Name: Robert Frederick Wilke
Rank/Branch: O5/US Air Force
Unit: 602nd Fighter Squadron, Udorn AB TH
Date of Birth: 14 September 1925
Home City of Record: Milwaukee WI
Date of Loss: 17 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 174900N 1055900E (WE971903)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A1A
Other Personnel in Incident: (none 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 2020.


SYNOPSIS: The Douglas A1 Skyraider ("Spad") is a highly maneuverable,
propeller driven aircraft designed as a multipurpose attack bomber or
utility aircraft. The A1 was first used by the Air Force in its Tactical Air
Command to equip the first Air Commando Group engaged in counterinsurgency
operations in South Vietnam, and later used in a variety of roles, ranging
from multi-seat electronic intelligence gathering to Navy antisubmarine
warfare and rescue missions.

The general procedure for a rescue escort entailed two A1 aircraft flying
directly to the search area to look for sign of the downed crewmen while two
other A1s escorted the rescue helicopter to the area. If it was necessary,
the A1s would attack enemy in the area with bombs, rockets and cannon fire
so that the helicopter could land.

Lt.Col. Robert F. Wilke was the pilot of an A1H aircraft en route to a
search and rescue mission when he was reported missing in action over Quang
Binh Province, North Vietnam. His aircraft was last seen flying through a
break in the clouds about 10 miles northeast of the city of Don Hai Dinh.
His plane crashed within sight of Thomas Moe, the Captain he had been sent
to rescue. Moe spent the next 5 years in captivity. When he did not return
to base, he was declared missing in action from the time of estimated fuel

Nearly 2500 Americans remain missing or otherwise unaccounted for in
Vietnam. Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports concerning missing
Americans in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many
experts are completely convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held

One set of critics say that the U.S. has done little to address the issue of
live POWs, preferring the politically safer issue of remains return. Others
place the blame on the Vietnamese, for using the issue of POW/MIA to their
political advantage. Regardless of blame, no living American has returned
through the efforts of negotiations between the countries, and the reports
continue to pour in. Are we doing enough to bring these men home?

Robert F. Wilke is a 1965 graduate of Texas A & M University. He was
promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained missing
in action.

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Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) Robert Frederick Wilke entered the U.S. Air Force from Wisconsin and served as a member of the 602nd Special Operations Squadron, 56th Air Commando Wing. On January 17, 1968, he was the pilot of an A-1H Skyraider (tail number: 53-134518) that took off from Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on a search and rescue mission for two downed fliers northeast of Don Hai Dinh, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. Upon entering the search area, Lt Col Wilke radioed his wingman to hold back due to a solid overcast, and stated that he alone would try to get below the clouds to locate the downed pilots. The final radio contact with Lt Col Wilke was after he had descended below the cloud layer. His aircraft was then shot down by ground fire from enemy forces in the valley below. The aircraft and his remains could not be recovered, and he remains unaccounted for. Subsequent to the incident, and while carried in the status of missing in action (MIA), the U.S. Air Force promoted Lt Col Wilke to the rank of Colonel (Col). Today, Colonel Wilke is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Active Pursuit.

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