KERR, MICHAEL SCOTT
Name: Michael Scott Kerr Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force Unit: 11th Tactical Recon Squadron, Udorn Airfield, Thailand Date of Birth: 19 February 1938 Home City of Record: San Diego CA Date of Loss: 16 January 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212659N 1052546E (WJ445718) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Other Personnel In Incident: Robert J. Welch (missing)
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: 01 January 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1999.
REMARKS: 730304 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: On January 16, 1967, an unarmed Air Force RF4C Phantom aircraft flown by Capt. Robert J. Welch departed Udorn Airfield, Thailand for a photo reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam near Hanoi. Welch's navigator that day was 1Lt. Michael S. Kerr.
Welch and Kerr's aircraft was shot down about 35 miles northwest of Hanoi. They were perhaps making an inspection run over targets hit the day before as part of a 37-plane mission to destroy railroads, highways, bridges and SAM (surface-to-air missile) sites 15 miles from Hanoi.
Welch and Kerr were career Air Force officers. Their families were friends, the two trained together on the photographic version of the Phantom jet, went to Vietnam together in 1966, flew together and were shot down together. Their families moved to Washington State to wait. Welch and Kerr didn't return home together; Kerr was released in 1973, Welch was not.
They had flown out of Udorn, Thailand, on a bright, clear day for the low-altitude photographic mission around Hanoi. A SAM was fired at the plane, but did not make a direct hit. The plane pitched up and Kerr blacked out. When he recovered, he reached for the ejection-seat handle over his head, but the force was too strong. He grabbed the other one between his legs and got out.
Kerr did not see Welch bail out, but observed the plane impact and explode on the side of a hill. Kerr was completely uninjured. Before he was taken to Hanoi, a young boy showed him a piece of the tail of his plane. Kerr wondered if he also found Welch or brought out dog tags, if Welch had died. Throughout his captivity, Kerr never saw Robert Welch, but he never stopped looking.
After he returned, Kerr and his wife were divorced. Mrs. Kerr and Mrs. Welch are still friends, and very much involved in the effort to achieve the release of men like Robert Welch whom they strongly believe are alive today. Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in captivity. Whether Welch is alive or dead is not known. What is certain, however, is that Vietnam and her communist allies can tell us what happened to most of our men...including Robert Welch.
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 spelling errors).
MICHAEL S. KERR Captain - United States Air Force Shot Down: January 16, 1967 Released: March 4, 1972
I was born 35 years ago on 19 February 1938 in Santa Monica, California. I graduated from high school in 1956 and entered the Marine Corps shortly thereafter. After 3 years in the Corps, I was released. At that time I attended college and graduated with a BA in Psychology from San Diego State in 1964. Then I joined the Air Force, went to OTS and received my commission in September 1964. I went on to pilot training that same year at Vance AFB, Enid, Oklahoma, graduated in December 1965, and was assigned to RF4C's at Mountain Home AFB, Mountain Home, Idaho. From there I went to Udorn RTAB, Thailand, where on our 29th mission over North Vietnam, we were shot down by a surface-to-air missile, while taking photos of a railroad marshaling yard at Viet Tri (city on the northwest railroad) approximately 60 kilometers northwest of Hanoi. This was on 16 January 1967.
My wife, Jerri and I met in college and were married in September 1960. We have two fine children, a boy Rick, 8 years old, and a girl Michele, 6 years old. We also have several animals around the house - all of which are too numerous to mention.
My future plans are to stay in the Air Force for thirty, do the best job I'm capable of, and fly fighters for just as long as they'll let me.
I was a prisoner for six years and two months. The first three years were the worst. During these times the adrenalin really used to shoot through you as you heard the guards coming with the keys. You would hope that he wasn't going to stop and then you would hope he wasn't going to take you.
When I was first captured I was taken to the Hanoi Hilton. My wrists were manacled behind my back with the palms outward. I was taken to the green room or knobby room, so called because of the material on the walls. The guards wanted military information and propaganda and they resorted to persuasive tactics to get what they wanted. Straps were placed around the upper arms tightly enough to cut off the blood circulation and cause swelling in the manacled wrists; one was also placed around the neck to hinder breathing. I completely lost the use of both arms for a couple of days. There was no surface feeling in them for about a year following. I would burn my hand from cigarettes because of the deadened nerves. There was severe discipline in those early days, even for talking to your roommate above a whisper. I was hit with a fan belt for disciplinary reasons. These reasons could be anything that was decided by the guards. During that first year my weight of 170 dropped to 120 pounds, and I am over six feet tall!
The best time was Christmas 1969 when I received a Christmas photograph of my two children. That was the first mail I was allowed to see. Later in captivity I was allowed to read ten letters from my wife however the guards made me return them immediately.
Time dragged on. However life improved in 1969 and even though physical punishment was reduced boredom was still prevalent. Then came our release and a return home. There is a lot of social orientation for a man who has been locked away from the world for more than six years.
So many people have written to me over the past month expressing their gratitude for our service and giving me personally a great big WELCOME HOME! As you might suspect IT'S GREAT T0 BE HOME !! My reason for feeling this way is not just that it means I'm no longer in the hands of a ruthless and brutal enemy but more than that - it means I'm back among a very wonderful and special people YOU the American people. YOU who stood by us through long years praying for our safety, putting pressure on the enemy through various means so that our days in prison might be more tolerable. YOU, who helped our families to adjust and cope with the years without a husband father or son. Believe me your strength was felt in those dank prison cells and it helped me personally to carry on when it didn't seem like there was much to carry on for. YOU who voted in a man of the greatness and stature of President Richard M. Nixon. Yes America it's great to be home. Great to be able to take my place among you again. Great to be an AMERICAN! ! Thank you so much each and every one of you and please America don't forget our MlA's and don't forget those men who fought in Vietnam and made it through their 13 months or 100 missions - they are the Heroes of this war And lastly don't forget those men who died to uphold our freedoms - to them we owe our deepest gratitude and undying respect.
Mike Kerr resides in Washington State.