STARK, WILLIAM ROBERT Name: William Robert Stark Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy Unit: Fighter Squadron 96, USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65) Date of Birth: 05/28/30 (Michigan City IN) Home City of Record: Coranado CA Date of Loss: 19 May 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 203952N 1054125E (WH718962) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Missions: 42 Other Personnel in Incident: Richard Rich, missing Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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 02/97 with information provided by William R. Stark. REMARKS: 730304 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 launched from the decks of the ENTERPRISE was the F4 Phantom fighter/bomber. The 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. When the ENTERPRISE arrived in Vietnam on its second combat cruise, two of its pilots were LTCDR William R. Stark and CDR Richard Rich. The two comprised the crew of an F4B Phantom sent on a mission over North Vietnam near the city of Hanoi on May 19, 1967. Rich served as the pilot of the aircraft, while Stark was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). During the mission, Rich's wingman reported that enemy defenses, both anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were extremely heavy. He and CDR Rich were forced to fly their aircraft at very low altitudes in order to avoid the numerous missiles. While over the target, the wingman observed a missile detonate close behind CDR Rich's aircraft and he subsequently lost sight of Rich's aircraft during the violent evasive maneuvering. Visual contact was completely lost and repeated radio calls to CDR Rich produced negative results. The wingman found no trace of Rich's aircraft, there were no emergency radio signals, and the wingman saw no parachutes. Search and rescue efforts were impossible due to the high threat in the Hanoi area. Electronic surveillance of the area produced negative results. In 1973, 591 Americans were released by the Vietnamese from Hanoi, including William R. Stark. Stark had been advanced to the rank of Commander during the years of his captivity. Richard Rich was among hundreds known or suspected to be held captive that were not released. Since that time, the Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fate of Richard Rich. For 23 years, the Vietnamese have denied knowledge of the fate of Richard Rich, even though his aircraft went down in a heavily populated area. There is every reason to believe that Vietnamese could account for Rich, even if he died when his aircraft went down. On November 11, 1976, the Department of the Navy declared Richard Rich dead, based on no specific information he was still alive. During the time he was maintained Missing in Action, Rich was advanced to the rank of Captain. Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese "stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous times. Could Rich be waiting, in a casket, for just such a moment? Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S. relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Could Rich be among these? Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it really who they say it is?" and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive. As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
================= 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). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO WILLIAM R. STARK Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: May 19, 1967 Released: March 14, 1973 I was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 28, 1930. Father was a police officer - mother, a nurse. I attended public schools, graduating in 1948. I played football, was active in public speaking, and belonged to the usual organizations - Hi-Y, Boy Scouts, etc. I met my wife, Shirley, in a senior journalism class, and I've been "going steady" with her ever since. Enlisting in the Navy in June 1948, my first assignment was in Key West, Florida. Shirley and I were married in Key West on 22 October 1949, and our only child, Susie, was born there on 29 October 1951. On separation from the service in June 1952, we enrolled at Valpariso University, Valpariso, Indiana, where we spent one year, transferring to Stetson University, Deland, Florida, where I completed a Business Administration major. Started Stetson College of Law where I completed a year and a half before running out of money, air speed and ideas all at the same time. So we came back into the Navy through the OCS program, receiving a commission as Ensign on 1 July 1957. In 1964, after acquiring an MS in Management from the Naval Post Graduate School, I was ordered to the Naval Academy where I taught Military Law for two years. Then it was back to the West Coast and training as a Radar Intercept Officer before assignment to VF 96. I joined the squadron in the Philippines in March 1967 and was shot down just south of Hanoi on 19 May 1967, so you can see that my association with VF96 was short, but enjoyable. My family lived in Coronado throughout the period of my captivity. Shirley worked part time as a teller at the Bank of America; Susie graduated from high school (9th in her class!) in 1969, then attended the University of Cal. at Santa Barbara as a history major for three years before going with TWA as a flight hostess. Hopeful of being able to continue in the Navy and ultimately to acquire the law degree on which Shirley and I set our sights a long time ago, we plan to spend the major portion of our remaining lives in Coronado. Let me conclude this with a thought or two concerning my feelings about America and the American people. I've been genuinely touched by the unaccountable kindnesses shown to me since my return from almost six years in captivity. Our welcome has exceeded my wildest "imaginings" of what it might be like; and I have great difficulty in finding the words to express my gratitude. There have been changes, certainly, in the dress, the morals, and the attitudes of people; but I've been struck with the recurring thought that beneath that tie, and under that long hair exists a pride in being an Americon that is more apparent to me than when I went to Vietnam six years ago. I notice it particularly in the young people with whom I've come in contact, and it has afforded me with one of the most pleasant surprises that I've had - and there have been many as you might well imagine! In short, my confidence level in the young people of America is sky-high and correspondingly, my outlook for America is also high - because the kids are the future - and I'm delighted with the prospects. February 1997 After 40 missions over South Vietnam and 2 missions over Laos, William Stark was shot down just south of Hanoi. During an uncontrolled ejection, William Stark suffered compound fractures of the lower back, a broken arm and a broken knee. During his 6 years in captivity, William Stark lived in 7 different camps/cell blocks. Of this time, he says "some of it was painful, (dislocated shoulder) some of it was boring, but all of it was instructive in getting 'a handle' on who you are, as a person, and what are YOUR capabilities. As it turned out, I found that I could 'endure and prevail' a lot better than I imagined I could have BEFORE captivity." Stark has received 2 Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat V, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Combat V, DMSM, 2 Air Medals, Navy Commendation with Combat V (2nd Award) and 2 Purple Hearts. William Stark retired from the United States Navy as a Captain after 29 years of service on November 1, 1981. As he reflects now on his captivity, he says of lessons learned, "NEVER allow others to establish your limits! You, as an individual will be very pleasantly surprised to learn they are far HIGHER than you think they are." After medically retiring from a city Police Department in California in 1993, he still volunteers as an police investigator and field operator. William and Shirly's daughter, Susan, has made a career as a civil servant with the Naval Air Station at North Island. ==================