COLLINS, RICHARD FRANK Name: Richard Frank Collins Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 196, USS RANGER (CVA 61) Date of Birth: 25 October 1936 Home City of Record: Huntington Park CA Date of Loss: 22 November 1969 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 163000N 1062500E Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A Others In Incident: Michael Quinn (missing); (25 miles away-Richard Deuter-missing); Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 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. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as well as to transport weapons, supplies and troops. The road system used most was dubbed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail". Hundreds of American pilots were shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam. Fortunately, U.S. search and rescue teams in Vietnam was extremely successful and recovery rate was very high. Still, there were nearly 600 who were not rescued. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Many were alive on the ground and in radio contact with search and rescue and other planes; some were known to have been captured. Hanoi's communist allies in Laos, the Pathet Lao, publicly spoke of American prisoners they held, but when peace agreements were negotiated, Laos was not included, and not a single American was released that had been held in Laos. LTJG Richard C. Deuter was a Bombardier/Navigator (BN) assigned to Attack Squadron 196 onboard the aircraft carrier USS RANGER. On November 22, 1969, he launched with his pilot, Commander Richards, in their A6A Intruder aircraft on a bombing mission into Laos. The assigned mission was visual dive-bombing under the control of an airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC). Once in the target area, the FAC assigned a target and the aircraft was rolled into a normal dive-bombing attack. At some point in thedive, probably just before bomb release, the aircraft became completely uncontrollable and began to disintegrate. Commander Richards ordered LTJG Deuter to eject, then ejected himself. The aircraft continued to disintegrate and crashed into the ground. Only the pilot's parachute was seen by search and rescue aircraft. Commander Richard's emergency radio helped in pinpointing his location and he was rescued by helicopter approximately 30 minutes after landing. Search efforts failed to turn up anything on Deuter. It is believed that the aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire in its dive and suffered a structural failure which led to its loss. With all facts considered, it is impossible to state conclusively whether or not Deuter successfully ejected from the aircraft. He was classified Missing in Action. That night, another Intruder launched from Attack Squadron 196 onboard the RANGER. LTCDR Richard F. Collins was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 196 onboard the aircraft carrier USS RANGER. LTCDR Collins and Lt. Michael E. Quinn, his bombardier/navigaor, launched in their A6A Intruder aircraft as the leader of a two-plane mission briefed for night road reconnaissance against targets of opportunity, inland from the coast of South Vietnam. (NOTE: At various times, because of the secret nature of U.S. activity in Laos, the service branches felt it was necessary to conceal loss locations in Laos. Whether the location was ever concealed in this case is unknown, but the use of the phrase "inland from the coast of South Vietnam" is certainly misleading, at best, since the aircraft were seeking "targets of opportunity" on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Savannakhet Province, Laos.) Everything proceeded as briefed excapt another aircraft in the flight was not launched due to mechanical problems. The aircraft launched and flew to the target area, arriving northeast of the road segment where Quinn and Collins had commenced their reconnaissance. Subsequently, the wingman experienced a temporary navigation malfunction, causing several minutes delay. Approximately five minutes passed and the wingman began his reconnaissance. Five to six minutes later, the wingman saw a billowing explosion and called to Quinn and Collins but received no response. The wingman did not feel a lack of communications was significant at this time due to the estimated distance between the aircraft. After the wingman completed his attacks he headed back to the ship. The lead aircraft did not return, nor had it been heard from. Search and rescue efforts were initiated immediately. However, these efforts were hampered by a lack of definite loss location. There were no voice or beacon signals received by the search and rescue forces. Collins and Quinn were classified Missing in Action. Were it not for the thousands of reports concerning Americans still held captive in Southeast Asia, the families of these three men from Attack Squadron 196 might be able to close this tragic chapter of their lives. But as long as Americans are alive, being held captive, Collins, Quinn and Deuter could be among them. It's time our men were brought home.