LEWIS, MERRILL RAYMOND JR. Remains Returned - ID announced September 1989 Name: Merrill Raymond Lewis Jr. Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat AB, Thailand Date of Birth: 17 August 1932 Home City of Record: Indianola IA Date of Loss: 20 July 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 213400N 1064000E (XJ745865) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D Refno: 0400 Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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 1998. REMARKS: POSS EJECT - NO PARA/BEEPER - J SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was constantly under revision. Between 1965 and 1971, the aircraft was equipped with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved pilot ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing capability and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a single-place aircraft, the F model carried a second crewman which made it well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam's missile defenses. Eighty-six F-105D's fitted with radar homing and warning gear formed the backbone of the Wild Weasel program, initiated in 1965 to improve the Air Force's electronic warfare capability. Upon pinpointing the radar at a missile site, the Wild Weasel attacked with Shrike missiles that homed on radar emissions. The versatile aircraft was also credited with downing 25 Russian MiGs. Thirteen of these modified F's were sent to Southeast Asia in 1966. Capt. Merrill R. Lewis, Jr. was the lead pilot of an F105D a part of a four-plane mission over North Vietnam on July 20, 1966. The flight was in Lang Son Province about 10 miles south of the city of Loc Binh (located about 50 miles northeast of Hanoi) and approaching pull-up for bomb delivery when flak was observed at Lewis' altitude. Lewis radioed that his cockpit was full of smoke, and following the transmission, his burning aircraft was seen to make a descending dive. Aircraft in the area thought the possibility existed that Lewis successfully ejected, although no parachute was observed, and no emergency radio beeper signals were heard. Lewis was placed in a category of Missing in Action, and it was thought that the Vietnamese undoubtedly knew his fate. For 23 years, the Vietnamese denied any knowledge of Capt. Lewis, but in September 1989, the U.S. announced that remains "discovered" and returned by the Vietnamese had been positively identified as being those of Capt. Merrill R. Lewis Jr. Lewis' family can now begin the grieving process for their loved one. They now know he is dead. They may never know, however, how - or when - he died. For nearly 25 years, Capt. Lewis was a prisoner, dead or alive. Reports mount that the Vietnamese control Americans who are still alive and captive, as well as hundreds of sets of American remains. Thus far, however, the U.S. has been only moderately successful in achieving the return of remains, and has achieved no progress whatever in the return of living American POWs still held in Southeast Asia.