MORRIS, ROBERT JOHN JR.
Remains Returned 30 September 1977
Name: Robert John Morris, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, pilot
Unit: 307th Bomb Wing
Date of Birth: 24 July 1945
Home City of Record: St. Charles MO
Date of Loss: 26 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210200N 1055000E (WJ918166)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: James R. Cook; Robert M. Hudson; Michael H. LaBeau;
Duane P. Vavroch (all released POWs); Nutter J. Wimbrow III (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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.
REMARKS: 770930 REMS RET BY SRV
SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and
pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American
involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air
offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the
offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings", 40,000 tons of bombs were
dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press
Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs
were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force.
The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most
precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes
generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was
so successful that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the entire
country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching
To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick to
a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictible B52 strikes were
anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight
paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from the
However, the bombings were not conducted without exceedingly high loss of
aircraft and personnel. During the month of December 1972, 62 crewmembers of B52
aircraft were shot down and captured or went missing. Of these 62, 33 men were
released in 1973. The others remained missing at the end of the war. Over half
of these survived to eject safely. What happened to them?
One B52D aircraft flown by Capt. Robert J. Morris, Jr. was shot down near Hanoi
on December 26, 1972. The crew onboard included Capt. Michael H. LaBeau; Capt.
Nutter J. Wimbrow III; 1LT Robert M. Hudson; 1LT Duane P. Vavroch; and SGT James
R. Cook. The pilot gave the bail-out order and the crew of the aircraft
parachuted to safety.
LaBeau, Vavroch, Hudson and Cook were captured by the North Vietnamese almost
immediately. Cook had been badly injured. These four spent the next six weeks as
"guests" in the Hanoi prison system. Ultimately, they were released in Operation
Homecoming on February 12, 1973 -- four very lucky airmen.
Hanoi denied any knowledge of the pilot, Robert J. Morris or his crew member,
Nutter J. Wimbrow III. Then, in late September 1977, the Vietnamese "discovered"
the remains of Morris and Wimbrow and returned them to U.S. control. For four
years, the Vietnamese denied knowledge of the fate of Morris and Wimbrow, even
though the U.S. believed there was a good possibility the two were captured.
Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese
"stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous
times. Were Morris and Wimbrow waiting in a casket for just such a moment?
Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S. relating
to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have examined this
information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the conclusion that
many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Were Morris and Wimbrow among
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it
really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as
reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in
Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically expedient
way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As long as reports
continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do
everything possible to bring him home -- alive.