Remains Returned December 1988

Name: Wesley Dallas Ratzel
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 28 March 1947
Home City of Record: Scranton PA
Date of Loss: 18 May 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212300N 1061700E (XJ330649)
Status in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D
Refno: 1858

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 2016.

Other Personnel in Incident: Johnathan B. Bednarek (missing)


SYNOPSIS: Wesley Ratzel was the pilot and Johnathan Bednarek the back-seater
aboard an F4D Phantom fighter/bomber jet. The team was given a mission over
North Vietnam on May 18, 1972 from which they would not return. They were
lost near the city of Kep in Ha Bac Province, North Vietnam, an area which
had been the target of American offensive in recent weeks together with
targets in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. A railroad leading to China by
which arms and materiel could be brought into Vietnam went right through the
city of Kep. This railroad may have been Bednarek and Ratzel's target that

An article in Nhan Dan, a Vietnamese publication, referred to a dead
American pilot. This article was correlated to Johnathan Bednarek. Defense
Department notations for Ratzel state that he was a "no show" in the Hanoi
POW camp system, indicating that the article did not state he died in the
crash, and that the possibility existed that he was a prisoner. Both men
were placed in a Missing In Action status.

When American POWs were released in 1973, Bednarek and Ratzel were not among
them. The Vietnamese, who had pledged in Paris earlier in the year to
release all American POWs and account for as many as possible of the
missing, denied any knowledge of either Ratzel or Bednarek.

By the end of 1988, the U.S. had received over 8,000 reports relating to
Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many of them referred to U.S. POWs
still alive in captivity. The Bednarek and Ratzel families agonized between
thoughts that their men might be dead - or among those who were alive.

In December 1988, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Wesley Ratzel
and Johnathan Bednarek and returned them to U.S. control. This fine flying
team has come home at last. The reports continue to flow in, reaching nearly
10,000 in number by mid-1989, and families are still in anguish, and
American POWs are dying in hopeless despair in enemy hands.

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