Name: Roderick Barnum Lester
Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 52, USS KITTY HAWK (CVA 63)
Date of Birth: 19 June 1946
Home City of Record: Morton WA
Date of Loss: 20 August 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 210000N 1054500E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A
Refno: 1912
Other Personnel In Incident: Harry S. Mossman (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 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.


SYNOPSIS: The Commander of the 7th Fleet once remarked that the low level
missions over Hanoi and Haiphong that the A6 pilots were sent on were among
the most demanding ever asked of Navy pilots. He added that it was fortunate
that these A6 pilots were among the most talented in the military.

LTJG Roderick B. Lester was a seasoned pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 52
onboard the aircraft carrier USS KITTY HAWK. On August 20, Lester launched
on his 144th mission with his Bombardier/Navigator (BN) Lt. Harry S.
Mossman, in their A6A Intruder attack aircraft on a night, low-level, armed
reconnaissance mission in the general vicinity of Cam Pha, North Vietnam.

During their mission, a brief radio transmision from the aircraft was
received, "Let's get the hell out of here." The transmission was felt to
indicate the planned flight path was being aborted because of heavy enemy
fire. At the same time, another air crew on the mission noted a flash of
light under the 1,000 foot overcast in the same general vicinity of their
aircraft location. The aircraft was last tracked over Hanoi, North Vietnam.

Weather was poor, with numerous thunderstorms which made the source of the
flash of light difficult to determine. Electronic surveillance was begun. A
visual search of the area noted accurate gunfire. Further search was

Lester and Mossman did not return from the mission, and were placed in a
Missing in Action status. The area of their last known locaton was heavily
populated, and there is every reason to believe that the Vietnamese could
account for the two - alive or dead, yet the Vietnamese have given no added
information on them.

When the war ended, refugees from the communist-overrun countries of
Southeast Asia began to flood the world, bringing with them stories of
missing GI's in their country. Since 1975, nearly 10,000 such stories have
been received. Many authorities believe that hundreds of Americans are still
held in the countries in Southeast Asia.

The U.S. Government operates on the "assumption" that one or more men are
being held, but that it cannot "prove" that this is the case, allowing
action to be taken. Meanwhile, low-level talks between the U.S. and Vietnam
proceed, yielding a few sets of remains when it seems politically expedient
to return them, but as yet, no living American has returned.

During the period he was maintained missing, Roderick B. Lester was promoted
to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.


Saturday, November 11, 2000, 12:51 a.m. Pacific

After 28 years, family of missing Vietnam pilot gets word that his plane's
wreckage has been found

by Kim Barker

Seattle Times staff reporter has been a question mark for 28 years,
remembered in fading snapshots and yellowed newspaper clippings, in
scrapbooks of typed high-school speeches and first paychecks and in letters
from presidents who say they are sorry.......

Kim Barker's phone message number is 206-464-2255. Her e-mail address is






Return to Service Member Profiles

On August 20, 1972, an A-6A Intruder (bureau number: 157018, call sign: "Vice Roy 502") carrying two crew members launched from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63) on a nighttime armed reconnaissance mission along Route 183 near Cam Pha, Quang Ninh Province, North Vietnam. During the mission, the aircraft was intermittently tracked along its flight path by friendly radar. After the last radar contact, a radio transmission from the Intruder's crew stated, "Let's get the hell out of here." Other pilots on the mission felt the transmission indicated the aircraft was aborting from its planned flight path because of enemy fire in the area. At the same time, another flight crew observed a flash of light coming from the Intruder's direction; however, inclement weather made it difficult to determine the light source. Enemy fire was also noticed in the vicinity of (GC) 48Q YJ 859 242, which is considered the aircraft's loss location. Searches were conducted and discovered an oil slick in the vicinity of (GC) 48Q YJ 975 335, but were unable to locate the aircraft and its two crew members.

Lieutenant (LT) Roderick Barnum Lester entered the U.S. Navy from Washington and was a member of Attack Squadron 52, embarked aboard the Kitty Hawk. He was the pilot of this Intruder when it went missing and was lost with the aircraft. He remains unaccounted for. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Navy promoted Lt Lester to the rank Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). Today, LCDR Lester 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 Non-recoverable.

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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