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
Others In Incident: Michael Quinn (missing); (25 miles away-Richard
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.
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
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
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.