STUBBERFIELD, ROBERT AUSTIN
ID Announced 23 June 1989
Name: Robert Austin Stubberfield
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 30 November 1929
Home City of Record: Richmond NC
Date of Loss: 06 May 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 170330N 1070110E
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: (none missing)
REMARKS: BEEP HEARD - SEARCH NEG - J
SYNOPSIS: The RF101 first saw action in Vietnam in late 1961, flying photo
missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the primary communist supply line
through southern Laos, and the Plain of Jars to the northwest where Soviet
transports were delivering supplies to communist troops. The Voodoo later
began conducting reconnaissance over South Vietnam as well.
By February 1965, the RF101 had been modified, making it stronger and more
durable. The newer RF101C model, instead of taking pictures, navigated for
fighter/bombers for a brief period, then returned to photo reconnaissance.
The RF101C was an outstanding reconnaissance craft, and although it looked
"hot" and was fast enough (max. speed 1000 mph) to leave a MiG-17 far
behind, it could not race away from the faster MiG-21, and was gradually
phased out and replaced by the RF4C Phantom II with its greater speed and
superior surveillance technology.
On May 6, 1965, Capt. Robert A. Stubberfield was the pilot of an RF101C
Voodoo on a mission which took him over Quang Binh Province, South Vietnam.
This northern province is the southernmost province in North Vietnam, and
its border to the south was the Song Ben Hai River. The five mile region
surrounding the river comprised the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
U.S. Military Rules of Engagement prohibited ground or artillery attacks
into this buffer zone established at the 1954 Geneva Conference, and it was
not long before the Vietnamese discovered they could move their heavy
artillery there and fire upon U.S. and South Vietnamese forces to the south
of the DMZ.
Capt. Stubberfield's mission was doubtless a reconnaissance mission relating
to these enemy activities. During the mission, Stubberfield's aircraft was
shot down just west of the city of Vinh Linh. Although Stubberfield's
emergency beeper was heard, indicating that he successfully ejected from the
aircraft and probably reached the ground, search and rescue efforts were
Stubberfield's wife and family knew there was a very good chance that he had
been captured, and waited for the war to end.
In 1973, 591 American prisoners of war were released from Hanoi, but
Stubberfield was not among them. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of him.
As the years passed, reports began to flow in to the U.S. regarding the some
3000 Americans unaccounted for at the end of the war. By 1989, nearly 10,000
reports have been received, convincing many authorities that hundreds of
Americans are still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.
Then on June 23, 1989, the U.S. announced that remains previously returned
by the Vietnamese had been identified as those of Capt. Robert A.
Stubberfield. For nearly 25 years, Stubberfield - alive or dead - was a
prisoner in enemy hands. While his family now can end their agonizing
uncertainty as to whether he is one of those said to be alive, they may
never know how - or when he died, or if he knew he had been abandoned by his