DESOTO, ERNEST LEO Name: Ernest Leo DeSoto Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 30 December 1931 Home City of Record: Manning AR Date of Loss: 12 April 1969 Country of Loss: South Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 152820N 1073715E Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 3 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1423 Other Personnel In Incident: Frederick M. Hall (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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 1998. REMARKS: DISAP IN CLOUD BANK SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. Maj. Ernest L. DeSoto was the pilot and 1Lt. Frederick M. Hall the navigator and systems operator of an F4D sent on a combat mission on April 12, 1969. DeSoto's aircraft was one in a flight of three which departed Da Nang airbase for a bombing mission in an unstated area. During the mission, other pilots report that DeSoto and Hall's aircraft disappeared into a cloud bank, and was not seen again. The last location logged for the aircraft was in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam, a few miles north of the tri-border area of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Three weeks later, an aviator who had been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor was put on report. It had been decided it would be "unwise" to award the Medal because it might remind the Vietnamese that American troops were active near the DMZ and upset the Paris peace talks. The Paris Peace talks, finally culminating in peace accords in 1973, signaled the end of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. One of the stipulations agreed to by Vietnam was the return all Prisoners of War and the fullest possible accounting of the missing. However, known prisoners of war did not return, nor did several known to have died in captivity. Precise locations of crash sites were known in many cases, but access to them was denied. DeSoto and Hall are among nearly 2500 Americans who were lost in Southeast Asia and never returned. Reports continue to mount that some of them are alive, being held prisoner. Contrary to policy statements, the return of these men does not seem to be a high priority of the U.S. Government. Americans like Hall and DeSoto went to Vietnam prepared to be wounded or taken prisoner, even prepared to die. They did not go prepared to be abandoned. They must be brought home.