RICKEL, DAVID J Name: David J Rickel Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: Date of Birth: 05 October 1945 Home City of Record: Ft. Lauderdale FL Date of Loss: 16 May 1968 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 173300N 1061800E (XE361472) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1177 Other Personnel in Incident: Gerald J. Crosson (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: NO CHUTES OR BEEPERS WITNESSED SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. Capt. David J. Rickel, pilot, and Lt. Gerald J. Crosson, Jr., navigator/bombardier, were assigned an F4D mission over North Vietnam on May 16, 1968. Rickel was four years out of the Air Force Academy where he had been named to the Superintendent's List all eight semesters he attended the Academy. He had a promising career ahead. At a point about 20 miles southwest of the city of Quang Khe, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, Rickel and Crosson were shot down. Other air crew in the area did not see parachutes indicating that the two had ejected from their aircraft, nor did they hear emergency beeper signals. Searches were eventually cancelled and both men were classified Missing in Action. The Rickel and Crosson knew that there was a good chance their men had been captured because of circumstances surrounding the loss and the loss location, and settled in to wait for the war to end, hoping for some word to come. When 591 American POWs were released from Southeast Asia in the spring of 1973, Rickel and Crosson were not among them. No returning POW reported being held with them, and their names appeared on no lists provided by the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of them. It was generally believed that the Americans who remained missing were dead, including Rickel and Crosson. When Saigon fell to communist rule in 1975, tens of thousands of refugees began fleeing Vietnam, bringing with them stories of Americans still held in captivity in Vietnam. By 1990 the number of such reports had reached nearly 10,000. Many authorities now believe that there are hundreds of Americans still in captivity, waiting for their country to free them. Whether Rickel and Crosson survived the crash of their aircraft to be captured is not known. What seems certain, however, is that someone knows what happened to them. They are prisoners of war, living or dead, until they are found and returned home. David J. Rickel graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1964.