IRWIN, ROBERT HARRY Remains Returned - ID Announced 891120 Name: Robert Harry Irwin Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 09 December 1938 Home City of Record: Peekskill NY Date of Loss: 17 February 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 170915N 1064940E (XD944974) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1798 Other Personnel in Incident: Edwin A. Hawley Jr. (Released POW) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 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. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: DEAD/CREWMAN SAID IN HANOI 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" planes around. Major Robert H. Irwin, pilot, and Capt. Edwin A. Hawley Jr., weapons/systems operator, were dispatched on a combat mission in their F4D aircraft over North Vietnam on February 17, 1972. At a point about 15 miles west of the city of Vinh in Quang Binh Province, their aircraft was shot down. Capt. Hawley, being the rear-seater, ejected from the aircraft first. It was standard procedure for the pilot to eject second. Therefore, it was not uncommon for the crewmembers to be separated on the ground. Capt. Hawley was captured by the North Vietnamese and spent the next year in prison camps in and around Hanoi. On February 14, 1973, he was released, still showing signs of the injuries he suffered when he ejected from his aircraft. Capt. Hawley, in his debriefing stated that he believed his pilot was dead. No details of this briefing is publicly available, as much of it is still classified. Maj. Robert H. Irwin remained Missing in Action. The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded Irwin's classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 2. Category 2 indicates "suspect knowledge" and includes personnel who may have been involved in loss incidents with individuals reported in Category 1 (confirmed knowledge), or who were lost in areas or under conditions that they may reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy; who were connected with an incident which was discussed but not identified by names in enemy news media; or identified (by elimination, but not 100% positively) through analysis of all-source intelligence. Throughout years following the war, reports continued to accumulate relating to Americans missing or prisoner in Southeast Asia. By 1989, there were nearly 10,000 such reports (largely classified), and many authorities became convinced that hundreds of Americans remained alive, prisoners of war. The U.S. continued to ask for information on missing Americans at each visit to Hanoi, but the Vietnamese either ignored their questions, or denied knowledge of Major Irwin. In late November, 1989, it was announced that remains had been returned to U.S. control by the Vietnamese, and these remains had been positively identified as being those of Major Robert H. Irwin. For over 17 years, he had been a prisoner of war - alive or dead. For Major Irwin's family, the wait is over. They can finally grieve and heal. They no longer wonder if he is one of the hundreds thought to be still alive. For thousands of other families, however, the wait continues. It's long past time we brought all our men home from Southeast Asia.