DESPIEGLER, GALE A.
Name: Gale A. Despiegler
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 421st TFS
Date of Birth: 24 March 1938
Home City of Record: Browns Valley MN
Date of Loss: 15 April 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 170700N 1064500N (XE664271)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Larry A. Trimble (remains returned)
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. Date
Compiled: 01 January 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK. 2020
REMARKS: RELSD 730328 BY DRV
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. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
Maj. Gale Despiegler and 1Lt. Larry A. Trimble were F4 pilots assigned a
mission over North Vietnam on April 15, 1972. From Defense Department data,
it appears that 1Lt. Trimble was the pilot of the aircraft, while Maj.
Despiegler was the rear seater - the crewmember who operated the technical
At a point over Quang Binh Province about 20 miles northwest of the city of
Vinh Binh, Trimble's aircraft went down. Despiegler ejected and was
subsequently captured by the North Vietnamese. Trimble, whose last known
location is some distance away, was never heard from again.
In March 1973, Despiegler was released from Hanoi along with 590 other
Americans. Trimble, however, was not among them. The Vietnamese denied any
knowledge of the pilot of the aircraft downed on April 15, 1972.
In June 1989, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of 1Lt. (by then
promoted to Captain) Larry A. Trimble and returned them to U.S. control. A
positive identification of the remains was announced by the Department of
Defense the following October.
These two men were among roughly 3000 Americans who were captured, missing,
or unaccounted for in the Vietnam War. When 591 prisoners returned in 1973,
military experts expressed their "dismay" that hundreds thought to have been
captured were not among them.
Since the end of the war, nearly 10,000 reports relating to missing
Americans in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government which
have convinced many authorities that hundreds of Americans remain alive in
captivity today. While Larry Trimble's family finally knows his fate,
thousands of other families wait, tortured by the thought they their man
could be alive in captivity, tortured by the thought that he could be dead.
Larry Trimble, alive or dead, was a prisoner of war for over 17 years.
Others have been there longer. It's time we brought our men home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
GALE A. DE SPIEGLER
Major - United States Air Force
Shot Down: April 15, 1972
Released: March 28, 1973
"Every letter he has ever written to me always end with the same message,
'Keep smiling' ", said Mrs. Carole DeSpiegler when she heard that her
husband was a POW in North Vietnam. "Now I hope he will be able to." She and
their five children, Christi, Michael, Sherri, Mark and Andrea waited in
Florida for almost a year for Major Gale DeSpiegler.
Major DeSpiegler, a navigator in the 421st Black Widow Tactical Fighter
Squadron in Da Nang, was flying in the back seat of an F4 fighter when he
was shot down over Dong Hoi on April 15, 1972.
After his capture, he said he was subjected to some physical abuse by the
communists, "but none that compared to what older ones (who had been
prisoners longer) got."
Major DeSpiegler has been in the Air Force since 1956 when he enlisted. He
describes his background . . .
I attended Officer Candidate School in 1960 and was commissioned in June
1960. I attended navigator training at Harlingen AFB, Texas, and was rated
in August 1961; then I attended navigator bombardier training at Mather AFB,
California. I was a navigator on a B-52 combat crew at Barksdale AFB
Louisiana for three years; then at Carswell AFB, Texas, for another three
years. I was next assigned as a radar navigator to Grand Forks AFB, North
Dakota, and was on a B-52 crew there for three years. I also served on
temporary duty at Anderson AFB, Guam; Kadena AFB, Okinawa; and U-Taparo AFB,
Thailand. I flew 100 missions in the B-52 in Southeast Asia. Finally I was
selected to attend F-4 crew training at Macdill AFB, Florida in 1971; I
volunteered for Southeast Asia and was assigned to Da Nang AFB, Vietnam, in
September 1971. Major DeSpiegler's experiences have not changed his mind
about the direction he wishes to take in his career. He details his plans:
"I hope to attend the University of Tampa for one year to obtain my
undergraduate degree in business administration. I would then like to attend
a Senior Service School. After completing this, I wish to return to flying
in the F-4 and applying my education in other ways in the military.
When Major DeSpiegler stepped off the plane, he was elated by his reception:
"I can't believe you all came to see me. It's amazing. It's great to be
He tells why he thinks that he was able to return alive: I think I'm here
today because of what President Nixon did to bring peace."
Major DeSpiegler has these final sentiments on his attitude now and as a
POW: "I never lost faith in my country, my president and my fellow citizens.
I would like to mention the importance of my faith in God as an aid to me in
my time of trial. I was proud to be a part of the 4th POW Wing."
Gale DeSpiegler retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel.
he and his wife Carole reside in Florida.
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