COBBS, RALPH BURTON Name: Ralph Burton Cobbs Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy Unit: Air Transport Squadron 7, Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam Date of Birth: 05 August 1917 Home City of Record: St. Louis IL Date of Loss: 17 June 1966 Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 130112N 1092333E (CQ398257) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 4 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: C130E Other Personnel in Incident: Curtis D. Collette; Jack I. Dempsey; Stanley J. Freng; Edward L. Romig; M.J. Savoy; Donald E. Siegwarth; Robert A. Cairns; Gene K. Hess; Connie M. Gravitte; Oley N. Adams; Larry E. Washburn (all missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 15 March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: EXPLODE AIR & IMPACT SEA - J SYNOPSIS: On June 17, 1966, a C130E "Hercules" aircraft departed Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam en route to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa on an operational airlift support mission. Aboard the flight were the crew, consisting of LtCdr. Ralph B. Cobbs; ADJ2 Curtis D. Collette; YN2 Jack I. Dempsey; ADR2 Stanley J. Freng; Ltjg. Edward L. Romig; AN M.J. Savoy; and Ltjg. Donald E. Siegwarth. All were assigned to the 7th Air Transport Squadron. Also aboard the aircraft were U.S. Air Force personnel SSgt. Robert A. Cairns; SSgt. Gene K. Hess; Capt. Connie M. Gravitte; SSgt. Oley N. Adams; and A1 Larry E. Washburn, and one other individual. About 30 minutes into the flight, when the aircraft was 43 miles northeast of Nha Trang, the crew of a naval gunboat cruising off the South Vietnam coast observed the C130 explode and crash into the South China Sea. No hostile fire was observed, and the exact cause of the crash could not be determined. The vessell arrived at the crash scene only minutes after the impact and began an immediate search. The accident took place so swiftly that it must be assumed all aboard perished instantly. Some debris and wreckage have been recovered including parts of the aircraft and personal belongings. Only one body was recovered from the crash site. The others are listed as "Dead/Body Not Recovered." Cobbs and Siegworth were pilots, and probably the co-pilots of the aircraft, although this information is not included in public data relating to the loss. Crew positions of the remaining crew members are not available. Inexplicably, Cobbs' loss coordinates place him on the coast of South Vietnam a few miles northeast of Tuy Hoa, while the others aboard are listed as lost northeast of Na Trang. (This is a difference of about 55 miles.) Also, the entire crew of the aircraft has been assigned "Knowledge Category 4", while the passengers are in "Knowledge Category 5". Category 5 includes those individuals whose remains have been determined to be non-recoverable. Category 4 includes individuals whose loss details, such as location and time, are unknown and who do not fit into any of the varying degrees of knowledge other than category 5. No reason for this discrepancy can be determined. The Americans aboard the C130E are listed among the missing because their remains were never found to be returned to their homeland. They are among nearly 2500 Americans who remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam war. The cases of some, like the C130E crew, seem clear - that they perished and cannot be recovered, Unfortunately, many others who are missing do not have such clear cut cases. Some were known captives; some were photographed as they were led by their guards. Some were in radio contact with search teams, while others simply disappeared. Since the war ended, over 250,000 interviews have been conducted with those who claim to know about Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, and several million documents have been studied. U.S. Government experts cannot seem to agree whether Americans are there alive or not. Distractors say it would be far too politically difficult to bring the men they believe to be alive home, and the U.S. is content to negotiate for remains. Over 1000 eye-witness reports of living American prisoners were received by 1989. Most of them are still classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe, the men are all dead, why the secrecy after so many years? If the men are alive, why are they not home? In our haste to leave an unpopular war, it now appears we abandoned some of our best men. In our haste to heal the wounds of this same war, will we sign their death warrants? Or will we do what we can to bring them home? Ralph B. Cobbs had over 22 years of active military service. His record shows that he was enlisted in the Navy from January 1942 to November 1944 and later received an appointment into the Air Force Reserve form February 1950 to June 1951. He served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.