Remains recovered 09 February 1973, ID'd February 13, 1973

Name: Robert Edward Bernhardt
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, Nakhon Phanom, Thailand OR
Detachment 3, 6994th Security Squadron from Ubon, Thailand
Date of Birth: 12 May 1948
Home City of Record: Richmond VA
Date of Loss: 05 Feb 1973
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 153755N 1065957E (YC143291)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action/Killed In Action
Category: 1
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: EC47Q
Refno: 1983

Other Personnel in Incident: Arthur R. Bollinger; Dale Brandenburg; Todd M.
Melton; George R. Spitz; Severo J. Primm III; Peter R. Cressman; Joseph
Matejov (all 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 1998.

SYNOPSIS: On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris
Peace Agreement, an EC47Q aircraft was shot down over Saravane Province,
Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The crew of the aircraft
consisted of the pilot, Capt. George R. Spitz; Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger,
2Lt. Severo J. Primm III, 1Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, Sgt. Dale Brandenburg,
Sgt. Peter R. Cressman, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, SSgt. Todd M. Melton, all
listed as crew members. The families of all aboard the aircraft were told
the men were dead, and advised to conduct memorial services.

It is known that the four enlisted men were members of Detachment 3, 6994th
Security Squadron from Ubon, Thailand. The aircraft, however, was flying out
of the 361st TEW Squadron (Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron) at Nakhon
Phanom Airbase, Thailand. It is not known which, if any, of the officers
aboard were assigned to the 6994th at Ubon, and which, besides Spitz, were
assigned to the 361st at NKP.

The men in the 6994th were highly trained and operated in the greatest of
secrecy. They were not allowed to mingle with others from their respective
bases, nor were the pilots of the aircraft carrying them on their missions
always told what their objective was. They were cryptology experts, language
experts, and knew well how to operate some of the Air Force's most
sophisticated equipment. They were the first to hear the enemy's battle

Over five years later, Joe Matejov's mother, Mary Matejov, heard columnist
Jack Anderson, on "Good Morning America", describe a Pathet Lao radio
communique which described the capture of four "air pirates" on the same day
as the EC47Q carrying her son was shot down. NO OTHER PLANE WAS MISSING THAT
DAY. Anderson's information indicated that reconnaissance personnel had 40
uninterrupted minutes in which to survey the crash site.

The report of the reconnaissance team, which was not provided to the
families for over five years, showed that three bodies, which were thought
to have been higher ranking officers because of the seating arrangement,
were found strapped in seats. Four of the men aboard the aircraft were not
in or around the aircraft, and the partial remains of the eighth man was
recovered. No identification was brought out from the crash site, and no
attempt was made to recover the three bodies from the downed aircraft. It is
assumed that the reconnaissance team was most interested in recovering the
sensitive equipment aboard the EC47Q. The EC47Q became known as the "Flying
Pueblo". Most of the "kids" in back, as some pilots called them, were young,
in good health, and stood every chance of surviving captivity.

There were specific reports intercepted regarding the four missing men from
the aircraft missing on February 5, 1973. Radio reports indicated that the
four were transported to the North Vietnam border. None were released in the
general POW release beginning the next month.

Peter Cressman enlisted in the United States Air Force in August, 1969 and
after two years at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska he volunteered for
service in Vietnam and left for Da Nang in June 1972.

In Da Nang, Peter spent his free hours at Sacred Heart Orphanage. His
letters to his hometown priest in Oakland, New Jersey, resulted in the
forming of "Operation Forget-Me-Not". Community schools, churches, merchants
and citizens joined the effort to help the innocent victims of war. The
group eventually provided a boxcar of supplies to the orphans.

Peter was transferred to the airbase at Ubon, Thailand. He was intensely
opposed to the secret missions being flown into Laos, and had written
letters to his congressman in that regard. His family has been active in
efforts to locate information on Peter and the nearly 2500 others who remain
unaccounted for. They founded the National Forget-Me-Not Association for
POW/MIAs in St.Petersburg, Florida, the largest POW advocacy group in the

Joseph Matejov enlisted in the Air Force in 1970 from his home state of New
York and went to Southeast Asia in April, 1972. Joe's father and two
brothers were career military. His sister graduated from West Point in 1981.
Steven Matejov died in 1984 not knowing what happened to his son. Joe's
mother, Mary says, "Joe may be alive. If so, this government has a legal and
moral responsibility to get him home.  The next generation of servicemen
should not have to wonder if they will answer the call to defend their
country only to be abandoned. We must stop this tragedy now, and never allow
it to happen again."

Thousands of reports received by the U.S. Government have convinced many
experts that hundreds of Americans remain captive in Southeast Asia. Members
of a crew flying a secret mission after a peace agreement had been signed
would likely be considered war criminals. If they are among those thought to
be alive, the survivors of the EC47Q have been held captive over 15 years.
It's time we brought our men home.