Name: David J Rickel
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
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)
R017.jpg (11631 bytes)

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 2020.

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

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





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On May 16, 1968, an F-4 Phantom (tail number 66-7630, call sign "Vespa 02") with a crew of two embarked on a two-plane nighttime armed reconnaissance mission over Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. The flight leader made a pass over the target first, with "Vespa 02" following. As the flight leader turned in preparation for a second pass, he saw ground fire from the target, and seconds later "Vespa 02" exploded and crashed. The crew of the lead aircraft saw no ejections before the crash, and no rescue beeper signals were detected. Search personnel located the crash site, but since they could establish no contact with anyone on the ground and the enemy was active in the area, a ground search effort was not made.

Captain David J. Rickel entered the U.S. Air Force from Florida and served with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He was the aircraft commander aboard this Phantom when it crashed, his remains were not recovered. After the incident the Air Force promoted Capt Rickel to the rank of Major (Maj). Today, Major Rickel 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 Active Pursuit.

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