VINSON, BOBBY GENE Remains Returned - identified 10/01/98 Name: Bobby Gene Vinson Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force Unit: 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang Date of Birth: 28 January 1928 Home City of Record: Nederland TX Date of Loss: 24 April 1968 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 173600N 1062800E (XE562479) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D Refno: 1141 Other Personnel In Incident: Woodrow W. Parker (missing) 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. NETWORK 2008. REMARKS: DEAD/CS-317-09142-72 SYNOPSIS: 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. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. LtCol. Bobby G. Vinson was the pilot and 1Lt. Woodrow W. Parker II the bombardier/navigator, of an F4D Phantom sent on a scramble mission with another aircraft from Da Nang Airbase, South Vietnam on April 24, 1968. Vinson was orbiting the area looking for targets over Quang Binh Province, a few miles southwest of the city of Quang Khe and radioed he was decreasing altitude for a better sighting of ground targets. Shortly thereafter, a fireball was seen on the ground by the crew of the other aircraft. Radio contact with Parker and Vinson was unsuccessful. However, the possibility existed that the two were able to safely eject from the aircraft, and they were not listed as killed in action but missing in action. Alarmingly, evidence continues to mount that Americans were left as prisoners in Southeast Asia and continue to be held today. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of the nearly 2500 men and women who remain missing in Southeast Asia can be accounted for. If even one was left alive (and many authorities estimate the numbers to be in the hundreds), we have failed as a nation until and unless we do everything possible to secure his freedom and bring him home. Bobby G. Vinson was promoted to the rank of Colonel and Woodrow W. Parker to the rank of Major during the period they were maintained missing. Bobby G. Vinson graduated from West Point Academy in 1950.
Subject: DoD Memoranda For Correspondents No. 165-98 MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS October 1, 1998 The remains of two American airmen previously unaccounted-for from the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and returned to the United States for burial. The first set of remains is identified as those of Maj. Woodrow W. Parker II, U.S. Air Force, of St. Petersburg, Fla. The other set of remains is those of Parker's aircraft commander. At the wishes of the commander's family, the identity of these remains will not be released. Since the end of American participation in the war in 1973, the remains of 504 Americans have been recovered and identified; 2,079 remain unaccounted-for. On April 24, 1968, Parker and his aircraft commander were on a combat mission over Quang Binh province, North Vietnam, when their F-4D Phantom crashed amid a large fireball. The flight leader was unable to establish radio contact. No parachutes were observed, nor was there an emergency signal detected. Hostile threats in the area precluded airborne or ground search and rescue operations. In April 1992, a joint U.S.-Vietnam team, led by the Joint Task Force- Full Accounting, interviewed several local informants in a village near the location of the loss. Three informants turned over human remains and survival-related items that had been collected at the crash site years earlier. In July of 1992, a second joint U.S.-Vietnam team returned to the site and recovered aircraft wreckage and crew-related equipment. A third joint team excavated the crash site during Aug.-Sept. 1993 and recovered aircraft wreckage, life support equipment and several skeletal fragments. Anthropological analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii confirmed the identification of Parker and his aircraft commander. The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority. =======================================
In September of 1968, Joan Vinson picked up the phone in Orly Airport and called the North Vietnam delegation. To her surprise, the voice on the other end of the line spoke perfect English. She was in Paris, she said, because she wanted to meet with them to discuss her husband, Col. Bobby Vinson, whose plane had been shot down in the Quang Bin Province in April of that year......
Janice Gary is an award-winning writer of creative nonfiction. She teaches memoir at Annapolis Senior Center.
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