SPITZ, GEORGE ROSS
GROUP BURIAL 12/95
Name: George Ross Spitz
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Unit: 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron
Date of Birth: 17 January 1943
Home City of Record: Kahaluu HI
Date of Loss: 05 February 1973
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 153755N 1065957E (YC143291)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action/Killed In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Arthur R. Bollinger; Dale Brandenburg; Todd M.
Melton; Peter R. Cressman; Joseph Matejov; Severo J. Primm (all missing);
Robert E. Bernhardt (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 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.
REMARKS: KIA 3 - POSS CAPT 4
SYNOPSIS: On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris
Peace Agreement, an EC47Q aircraft was shot down over Saravane Province,
Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The crew of the aircraft
consisted of the pilot, Capt. George R. Spitz; co-pilot, 2Lt. Severo J.
Primm III, Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger, 1Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, Sgt. Dale
Brandenburg, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, all listed as crew members, and Sgt.
Peter R. Cressman and SSgt. Todd M. Melton, both systems operators. The
families of all aboard the aircraft were told the men were dead, and advised
to conduct memorial services.
It is known that Cressman and Matejov were members of Detachment 3, 6994th
Security Squadron from Ubon, Thailand. The aircraft, however, was flying out
of the 361st TEW Squadron (Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron) at Nakhon
Phanom Airbase, Thailand. Primm, Melton, Spitz, Brandenburg and Bernhardt
were assigned to the 361st TEW Squadron. Bollinger's unit is unknown.
The men in the 6994th were highly trained and operated in the greatest of
secrecy. They were not allowed to mingle with others from their respective
bases, nor were the pilots of the aircraft carrying them on their missions
always told what their objective was. They were cryptology experts, language
experts, and knew well how to operate some of the Air Force's most
sophisticated equipment. They were the first to hear the enemy's battle
Over five years later, Joe Matejov's mother, Mary Matejov, heard columnist
Jack Anderson, on "Good Morning America", describe a Pathet Lao radio
communique which described the capture of four "air pirates" on the same day
as the EC47Q carrying her son was shot down. NO OTHER PLANE WAS MISSING THAT
DAY. Anderson's information indicated that reconnaissance personnel had 40
uninterrupted minutes in which to survey the crash site.
The report of the reconnaissance team, which was not provided to the
families for over five years, showed that three bodies, which were thought
to have been higher ranking officers because of the seating arrangement,
were found strapped in seats. Four of the men aboard the aircraft were not
in or around the aircraft, and the partial remains of the eighth man
(Bernhardt) was recovered. No identification was brought out from the crash
site, and no attempt was made to recover the three bodies from the downed
aircraft. It is assumed that the reconnaissance team was most interested in
recovering the sensitive equipment aboard the EC47Q. The EC47Q became known
as the "Flying Pueblo". Most of the "kids" in back, as some pilots called
them, were young, in good health, and stood every chance of surviving
There were specific reports intercepted regarding the four missing men from
the aircraft missing on February 5, 1973. Radio reports indicated that the
four were transported to the North Vietnam border. None were released in the
general POW release beginning the next month.
Peter Cressman enlisted in the United States Air Force in August, 1969 and
after two years at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska he volunteered for
service in Vietnam and left for Da Nang in June 1972.
In Da Nang, Peter spent his free hours at Sacred Heart Orphanage. His
letters to his hometown priest in Oakland, New Jersey, resulted in the
forming of "Operation Forget-Me-Not". Community schools, churches, merchants
and citizens joined the effort to help the innocent victims of war. The
group eventually provided a boxcar of supplies to the orphans.
Peter was transferred to the airbase at Ubon, Thailand. He believed the
secret missions being flown into Laos were illegal, and had written letters
to his congressman in that regard. His family has been active in efforts to
locate information on Peter and the nearly 2500 others who remain
unaccounted for. They founded the National Forget-Me-Not Association for
POW/MIAs in St.Petersburg, Florida, the largest POW advocacy group in the
Joseph Matejov enlisted in the Air Force in 1970 from his home state of New
York and went to Southeast Asia in April, 1972. Joe's father and two
brothers were career military. His sister graduated from West Point in 1981.
Steven Matejov died in 1984 not knowing what happened to his son. Joe's
mother, Mary says, "Joe may be alive. If so, this government has a legal and
moral responsibility to get him home. The next generation of servicemen
should not have to wonder if they will answer the call to defend their
country only to be abandoned. We must stop this tragedy now, and never allow
it to happen again."
Thousands of reports received by the U.S. Government have convinced many
experts that hundreds of Americans remain captive in Southeast Asia. Members
of a crew flying a secret mission after a peace agreement had been signed
would likely be considered war criminals. If they are among those thought to
be alive, the survivors of the EC47Q have been held captive over 15 years.
It's time we brought our men home.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FAMILIES
FOR THE RETURN OF AMERICA'S MISSING SERVICEMEN
WORLD WAR II - KOREA - COLD WAR - VIETNAM
DOLORES ALFOND - VOICE/FAX - (206) 881-1499
LYNN O'SHEA ---- VOICE/FAX - (718) 846-4350
BITS 'N' PIECES DECEMBER 17, 1995
A SURPRISE WITNESS WAS MARY MATEJOV, MOTHER OF SGT. JOSEPH A. MATEJOV.
IN THE DEC. 9TH BIT 'N' PIECES, WE DESCRIBED THE GOVERNMENT'S PLAN TO
BURY THE 4 BACKENDERS OF BARON 52, IN SPITE OF THE MASSIVE INFORMATION
SUPPORTING THEIR CAPTURE. IN A LETTER SENT TO CONGRESSMAN DORNAN
PRIOR TO THE HEARING MRS. MATEJOV STATED "THERE IS NO WAY TO DISCREDIT
THE INTELLIGENCE REPORTS THAT DESCRIBE THE CAPTURE AND MOVEMENT OF 4
FLIERS, NORTHWARD TOWARD HANOI. THOSE REPORTS CAN ONLY RELATE TO MY
SON AND THE SURVIVING CREWMEN FROM "BARON 52."
I DO NOT DISPUTE A BURIAL FOR THE THREE OR POSSIBLY FOUR MEN WE KNOW
DIED ON THIS FLIGHT. CAPTS. SPITZ AND BOLLINGER AND LTS. PRIMM AND
BERNHARDT DESERVE THIS HONOR. THEY KEPT THAT AIRCRAFT IN THE AIR, LONG
ENOUGH TO GIVE THE BACKENDERS JOE, PETER CRESSMAN, TODD MELTON AND
DALE BRANDENBURG TIME TO JETTISON (ACCORDING TO PROCEDURE) THE
ELECTRONICS EQUIPMENT AND BAIL OUT.
HOWEVER, IN HONORING THESE MEN, THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO
IGNORE THE REAMS OF INTELLIGENCE DATA WHICH PROVE MY SON ALONG WITH SGTS
CRESSMAN, MELTON, AND BRANDENBURG WERE CAPTURED."
IN HIS STATEMENT, FOR THE RECORD, SENATOR SMITH SPOKE OF THE "BARON 52"
INCIDENT. HE STATED "THE COMMITTEE (SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON
POW/MIA AFFAIRS" WAS NOT DEALT WITH IN A STRAIGHTFORWARD MANNER BY DOD
OFFICIALS CONCERNING INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION THAT MIGHT CORRELATE TO
THIS CASE. INDEED, MEMBERS WERE MISLEAD BY A DOD OFFICIAL AT THE TIME
-- SOMEONE WHO, INCIDENTALLY, STILL WORKS FOR GENERAL WOLD."
SENATOR SMITH ALSO STATED "NOW, IN THE ABSENCE OF IDENTIFIABLE REMAINS
BEYOND HALF OF A TOOTH, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF RECORDS FROM NORTH
VIETNAMESE ARCHIVES, THE PENTAGON HAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE ENTIRE CREW
WILL BE BURIED ON JANUARY 8, 1996. WHILE WE KNOW THAT HALF OF THE CREW
DID PERISH IN THE CRASH, THERE IS NOT CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE TO EXPLAIN THE
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY (NSA) INTERCEPTS INDICATING THE CAPTURE OF
AMERICANS IN THE SAME AREA ON THE SAME DAY -- FEBRUARY 5, 1973."
IN CLOSING SENATOR SMITH SAID OF "BARON 52" "I KNOW THERE WERE DOG TAGS
AND PARACHUTE RINGS AS WELL WHICH SUGGEST EVERYONE PERISHED IN THE
CRASH. AT THE SAME TIME, THE NSA INTERCEPTS REMAIN UNEXPLAINED. AT THE
VERY LEAST, THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT SHOULD GO TO THE MIA'S.."
SMITH 324 COMPELLING CASES
Laos Arthur D. Bollinger
Peter R. Cressman
Joseph A. Matejov
Todd M. Melton
Severo J. Primm, III
George R. Spitz
On February 5, 1973, an EC-47Q disappeared over Saravan Province
while on an electronic intelligence mission. An airborne search
effort later located the wreckage of the aircraft. A ground search
team located three or four charred bodies and was able to recover
one of them, the remains of Robert E. Bernhardt. In providing his
own analytical comments concerning the meaning of a Vietnam
People's Army radio message intercepted shortly after the loss of
the EC-47Q, Baron 52, an U.S. Air Force communications analyst
concluded the substance of the message indicated that several of
the Baron 52 had been captured alive and were being moved to North
Vietnam. However, based on the condition of the crash site and the
evidence found there, the commander of the unit concluded that
those on the aircraft had all perished. In February 1973 the crew
was declared killed in action, body not recovered based on a
presumptive finding of death.
In June 1989, a private U.S. POW/MIA hunter in Thailand reported
information from a self declared Lao resistance leader that six of
the Baron 52 crew were alive and he believed they were being held
in Saravan Province. In June 1990, a DIA field element in
Thailand, the Stony Beach Team, received information from a source
asserting that five of the crew were alive and living with ethnic
Lao Theung in Laos (Bollinger, Brandenburg, Spitz, Primm,
Cressman.) A Lao resistance group asserted it would take action.
DIA concluded this was a similar to the earlier and fabricated
In the fall of 1992, the Senate Select Committee received sworn
testimony from DIA's senior POW/MIA analyst, Robert DeStatte. Mr.
DeStatte provided detailed information on what was known about the
disappearance of Baron 52 and the intercepted North Vietnamese
communications, noting that the report that so excited the U.S. Air
Force analyst actually related to the movement of four airmen to
the area of the port city of Vinh in the panhandle of North Vietnam
and hundreds of kilometers from the site of Baron 52's
disappearance. With such a message received only minutes after the
loss of Baron 52 in South Laos, DIA concluded the report correlated
to airmen other than those in Baron 52.
In October 1992 the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on
POW/MIA Affairs forwarded his strong recommendation to the Lao
Government that the planned crash site investigation of Baron 52
take place as scheduled. On November 2, 1992, a joint U.S./Lao
team traveled to Sekong Province and to the crash site of Baron 52.
The team found the wreckage still there. Two witnesses were
interviewed who described the crash of the aircraft and the
resultant fire. One witness described visiting the site the next
morning and finding a burned corpse which was recovered by SAR
aircraft. Three North Vietnamese advisors arrived several days
later to inspect the site.
The joint team recovered one of Joseph A. Matejov's dog tags from
the site as well as personal and military artifacts, including
pieces of two flight suits. The team's recovery of unopened
parachute canopy releases indicated some of the missing crewmen
were undoubtedly still on board the aircraft at the time of impact.