Name: Barry Wayne Hilbrich
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army Special Forces
Unit: Company B, S3, 5th Special Forces
Date of Birth: 25 June 1947 (Duere DeWitt TX)
Home City of Record: Corpus Christi TX
Date of Loss: 09 June 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 1043419N 1074243E (YB785205)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: O1F
Refno: 1632

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.

Other Personnel In Incident: John L. Ryder (missing)


SYNOPSIS: Air Force 1Lt. John L. Ryder was the pilot of an O1F spotter
aircraft on which Special Forces Operations Officer Capt. Barry W. Hilbrich
was serving as observer. The two departed Pleiku Airbase on a visual
reconnaissance mission on June 9, 1970 south of Ben Het in South Vietnam
with an ultimate destination of Camp Dak Saeng.

The aircraft was located just north of Pleiku and was in radio contact with
the tactical air control center. Their next scheduled radio contact was at
1327 hours, but no further communication was established. Ryder and Hilbrich
were reported missing.

No immediate visual search could be initiated because of incliment weather,
and an electronic search conducted produced no trace of the aircraft of the
crew. During the period of June 10-19 an extensive search was carried out
extending from Pleiku north to the I Corps boundary and west of the
Cambodian border, with no sightings of either aircraft or its two officers.
The two were officially classified Missing In Action. It cannot be
determined whether the enemy knew their fates.

It was thought by the families of most of the men missing that even though
they got no word of their loved one, there every chance they had been
captured. When the war ended in 1973, and 591 Americans were released in
Operation Homecoming, military experts expressed their dismay that "some
hundreds" of POWs did not come home with them. Many families were

John Ryder's mother went to see the Vietnamese in England in 1976. While
they were very cordial to her, she says, "they repeated over and over again,
they will give out no information on the missing men until the U.S.A. has
rebuilt Vietnam."

Reconstruction aid promised by Nixon and Kissinger to Vietnam in 1973 has
not been appropriated by Congress, and no aid has been given. Since 1973,
the Vietnamese continue to link the issue of aid to that of the American
POWs, although the U.S. continues to insist it is a separate, humanitarian

Tragically, thousands of reports continue to flow in regarding the Americans
still prisoner, missing or unaccounted for. Some of them specifically refer
to an American by name and location, yet no solution for bringing these men
home has been found.

Those of us who remember that talks between nations can be tied up
indefinitely over the shape of the negotiating table wonder how long our
captive servicemen will be able to endure.

To: <info@pownetwork.org>
Date: Fri, 31 May 2013 18:44:29 -0700
Subject: John L. Ryder, 9 Jun 1970

        MFR                                                                                                             Mar 25, 2013

        RTAO: Art Meikel, Maj USAF, Ret

        Subj: 09 Jun, 1970 loss of John L Ryder and Barry W. Hilbrich, RVN

        On Memorial Day I used my updated computer's internet to look for new data on the status of
John L. Ryder. I was the summary court officer for John's affairs in country as well as his immediate superior during the siege of Dak Seang. We played poker nightly and our rooms shared a common wall. I did not know Barry Hilbrich.
       This memo is written after 43 years to correct errors in the record and provide a better understanding of what may have happened. Until now, after searching several sources, I was unaware of the "official" report which was handled by II DASC and of the 1992 NVA revelation of a shoot down report. I will attempt to separate fact from assumption. In my later USAF career investigating
accidents: after looking at facts, logical assumptions could be considered.

Time of notification: Working nights and sleeping days while working at II DASC I got up late   afternoon on Jun 9 and went for a game of "combat" volleyball. There, I was notified by a uniformed Green Beret that Barry, who was flying backseat with John was overdue. I offered that they could be pulling "strip alert" at a Special Forces camp. He responded that Barry was due to be on
duty at 3PM. It was significantly after that time. I went directly to the phone, initiated a    radio search and notified II DASC in that order. I estimate that time as approx. 1700 hrs. By the    time a radio search could have been completed darkness would have been a factor. The O-1 is a day, VFR aircraft, but we had flown at night under dire circumstances. Building thunderstorms and solid overcast prevented flight that evening. Mike 81 could have gone anywhere in the extended time. Weather could have been a factor if John had remained aloft during the entire period. Four hours plus was the maximum time aloft.

Location: During my personal inquiries in 1970 I was told:
1. The two individuals had flown low together the previous day.
2. They were flying over Laos.
3. Barry was allowed to carry hand grenades.
I never allowed grenades. An explosion in the tight back seat, whether due to ground fire or "oops" would be devastating. It was rumored that Green Berets took delight in taking a helicopter with a people sniffer and trading fire with those they found on the ground. John was one of two pilots I had "mentored" on taking unnecessary risk flying at low altitude when not required.  I suspect a Laos crash location.
        Therefore, I don't understand the crash coordinates listed if nothing was found. I suspect the reported data was given to protect radio operators and II DASC. During my Mike FAC days we flight followed with the Army after initial contact with the AF. We always worked with ground forces who would know instantly if we had problems.  After leaving the Army we called in with our ETA. When
John was pulling strip alert ( due to a shortage of flying time) he would have  been, again, with the Army. Would he have recognized the need to accurately flight follow on a mission more suited to a sector FAC?
        Nationally, (in 1970), there was "no war in Laos or Cambodia". II DASC, who coordinated our activities there (ignoring ROE) would not have been able to admit to Laos operations. I do not  know Barry's level of involvement in operations in Laos. Out of country missions came from above. Our inputs, as to out of country, went unanswered.
        I never heard of "Dac Giang" listed in the NVA 95B Reg. report.     A short internet search found nothing yet.
        Supervision: Pure conjecture. Due to amoebic dysentery and Vietnamization I had moved to II  DASC as a Fighter Duty Officer working nights and sleeping days. The unit was transitioning from 0-1s to 0-2s. 0-1s were scheduled to be given to the VNAF. This left John and Hal Hornburg, (later a three star) as the only unit 0-1 FACs during a  period of relatively low activity. There was an 0-2     
commander in the area whom I never met. I don't know if he ever met the 0-1 guys. John and Hal  were very experienced and independent. They were both excellent pilots and good at their jobs. As an academy grad John the more independent and aggressive.

A. P. Meikel    





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On June 9, 1970, an O-1F Bird Dog (tail number 57-2890, call sign "Mike 81") with two crew members departed Pleiku Air Base on a visual reconnaissance mission over Kontum Province, South Vietnam. West of Pleiku, the pilot contacted the tactical air control center on a routine communication check and did not report any problems. The pilot missed the next scheduled radio communication and was not heard from again, and the aircraft never returned to base. Bad weather prevented search and rescue efforts from beginning until the following day, and searches then continued for nine days without success. Neither crew member could be located following the incident.

Captain Barry Wayne Hilbrich, who joined the U.S. Army from Texas, served in Company B, 5th Special Forces Group. He was the observer in the Bird Dog when it disappeared, and his remains were not recovered. Today, Captain Hilbrich 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.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

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