helped heal the psychological pain of his POW confinement, but Brown said his experiences also helped him focus on what is important.
"You find you place greater emphasis on relationships," he said, and added that his faith played a role in his survival.
The POWs tapped "GBA" (God Bless America) on cell walls in code to keep up their spirits and counted the bell tolls from the Hanoi Catholic church nearby to keep track of time, Brown said.
"They constantly fed us lies over the radio, but my faith helped me know they were just lies," he said.
On April 1, Brown's friends here commemorated his 30-year homecoming anniversary with a surprise ceremony. Brown, one of only a few Vietnam-era former POWs still actively serving in the military, told the gathered crowd that "the real heroes are the ones who didn't come home."
Chief Master Sgt. George Kudla, of the 439th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, was on the flight line when Brown return three decades ago. "I remember seeing his skinny face in the C-9 window when it taxied into the parking ramp at Westover," he said. "He asked how the Boston Bruins were doing," Kudla recalled with a laugh. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)
Col. Charles A. Brown, Jr. Colonel Charles A. Brown, Jr. is the commander of the 439th Maintenance Group, 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Mass. He assumed this position in January 1999.
Duties include providing management, direction and guidance to two maintenance squadrons, which maintain 16 C-5A galaxy aircraft, as well as the 439th Logistics Support Squadron. Reviews the functional areas of aircraft maintenance, supply, transportation and contracting in terms of specific objectives, relative priorities, capabilities and limitations. Responsible for manning, equipping and training the 439th Logistics Group. Determines the effective use of personnel, equipment and budgeted monies.
Westover Air Force Base was the site of Lt. Col. Brown's first assignment, where he was a B-52 pilot with the 99th Bombardment Wing until his separation from active duty in 1973. On Dec. 19, 1972, the B-52 he was piloting was shot down over Hanoi by a Surface to Air Missile (SAM). He parachuted to safety, only to be captured by North Vietnamese militiamen and held prisoner in The Hanoi Hilton, as well as the Zoo P.O.W. camp, for 101 days. On April 1, 1973, he was returned to Westover.
EDUCATION: 1968 Bachelor of science degree in Aeronautical Engineering (ROTC program), Boston University 1969 Undergraduate Pilot Training, Craig Air Force Base, Ala. 1995 Air War College
MILITARY ASSIGNMENTS: 1968 - 1969, Undergraduate Pilot Training, Craig AFB, Ala. 1970 - 1973, B-52 co-pilot, Westover Air Force Base, Mass. 1974 -1976, Rhode Island ANG 1977 - 1978, chief of quality assurance, Westover Air Force Base, Mass. 1978 - 1980, C-123 pilot, Westover Air Force Base, Mass. 1980 - 1983, chief of aircrew standardization/evaluation 1983 - 1987, C-130 pilot, Westover Air Force Base, Mass. 1987 - 1989, chief of quality assurance, Westover Air Force Base, Mass. 1989 - 1993, commander, 439th Component Repair Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 1990 - 1991, active duty, Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 1993 - 1996, maintenance officer, 439th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 1996 - 1998, maintenance officer, 439th Aircraft Generation Squadron, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 1998 - 1999, vice commander, 439th Logistics Group, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. 1999 - present, commander, 439th Logistics Group, Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.
FLIGHT INFORMATION: Flight hours: 12,000 Aircraft flown: 1968-1969 T-41, T-37 and T-38 1969-1973 B-52 1977-1983 C-123 1983-1987 C-130 1973-1990 DC-9, 727
MILITARY AWARDS AND DECORATIONS: Purple Heart Bronze Star with V device Distinguished Flying Cross Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster Air Medal with eight oak leaf clusters Prisoner of War Medal Vietnam Service Medal, two devices
EFFECTIVE DATES OF PROMOTION: Second Lieutenant 1968 First Lieutenant 1969 Captain 1971 Major 1982 Lieutenant Colonel 1989 Colonel 2000
ORGANIZATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS: Academy of Model Aeronautics Boy Scouts of America Hampshire County Radio Control Club Reserve Officer Association