MORRISSEY, ROBERT DAVID
|Name: Robert David Morrissey
Rank/Branch: O4/US Air Force
Unit: 474th Tactical Fighter Wing, Takhli AB, Thailand
Date of Birth: 24 April 1930
Home City of Record: Albuquerque NM
Date of Loss: 07 November 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 171000N 1054500E (XD878966)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Robert Mack Brown (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.
Date Compiled: 01 January 1990. Updated 07/28/18 by the P.O.W. NETWORK
SYNOPSIS: The F111 was first used in Southeast Asia in March 1968 during
Operation Combat Lancer and flew nearly 3,000 missions during the war despite
frequent periods of grounding. From 1968 to 1973, the F111 was grounded several
months because of excess losses of aircraft. By 1969, there had been 15 F111's
downed by malfunction or enemy fire. The major malfunctions involved engine
problems and problems with the terrain following radar (TFR) which reads the
terrain ahead and flies over any obstructions.
Eight of the F111's downed during the war were flown by crews that were
captured or declared missing. The first was one of two F111's downed during
Operation Combat Lancer, during which the F111 crews conducted night and
all-weather attacks against targets in North Vietnam. On March 28, the F111A
flown by Maj. Henry E. MacCann and Capt. Dennis L. Graham was downed near the
airfield at Phu Xa, about 5 miles northwest of the city of Dong Hoi in Quang
Binh Province, North Vietnam. Both MacCann and Graham were declared Missing in
Action. Graham had been a graduate of Texas A & M in 1963. The crew of the
second F111 downed during March 1968 was recovered.
On April 22, 1968 at about 7:30 p.m., Navy LCdr. David L. Cooley and Air Force
LtCol. Edwin D. Palmgren departed the 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon
Air Base, Thailand to fly an attack mission against the Mi Le Highway Ferry
over Dai Giang along Route 101. They were to pass over very heavily defended
areas of Laos at rather low altitude. Although searches continued for four
days, no wreckage was ever found. The loss coordinates are located near Quang
Bien, in Laos, although the two men are listed as Missing in Action in North
As a result of the loss of the Cooley/Palmgren F111A, the Air Force suspended
use of the aircraft for a limited period to investigate the cause of the losses
and make any necessary modifications. After the aircraft returned to the air,
the crashes resumed. When the 15th F111 went down in late 1969 because of
mechanical failure, all F111's were grounded and the plane did not return to
Vietnam service for several months.
In September 1972 F111A's were returned to Southeast Asia. On September 29,
1972, the F111A flown by Maj. William C. Coltman and commanded by 1Lt. Robert
A. Brett, Jr. went down in North Vietnam on the Red River about 10 miles
southwest of the city of Yen Bai. Inexplicably, the National League of Families
published a list in 1974 that indicated that Robert A. Brett had survived the
downing of his aircraft, and that the loss location was in Laos, not North
Vietnam. Both men remain Missing in Action.
On October 17, 1972, Capt. James A. Hockridge and 1Lt. Allen U. Graham were
flying an F111A near the city of Cho Moi in Bac Thai Province, North Vietnam,
when their aircraft went down. Both men were listed as Missing in Action, until
their remains were returned September 30, 1977.
On November 7, 1972, Maj. Robert M. Brown was the pilot and Maj. Robert D.
Morrissey the weapons system officer abord an F111A sent on a mission over
North Vietnam. Morrissey, on his second tour of Vietnam, was a 20 year veteran
of the Air Force. The aircraft was first reported lost over North Vietnam, but
loss coordinates released later indicated that the aircraft was lost in
Khammouane Province, Laos, near the city of Ban Phaphilang. Both Brown and
Morrissey remain missing.
On November 21, 1972, the F111A flown by Capt. Ronald D. Stafford and Capt.
Charles J. Caffarelli went down about halfway between Hue and Da Nang in South
Vietnam. Both the pilot and backseater were thought to have died in the crash
into the South China Sea, but no remains were ever found.
On December 18, 1972, LtCol. Ronald J. Ward and Maj. James R. McElvain were
flying an F111 on a combat mission over North Vietnam when their aircraft was
forced to ditch in the Gulf of Tonkin near the coastline at Hoanh Dong. It was
suspected that these two airmen may have ejected. They remain Missing in Action.
The last missing F111A team to be shot down was Capt. Robert D. Sponeyberger
and 1Lt. William W. Wilson. Sponeyberger and Wilson were flying a typical F111
tactical mission when they were hit - flying at supersonic speed only a few
hundred feet altitude. They were declared Missing in Action.
In 1973, however, Sponeyberger and Wilson were released by the North
Vietnamese, who had held them prisoner since the day their aircraft was shot
down. Their story revealed another possibility as to why so many F111's had
Air Force officials had suspected mechanical problems, but really had no idea
why the planes were lost because they fly singly and out of radio contact.
Capt. Sponeyberger and 1Lt. Wilson had ruled out mechanical problems. "It seems
logical that we were hit by small arms," Wilson said, "By what you would
classify as a 'Golden BB' - just a lucky shot." Sponeyberger added that small
arms at low level were the most feared weapons by F111 pilots. The SAM-25 used
in North Vietnam was ineffective at the low altitudes flown by the F111, and
anti-aircraft cannot sweep the sky fast enough to keep up with the aircraft.
That a 91,000 pound aircraft flying at supersonic speeds could be knocked out
of the air by an ordinary bullet from a hand-held rifle or machine gun is a
David and Goliath-type story the Vietnamese must love to tell and retell.
As reports continue to be received by the U.S.Government build a strong case
for belief that hundreds of these missing Americans are still alive and in
captivity, one must wonder if their retention provides yet another David and
Goliath story for Vietnamese propaganda. The F111 missions were hazardous and
the pilots who flew them brave and skilled. Fourteen Americans remain missing
from F111 aircrafts downed in Southeast Asia. If any of them are among those
said to be still missing, what must they be thinking of us?
Robert Mack Brown was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy in 1963.
NVVC Veterans Journal Summer 1996 09/24/96
David Morrisey, son of a missing F-lll pilot testifies before the
National Security Subcommittee on December 14, 1995. Inter alia:
...Department of Defense POW/MIA investigators found, in the Quang Binh
Provincial Museum, a photograph of an F-111 Handbook and Major Robert M.
Brown's military identification card. These items bear no evidence of fire
or water damage, and are not stained with blood or hydraulic fluid. Later it
was revealed that the Data plate form my father's aircraft was also in the
museum, again bearing no evidence of fire damage...There were only eight F-
111 combat losses. From the aircraft two live men returned and 2 sets of
remains were repatriated. That is a 75% loss rate [which] is exceedingly
high, especially in view of the maximum escape capability of the F-111 crew
Here is an interesting contrast. The crew module in the Moscow Aviation
museum was discovered prior to my trip here to address the Senate Select
Committee in December 1993. While I was here I spoke to many investigators
and DPMO analysts. I had a long conversation with one individual about
transfers of men and material to the USSR. This man looked me in the eye and
insisted that hardware "was probably not transferred" and people " were
definitely not" transferred." It wasn't until a few weeks later when I was
home that knowledge of the crew module reached me, again through unoffcial
channels. At the time there existed a 50/50 chance that the capsule related
to case 1945 and my dad. Not only were we not informed of this fact by
anyone from DPMO but that individual went to great lengths to establish
himself as an expert and mischaracterize history while sitting on the news
of an astounding find. But when they find a couple of bone chips on the
jungle floor somewhere in the vicinity of a disputed crash site, they call
right away, and the person making the notification does not possess even a
hint of medical or anatomic knowledge and is unable to answer my questions
or expand on the issue of bones in any fashion, even to the point of whether
or not they are human.