Remains Returned November 3, 1988

Name: Robert Taft Hanson
Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy
Unit: USS Kitty Hawk RVAH 13
Date of Birth: 28 December 1942
Home City of Record: Toledo OH
Date of Loss: 03 February 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 191158N 1054458E (WG788229)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RA5C
Other Personnel In Incident: Gerald L. Coffee, released POW, pilot

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: 15
March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK March 1997.


SYNOPSIS: Lt. Gerald L. Coffee was the pilot of an RA5C Vigilante
reconnaissance aircraft assigned to Reconnaissance Squadron 13 on board the
USS KITTY HAWK (CVA 63). On February 3, 1966, he and navigator Lt. Robert T.
Hanson were on an intelligence gathering mission against a heavily defended
portion of North Vietnam. Their aircraft was hit by enemy fire and was
observed to explode and hit the water near the coast of North Vietnam east
of Nghe An Province. No parachutes were seen, however an emergency survival
radio beeper was heard.

Both Coffee and Hanson successfully ejected and parachuted into the gulf.
Several vessels were put out from the shore to capture the crewmen. Coffee
was recovered by militiamen in one of the boats, and was held prisoner until
his release in 1973.  He stated that he had seen his navigator (Hanson)
alive in the water about 12 meters away and thought that he had been picked
up in one of the other boats. Lt. Coffee also reported that, shortly after
his capture, a guard indicated by gestures that Lt. Hanson was dead and had
been buried on the beach. Coffee was shown his identification card.

An article in the February 1, 1973 Quan Doi Nhan Dan (a daily Vietnamese
paper), in describing the February 3, 1966 shootdown, stated that, "The
militia ...managed to bring the two enemy pilots to shore." Hanson and
Coffee's plane was the only aircraft lost within 45 miles of the Gulf of
Tonkin that day.

Intelligence reports surfacing over the years during the war and following
build a strong case for a well-organized second prison system, and a well
orchestrated plan to keep prisoners within systems from intermingling. As it
is widely believed that the Vietnamese withheld the release of many
prisoners until peace agreement terms were met (specifically reconstruction
aid), it is logical to assume that one prison system's inmates were released
while another were held back for possible release at a later date. It is
also logical to assume that the scenario might be played to its fullest,
including convincing each man in a two man crew that had been separated,
that the other was dead.

Whether Robert Hanson survived to be captured is not known. Experts now
believe, based on thousands of reports received, that hundreds of Americans
are still held prisoner in Southeast Asia. Robert Hanson could be one of
them. He deserves much better than the abandonment he has received by the
country he proudly served.

On November 3, 1988, the Vietnamese, who had previously denied knowledge of
Lt. Hanson, "discovered" and returned his remains to U.S. control. When and
how he died only the Vietnamese can say.

Commander Coffee's last duty station was Commander, Pacific Fleet, Pearl
Harbor Hawaii before he retired.