RYDER, JOHN LESLIE
Name: John Leslie Ryder
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 05 July 1946
Home City of Record: Chisholm MN
Date of Loss: 09 June 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 1043419N 1074243E (YB785205)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Source: Compiled 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. NETWORK in 2020.
Other Personnel In Incident: Barry W. Hilbrich (missing)
SYNOPSIS: Air Force 1Lt. John L. Ryder was the pilot of an O1F spotter
aircraft on which Special Forces Operations Officer Capt. Barry W. Hilbrich
was serving as observer. The two departed Pleiku Airbase on a visual
reconnaissance mission on June 9, 1970 south of Ben Het in South Vietnam
with an ultimate destination of Camp Dak Saeng.
The aircraft was located just north of Pleiku and was in radio contact with
the tactical air control center. Their next scheduled radio contact was at
1327 hours, but no further communication was established. Ryder and Hilbrich
were reported missing.
No immediate visual search could be initiated because of incliment weather,
and an electronic search conducted produced no trace of the aircraft of the
crew. During the period of June 10-19 an extensive search was carried out
extending from Pleiku north to the I Corps boundary and west of the
Cambodian border, with no sightings of either aircraft or its two officers.
The two were officially classified Missing In Action. It cannot be
determined whether the enemy knew their fates.
It was thought by the families of most of the men missing that even though
they got no word of their loved one, there every chance they had been
captured. When the war ended in 1973, and 591 Americans were released in
Operation Homecoming, military experts expressed their dismay that "some
hundreds" of POWs did not come home with them. Many families were
John Ryder's mother went to see the Vietnamese in England in 1976. While
they were very cordial to her, she says, "they repeated over and over again,
they will give out no information on the missing men until the U.S.A. has
Reconstruction aid promised by Nixon and Kissinger to Vietnam in 1973 has
not been appropriated by Congress, and no aid has been given. Since 1973,
the Vietnamese continue to link the issue of aid to that of the American
POWs, although the U.S. continues to insist it is a separate, humanitarian
Tragically, thousands of reports continue to flow in regarding the Americans
still prisoner, missing or unaccounted for. Some of them specifically refer
to an American by name and location, yet no solution for bringing these men
home has been found.
Those of us who remember that talks between nations can be tied up
indefinitely over the shape of the negotiating table wonder how long our
captive servicemen will be able to endure.
1Lt. John L. Ryder graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in
RTAO: Art Meikel, Maj USAF, Ret
Subj: 09 Jun, 1970 loss of John L Ryder and Barry
W. Hilbrich, RVN
On Memorial Day I used my updated computer's
internet to look for new data on the status of
John L. Ryder. I was the summary court officer for John's affairs in
country as well as his immediate superior during the
siege of Dak Seang. We played poker nightly and our rooms shared a
common wall. I did not know Barry Hilbrich.
This memo is written after 43 years to correct
errors in the record and provide a better understanding of what may have
happened. Until now, after searching several sources, I was unaware of
the "official" report which was handled by II DASC and of the
1992 NVA revelation of a shoot down report. I will attempt to separate
fact from assumption. In my later USAF career investigating
accidents: after looking at facts, logical assumptions could be
Time of notification: Working nights and sleeping days
while working at II DASC I got up late afternoon on Jun
9 and went
for a game of "combat" volleyball. There, I was notified by a uniformed
Green Beret that Barry, who was flying backseat with John
was overdue. I offered that they could be pulling "strip alert" at a
Special Forces camp. He responded that Barry was due to be on
duty at 3PM. It was significantly after that time. I went directly to
the phone, initiated a radio search and notified II
that order. I estimate that time as approx. 1700 hrs. By the
time a radio search could have been completed darkness would
a factor. The O-1 is a day, VFR aircraft, but we had flown at night
under dire circumstances. Building thunderstorms and solid
overcast prevented flight that evening. Mike 81 could have gone anywhere
in the extended time. Weather could have been a factor if
John had remained aloft during the entire period. Four hours plus was
the maximum time aloft.
Location: During my personal inquiries in 1970 I was told:
1. The two individuals had flown low together the previous day.
2. They were flying over Laos.
3. Barry was allowed to carry hand grenades.
I never allowed grenades. An explosion in the tight back seat, whether
due to ground fire or "oops" would be devastating. It was
rumored that Green Berets took delight in taking a helicopter with a
people sniffer and trading fire with those they found on the
ground. John was one of two pilots I had "mentored" on taking
unnecessary risk flying at low altitude when not required. I suspect a
Laos crash location.
Therefore, I don't understand the crash
coordinates listed if nothing was found. I suspect the reported data was
protect radio operators and II DASC. During my Mike FAC days we flight
followed with the Army after initial contact with the AF. We
always worked with ground forces who would know instantly if we had
problems. After leaving the Army we called in with our ETA. When
John was pulling strip alert ( due to a shortage of flying time) he
been, again, with the Army. Would he have
the need to accurately flight follow on a mission more suited to a
Nationally, (in 1970), there was "no war in Laos
or Cambodia". II DASC, who coordinated our activities there (ignoring
would not have been able to admit to Laos operations. I do not
know Barry's level of involvement in operations in Laos. Out of
country missions came from above. Our inputs, as to out of country, went
I never heard of "Dac Giang" listed in the NVA
95B Reg. report. A short internet search found
Supervision: Pure conjecture. Due to amoebic
dysentery and Vietnamization I had moved to II DASC as a Fighter Duty
working nights and sleeping days. The unit was transitioning from 0-1s
to 0-2s. 0-1s were scheduled to be given to the VNAF. This left
John and Hal Hornburg, (later a three star) as the only unit 0-1 FACs
period of relatively low activity. There was an
commander in the area whom I never met. I don't know if he ever met the
0-1 guys. John and Hal
were very experienced and
They were both excellent pilots and good at their jobs. As an academy
grad John the more independent and aggressive.
A. P. Meikel
On June 9, 1970, an O-1F Bird Dog (tail number 57-2890, call
sign "Mike 81") with two crew members departed Pleiku Air Base
on a visual reconnaissance mission over Kontum Province, South
Vietnam. West of Pleiku, the pilot contacted the tactical air
control center on a routine communication check and did not
report any problems. The pilot missed the next scheduled radio
communication and was not heard from again, and the aircraft
never returned to base. Bad weather prevented search and rescue
efforts from beginning until the following day, and searches
then continued for nine days without success. Neither crew
member could be located following the incident.
Captain John Leslie Ryder, who joined the U.S. Air Force from
Minnesota, served with the 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron.
He was the pilot of the Bird Dog when it disappeared, and his
remains were not recovered. Today, Captain Ryder is memorialized
on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery
of the Pacific.
Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the
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