SPENCER, LARRY HOWARD Name: Larry Howard Spencer Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: Fighter Squadron 92, USS ENTERPRISE Date of Birth: 12 May 1940 Home City of Record: Earlham IA Date of Loss: 18 February 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 193700N 1055800E (WG873691) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Other Personnel in Incident: James T. Ruffin (remains returned) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 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 1998. REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV SYNOPSIS: When nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with her not only an imposing physical presence, but also an impressive component of warplanes and the newest technology. By the end of her first week of combat operations, the ENTERPRISE had set a record of 165 combat sorties in a single day, surpassing the KITTY HAWK's 131. By the end of her first combat cruise, her air wing had flown over 13,000 combat sorties. The record had not been achieved without cost. One of the aircraft that launched from the decks of the ENTERPRISE was the F4 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. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. LT James T. Ruffin was an F4B pilot assigned to Fighter Squadron 92 onboard the ENTERPRISE on its 1966 tour of Vietnam. On February 18, 1966, Ruffin and his backseater, LT Larry H. Spencer launched on a strike near the city of Thanh Hoa - one of the points of what was known as the "Iron Triangle" in North Vietnam. Ruffin's aircraft was hit by enemy fire and he and Spencer were forced to eject. According to procedure, the backseater ejected first, then the pilot. Thus, Spencer ejected some 10 miles southeast of Thanh Hoa and landed safely on the ground. Some distance away, his pilot ejected just on the coastline of Vietnam, but over water. Both parachutes were seen, and both men were apparently uninjured. Larry Spencer was captured by the North Vietnamese and taken to Hanoi. There, he joined others from the ENTERPRISE, as well as friends from his previous tour onboard the USS RANGER. Spencer was held prisoner for the next 7 years until his release on February 12, 1973 in Operation Homecoming. James T. Ruffin was also classified as a prisoner of war; it was believed that he was captured. At home, an organization of fighter pilots, the "River Rats" began helping the POW wives with their business affairs and filling in as "big brother" to their children to help ease their lives while their husbands were captive. Ruffin was not released in 1973, and the Navy then determined that he may have been shot in his parachute, or drowned, or been killed by Vietnamese fishermen or villagers when he descended. They were not certain what had happened to him. The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of James Ruffin. Then on June 3, 1983, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of James T. Ruffin and returned them to U.S. control. Ruffin was finally home, but it was still not clear when or how he died. Those questions may never be answered. Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in captivity. As in the case of James Ruffin, Vietnam and her communist allies can account for most of them. Current "negotiations" between the U.S. and Vietnam have yielded the remains of nearly 300 Americans. The families of these men at last have the peace of knowing whether their loved one is alive or dead. In the total view of the issue of the missing, however, the return of remains signals no progress. In the early 1980's the very credible Congressional testimony of a Vietnamese mortician indicated that the Vietnamese are in possession of over 400 sets of remains. In 15 years, they have returned barely half of them. More importantly, the same credible witness, whose testimony is believed throughout Congress, stated that he had seen live Americans held at the same location where the remains were stored. As long as even one American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, the only issue is that one living man. We must bring them home before there are only remains to negotiate for. James T. Ruffin and Larry H. Spencer were both promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period they were maintained in prisoner of war status.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). LARRY H. SPENCER Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: February 18, 1966 Released: February 12, 1973 I was born 12 May 1940 and grew up in Earlham, lowa where I attended the local schools. I graduated from high school in 1958 and from Parsons College with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1962. I entered the Naval Service in February 1963 and after six months in Florida and six months in California, I joined Fighter Squadron 92 (VF-92) in February 1964. The squadron made a cruise off Vietnam in 1964 followed by one on the Enterprise. I truly feel that joining the Navy was the smartest thing I ever did, and as lime passes my conviction is strengthened. I welcome the opportunity to return to the Naval community. I am presently a student attending Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. I was married to Miss Beverly Kelly in San Diego, California. I was married on June 29, 1974. I am quite proud of the roles played by my mother and my brother in working for the cause of all the missing and captured. "It's good to be back." Larry Spencer retired from the United States Navy as a Commander. He still lives in Iowa.