Name: Bernard Francis Rupinski
Branch/Rank: United States Navy/O2
Unit: VF 102
Date of Birth: 20 August 1943
Home City of Record: EDWARDSVILLE, PA
Date of Loss: 16 June 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 184800 North  1051700 East
Status (in 1973): DIED IN CAPTIVITY
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4J #155548
Other Personnel in Incident: Walter Wilber, returnee, injured
Refno: 1209
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Updated 1999 with information from the family of
Bernard Rupinski. Updated 2003 with information on unit from Bob Pagan. 
Updated 2012 with information from Jim Harding.
Nghe An, 25 miles NW of Vinh
Synopsis: On Jun 16 1968 the F-4J tail #155548 with Lt. Rupinski and pilot
Walter E. Wilber was shot down In North Vietnam.  It is possible this was
Rupinski's his first mission. It was Wilber's 20th.  Rupinski was part of
the Diamond Backs stationed on the USS America.
The pilot was able to eject. He survived captivity, only to return to the
U.S. to face mutiny charges filed by then Commander James Stockdale.
There is very little information available on this incident. Should you be
able to provide any details, please e-mail the POW NETWORK at


Date: Tue, 8 May 2012 17:45:02 -0500


As CDR Wilber and RIO Lt Rupinski split into a combat spread from their wingman Lt Brown, they were responding to the call of ‘Migs in the Air.” The expectation was that the North Vietnamese (or Russian Pilots) would be using a high / low tactic in a potential dogfight. The high Migs was on every radar scope in the theater while the low Migs was using terrain masking to hide his maneuver. Wilber was to take the high aircraft while Brown looked out for the low aircraft as it was expected to engage the most vulnerable aircraft in the flight. The Cruiser, USS St. Louis was patrolling in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of North Vietnam. The St. Louis’s CIC was controlling the intercept. As the high MIg and the F-4J raced towards each other the St. Louis gave Wilber a reciprocal vector which caused him to think that the Mig had somehow gone past him. Wilbur pancaked over to pursue the Mig which in fact was still heading towards him. The high Mig launched an air to air Atoll missile which went right up one of the hot F-4’s engines. Wingman Brown saw Wilbur eject but no one came out the rear seat before the Phantom exploded. The minute Wilbur hit the ground he became a very valuable POW, squadron commanding officer and propaganda asset to the North Vietnamese.

At the time, I was the Strike Journalist aboard the AMERICA and a Syracuse University Degreed Journalism major.  I knew both men during this deployment and the ’67 Med deployment. I never broke faith with these and my other POW brothers always keeping them in my prayers to this day.

Jim Harding, Navy Journalist, X Div. AMERICA