RAUSCH, ROBERT ERNEST Name: Robert Ernest Rausch Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force Unit: 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron Date of Birth: 22 May 1938 Home City of Record: Hicksville NY Date of Loss: 16 April 1970 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 161400N 1063700E (XC727952) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: RF4C Other Personnel in Incident: Richard L. Ayers (missing) Refno: 1596 Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews, Senate Select Committee report. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK. REMARKS: 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. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. Capt. Robert E. Rausch was the pilot and Major Richard L. Ayers the Weapons/Systems officer of an RF4C Phantom from the 12th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron based at Tan Son Nhut Airbase, South Vietnam. On April 16, 1970, an RF-4C with a two man crew of Major Ayers and Captain Rausch departed Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon to conduct reconnaissance along the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Vietnam as well as the adjacent area of Savannakhet Province, Laos. They refueled in flight and advised their controller that they were heading north to another target area. The new target area was known to be a high threat area with 37mm and other anti-aircraft weapons. They were last reported over Savannakhet Province but did not return from their mission and were declared missing in action. There were no chutes or beepers located. Subsequent to their disappearance, Radio Hanoi's domestic service reported its forces had shot down an RF-4C in the Vinh Linh Special Zone, the North Vietnamese side of the DMZ, on the afternoon of April 16, 1970. This report was correlated to the loss of Major Ayers' aircraft. On April 17, 1970, a People's Army of Vietnam unit radioed a report concerning four recent U.S. aircraft shoot downs. Three of the aircraft were F-4 and the completely burned remains of one crewman were found in one F-4 crash site wreckage. The pilot of the fourth aircraft, an RF-4C, was also killed. The portion of this radio message dealing with the RF-4C was believed associated with Major Ayers' shoot down even though People's Army forces only reported (one) pilot killed. In the early 1970's the Pathet Lao stated on a number of occasions that they held "tens of tens" of American prisoners and that those captured in Laos would also be released from Laos. Unfortunately, that release never occurred, because the U.S. did not include Laos in the negotiations which brought American involvement in the war to an end. The country of Laos was bombed by U.S. forces for several months following the Peace Accords in January 1973, and Laos steadfastly refused to talk about releasing our POWs until we discontinued bombing in their country. Consequently, no American held in Laos was ever returned. By 1989, these "tens of tens" apparently have been forgotten. The U.S. has negotiated with the same government entity which declared it held American POWs and has agreed to build clinics and help improve relations with Laos. If, as thousands of reports indicate, Americans are still alive in Indochina as captives, then the U.S. is collaborating in signing their death warrants. During the period they were maintained missing, Richard L. Ayers was promoted to the rank of Colonel and Robert E. Rausch was promoted to the rank of Major.