RATZEL, WESLEY DALLAS 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) REMARKS: NO SHOW PW CAMP SYSTEM 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 day. 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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