Name: Ernest Leo DeSoto
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
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.


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

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

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.




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On April 12, 1969, an F-4D Phantom II (tail number 66-8766) took off as the wingman in a two-plane strike mission against targets near Da Nang, South Vietnam. During the mission, while flying through cloud cover, the Phantom crashed into a mountain ridge. Search and rescue efforts were launched, but there were no signs that either crew member survived the crash, and ground searches were prevented by heavy enemy presence in the area. Both men from the Phantom’s crew remain unaccounted-for.

Major Ernest Leo De Soto, who joined the U.S. Air Force from California, was a member of the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He was the aircraft commander of the Phantom when it crashed on April 12, 1969, and he was lost in the incident, and his remains have not been recovered or identified. The Air Force posthumously promoted Major De Soto to the rank of colonel (Col). Today, Colonel De Soto is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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