RICKER, WILLIAM ERNEST
Name: William Ernest Ricker
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Reserves
Unit: Aircraft Group 31, 1st Marine Air Wing, Chu Lai AB SV
Date of Birth: 01 June 1933 (Quincy MA)
Home City of Record: Portland OR
Date of Loss: 28 October 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 161455N 1073315E (YC730980)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Charles R. Connor (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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: Capt. Charles R. Connor was a Marine pilot based at Chu Lai Air
Base in Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. On October 28, 1968, he was
assigned a combat mission near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). His co-pilot
("special crew") on the flight was Navy pilot LT William E. Ricker.
Connor and Ricker were flying a Douglas Aircraft TA4F Skyhawk. The Skyhawk
had been designed to be an inexpensive, lightweight attack and ground
support aircraft. The design emphasized low-speed control and stability
during take-off and landing as well as strength enough for catapult launch
and carrier landings. The plane was so compact that it did not need folding
wings for aboardship storage and handling. In spite of its diminutive size,
the A4 packed a devastating punch and performed well where speed and
maneuverability were essential. The Skyhawk was normally a one-man aircraft,
but the T models had been created with dual controls originally for training
purposes, but later the T models saved the Marines' forward air controllers
over heavily defended areas where speed and maneuverability were essential
Connor and Ricker launched from the Chu Lai Air Base at about 11:20 a.m. on
a Tactical Airborne Controller mission. Enroute to their operations area,
they made radio contact with several controlling agencies. At 12:15 p.m.
local time they radioed their mission complete and requested and received
clearance back to Chu Lai. Their radio call indicated they were over water
heading down the coast towards their home field. No further radio contact
The aircraft never landed at Chu Lai as expected. According to the Navy,
this was the last contact anyone ever had with Connor and Ricker. According
to the Marines, however, an emergency radio beeper signal was detected,
indicating that one or more of the crew probably successfully ejected from
the aircraft. Connor and Ricker were not located, however, and they were
placed in a Missing in Action Status.
When 591 Americans were released from prisoner of war camps in 1973, Ricker
and Connor were not among them. Military authorities were shocked at the
time that hundreds known or suspected to be prisoners of war were not
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans prisoner,
missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Many authorities who have reviewed this largely classified information have
reluctantly concluded that hundreds of Americans are still alive, waiting
for the country they proudly served to bring them home.
Whether Connor and Ricker are among those still alive is unknown. But as
long as even one American remains held against his will, we must do
everything possible to secure his freedom.
William E. Ricker was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and
Charles R. Connor was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the
period they were maintained missing.