VAN RENSELAAR, LARRY JACK Remains Returned 07/31/89 Name: Larry Jack Van Renselaar Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 196, USS CONSTELLATION Date of Birth: 01 August 1945 (Whittier CA) Home City: Las Vegas NV Date of Loss: 30 September 1968 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 185400N 1053200E (WF561896) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 1 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A Refno: 1294 Others in Incident: Domenick "Spike" Spinelli (remains returned) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 15 March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: Larry Van Renselaar grew up in Las Vegas, the son of a railroad engineer. He became an outstanding football player at Rancho High school, and played linebacker in the Junior Rose Bowl for Dixie Jr. College in southern Utah, then attended Idaho State on a football scholarship. In 1965, Larry quit football and left college for Navy cadet training. The top gun in his squadron, he married his high school sweetheart and trained for a year to become a pilot of the carrier-based A6A Intruder, and was sent to Vietnam and stationed aboard the USS Constellation. On September 30, 1968, fter four months of missions off the Constellation, he and navigator/bombadier "Spike" Spinelli left the ship on a night armed reconnaisance mission near the city in Van Renselaar's A6A Intruder. On September 30, 1968, the two left the ship on a night armed reconnaisance mission near the city of Vinh. The mission called for the acquisition and destruction of moving targets just south of 19 degrees north latitude. They were to reconnoiter inland to the town of Vinh Son, North Vietnam, then southeast along Highway 72 that parallels the Song Ca River. Surface-to-air (SAM) missiles were launched at the aircraft as they crossed the coastline. A few seconds after Commander Spinelli reported missiles. His last radio communication relayed, "This is Milestone 404. Two missiles lifting, 19, coast." Another pilot tried to contact the aircraft but was unsuccessful. About 20 seconds later, an explosion was observed that lit up a large portion of the horizon. Wreckage was seen on the ground but no parachutes were observed and no contact was established with the crew. The aircraft was fired on near the 19th parallel; the pilot was trying for the coast to facilitate rescue. He didn't make it. Although emergency signals were heard, search and rescue was negative. Both men were classified Missing In Action, and their families were given little hope. A Radio Hanoi broadcast on October 1, 1968 was received which alluded to the shooting down of an A-6 jet plane on September 30, 1968. This aircraft was downed over Nghe An Province and the fate of the crew was not mentioned. Spinelli and Van Renselaar were not among the 591 American POWs returned at the end of the war. Their families were told the returning POWs had no information about their men. In early 1987, Diane Van Renselaar called Raye with the news that the two men had been maintained in Category 1, indicating CONFIRMED enemy knowledge. Diane had never been told this, nor had Raye. The two wives decided to review their husband's files for information. Raye found that Spinelli had been identified by a Navy pilot held prisoner in Hanoi and that Spinelli's photograph had been positively identified by CIA as a prisoner. Diane found that both men had been included on a 1986 negotiation list. Both families feel certain their men had been captured - and that they were lied to. In the fall of 1989, the remains of Larry Van Renselaar were "discovered" by the Vietnamese and returned to U.S. control. Diane no longer must wonder if her husband is dead or alive. No public announcement has been made of any return of remains of Spinelli. The Van Renselaar and Spinelli families continue to press for answers, with limited success. Diane Van Renselaar says, "All POW/MIA families have the right to know the complete truth. If they are alive, we have a right to know. If they are dead, we must be told. Why has information been withheld from us? Why is it still being withheld? What are they afraid of?" Van Renselaar and Spinelli were two of nearly 2500 Americans who remain missing in Southeast Asia. There have been nearly 10,000 reports; over 1000 of them eyewitness reports, of Americans still in captivity. As long as those reports remain unresolved, we must conclude that Americans are still alive, waiting for their country to bring them home.