RIP 25 Sept 2013

Name: Norbert Anthony Gotner
Rank/Branch: O4/USAF
Unit: 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Ubon Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 1935
Home City of Record: Kansas City, KS
Date of Loss: 03 February 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171700N 1061030E (XE230120 or XD258926)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1698
Other Personnel in Incident: Robert L. Standerwick (missing)


Source: Compiled 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 in 2020.

SYNOPSIS: When North Vietnam began to increase their military strength in
South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for
sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some
years before. The border road, termed the "Ho Chi Minh Trail" was used for
transporting weapons, supplies and troops. Hundreds of American pilots were
shot down trying to stop this communist traffic to South Vietnam.
Fortunately, search and rescue teams in Vietnam were extremely successful
and the recovery rate was high. Still there were nearly 600 lost in Laos who
were not rescued. Many of them went down along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

During his Air Force career, Col. Robert L. Standerwick, Sr. flew a variety
of aircraft. At Omaha, Nebraska, he was selected to fly SAC's "Looking
Glass" missions.He was among the first of his friends to be selected to fly
the Phantom F4 fighter/bomber. After Thanksgiving 1970, Standerwick left
Omaha and shipped out to Vietnam, to be stationed at Ubon Airfield,
Thailand, with the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron. To his four children, it
seemed like just another long period Dad would be away.

On February 3, 1971, Standerwick was assigned a mission over the Ho Chi Minh
Trail along the eastern border of Laos. Standerwick's backseater was Maj.
Norbert A. Gotner, from Kansas City, Kansas. Their aircraft was the D model

The D model of the Phantom F4 aircraft had arrived at Ubon in 1967. This
model was improved with the installation of a central air data computer for
bombing and navigation. The computer automatically determined the weapon
release point for all bombing modes. This version also launched Walleye
television-guided missiles and laser-guided bombs. Combined with the
aircraft's max level speed of over Mach 2 and its tremendous manuverability,
the aircraft was considered one of the "hottest" high-tech aircraft of the

Standerwick and Gotner's mission on February 3 was not a bombing mission,
however, but a "sensor drop" - dropping strategically placed sensors to help
monitor truck and troop movement along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Trail was
heavily defended and heavily trafficked.

During the mission, Standerwick and Gotner's F4 was shot down, and both men
ejected as the aircraft crashed. Radio contact was made with both Col.
Standerwick and Maj. Gotner, who reported that they were alive and uninjured
on the ground. The two were close enough to talk with each other. Rescue
could not be made due to darkness and weather.

A later radio message from Standerwick reported that he was surrounded and
had been hit by gunfire. Some first hand accounts report that Standerwick
yelled or screamed. Soon after, contact with Gotner and Standerwick was
lost, and the Air Force declared both men Missing in Action.

An immediate intelligence report was received by the U.S. describing two
Americans being moved through Mahaxay Village in southern Khammouane
Province, Laos (about 8 miles northeast of the point the F4D was downed).
This report, although not felt to be specific enough to be a definite
identification, was thought to relate to Standerwick and Gotner. No further
word was heard of either man.

Unknown to U.S. intelligence and the Air Force, Maj. Gotner had been
captured by North Vietnamese troops. He was moved immediately to North
Vietnam, where he and a handful of other men captured in Laos were held in
the same prisons as men captured in North and South Vietnam. Gotner and the
other few captured in Laos and moved to Hanoi were held incommunicado from
other American POWs for the next two years.

When peace agreements were signed in Paris in January 1973, the Vietnamese
agreed to release all American Prisoners of War in their hands. The list
they provided the U.S. did not include any of the men lost in Laos. A
subsequent list of eleven individuals was provided at the last minute, and
it was known for the first time that Norbert Gotner was a Prisoner of War
and would be returning home. The eleven had all been held in North Vietnam,
apart from other Americans. Bob Standerwick's name appeared on no list. He
was not returned home with the 591 Americans who were released from North

Families of men lost in Laos were horrified that none of the over 100 men
they knew had been alive were released. The Pathet Lao had repeatedly stated
that they held "tens of tens" of Americans, yet no negotiations had occurred
that would secure their freedom. A series of assurances were made over a
period of years that these men had not been forgotten, and that negotiations
would occur to free them. None of the assurances brought a single man home.
These nearly 600 abandoned Americans were seemingly forgotten.

In 1980, the Standerwick family was told by a non-government source that Bob
Standerwick's name had been on a report prepared for Presidential review.
The source described the report as detailing two groups of about 2 dozen
Americans each. On one group, the source stated, there was only sketchy
information; on the second group, there were more details. The source stated
the report gave very current and specific information about Bob Standerwick,
listing his location at that time, identifying the group that held him, and
describing the menial labor job he was being forced to do in northern Laos.
The source identified the author of the report, the number of pages it
contained, the number of copies that had been made and where they were
located. The Standerwick family has never been able to substantiate this
report, and U.S. Government sources deny the existence of the report. All
copies of the report, according to the source, are under U.S. Government

When Norbert Gotner was released, he provided little further information
about his pilot. He did state that shortly before his own release he was
asked by his Vietnamese captors, "What do you know about Col. Standerwick?"
As Gotner himself was unknown to other Americans for most of his captivity,
this question takes on greater potential meaning. Many observers feel that
only those POWs held in the "Hanoi" prison system were released in 1973, and
that parallel prison systems existed in which prisoners were held without
exposure to those in other systems. One case which supports the theory that
only the "Hanoi" group, which was known to each other, was released is the
case of American civilian Bobby Keese, whose existence was discovered only
days before the general prisoner release in the spring of 1973. Keese, who
had been held in a separate section of a prison from other Americans, was
not scheduled for release and may yet be imprisoned were it not for a
unified effort on the part of other POWs to see that he was released.

Friends of Bob Standerwick say that there is no chance he would ever give
up. They say that unless he was murdered, there is every chance he could be
alive. Friends of Standerwick's children see the same ingenuity, courage,
resolve and determination in them. They have not stopped seeking information
on their father and the Americans still missing in Southeast Asia since they
were old enough to understand the circumstances of the loss of their father.

An interesting study can be made in the reports surrounding the last radio
messages from Bob Standerwick. Until the time the Air Force administratively
declared Standerwick dead on June 20, 1980, because there was "no evidence
that he was alive", these reports were evidence to support Standerwick's
Missing in Action status - the hope that Standerwick could still be alive.
At the time of his PFOD (Presumptive Finding of Death), these same reports
were used in the case to close the books on Bob Standerwick.

Belying the across-the-board PFOD findings, nearly 10,000 reports have been
received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans missing in Southeast
Asia. Many authorities believe that hundreds of Americans are still alive in
captivity today. Few agree on the most appropriate measure needed to bring
them home.

Standerwick's family does not consider him dead until proof has been found
that he is, indeed, dead. His wife has consistently aggravated the Air Force
by refusing to sign any form or document as his "widow". It's a small, but
important matter to her. The Standerwicks hold no "false hopes" that he is
alive; they are psychologically prepared to accept it if they learn that he
died. They want only the truth. They say, "The important point is that
either he was killed (at capture), or he was shot, wounded and taken
captive. One way or another, somebody knows whether he's alive or dead. If
he is not, someone's father, son or brother IS alive, and we owe it to him
to do everything we can to obtain his freedom."

Norbert Gotner retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He
and his wife Rose resided in Washington State until his passing.


Lt/Col Norb Gotner flew West on September 25, 2013. Norb had been in a care
facility in Eugene, Oregon for some time and passed due to heart
complications. His wife Rose lives at 3251 Twin Elms Drive
Eugene, OR 97408

Norbert was captured in Laos on February 3, 1971 during what came to be
known as the "Invasion of Laos' back home. He joined the Lulu's (POWs
captured in Laos) at "Lulu's Hideaway," the "Briar Patch," in May 1971. He
was released along with the Lulus on March 28, 1973 from Hanoi.

Noeb's career as a Bombadier/Navigator had been as crew on B-52s, B-58
Hustlers, qualified Missileman, and as a GIB in RF-4Cs over Vietnam and

Burial will be with full military honors at 11:30am at the Willamette
National Cemetery, 11800 SE Mt. Scott Blvd. Portland, Oregon. I will be

Ernie Brace