WHEAT, DAVID ROBERT Name: David Robert Wheat Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: Fighter Squadron 41, USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA 62) Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Duluth MN Date of Loss: 17 October 1965 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 214000N 1063800E (XJ689966) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Missions: 80 Other Personnel In Incident: Roderick L. Mayer (missing - died of severe wounds); At nearby coordinates, all F4 aircraft from USS Independence and US Navy personnel; Stanley E. Olmstead (missing) and Porter A. Halyburton (released POW); Rodney A. Knutson and Ralph E. Gaither (both released POWs) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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 2013. REMARKS: 730212 RLSD BY DRV SYNOPSIS: LT Roderick Mayer was a pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62). On October 17, 1965 he and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LTJG David Wheat launched in their F4B Phantom fighter jet for a day strike mission on the Thai Nguyen bridge northeast of Hanoi. On the same day, a second Phantom flown by LCDR Stanley E. Olmstead, with LTJG Porter A. Halyburton as his RIO, and a third Phantom flown by LTJG Ralph Gaither and LTJG Rodney A/ Knutson also launched from the USS INDEPENCENCE. These four pilots were part of Fighter Squadron 84, the "Jolly Rogers". Mayer and Wheat were part of the carriers Fighter Squadron 41. All were dispatched to the same general mission area near the city of Thai Nguyen. The three Phantoms were all shot down within a few miles of each other. Knutson and Gaither were shot down in Long Song Province, North Vietnam, near the border of China, or about 75 miles northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen. Olmstead and Halyburton were shot down in Long Son Province about 40 miles east of the city of Thai Nguyen. Mayer and Wheat were shot down about 55 miles east-northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen, in Long Son Province. Mayer and Wheat's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Both men were seen to eject from the aircraft. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were hampered due to enemy small arms fire. Lt. Mayer was observed over a period of two hours in a prone position, still in his parachute. Before rescue helicopters could reach the scene, both Mayer and Wheat had disappeared from sight and enemy troops were seen in the area. David R. Wheat was confirmed to be a prisoner of war, and when released in 1973, made statements which suggest that Mayer was killed during the ejection or that he died later of injuries resulting from the ejection. He stated that Lt. Mayer did not move, even when he was found by ground troops. Mayer was classified Prisoner of War. LCDR Olmstead's aircraft was hit by hostile fire and crashed while on a bombing mission. No transmissions were heard, nor was there any sign of ejection by either crewmember. Other U.S. aircraft passed over the crash site and determimed that there was no possibility of survival. However, it was later learned that Halyburton had survived, and was captured. Being the RIO, Halyburton would eject first. It was believed that Olmstead had probably died in the crash of the aircraft, but there was no proof of this theory. Olmstead was classified Missing in Action. Gaither and Knutson were captured by the North Vietnamese, spent nearly 8 years as prisoners and were both released on February 12, 1973 in Operation Homecoming. Knutson had been injured, and was not fully recovered at the time of his release. The fates of these six men from the USS INDEPENDENCE was not clear at the time they were shot down. Their status changed from Reported Dead to Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. At the end of the war, only Olmstead and Mayer remained missing. Ultimately, they were declared dead for lack of evidence that they were still alive. When the war ended, refugees from the communist-overrun countries of Southeast Asia began to flood the world, bringing with them stories of live GI's still in captivity in their homelands. Since 1975, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia have been received. Many authorities believe that hundreds of Americans are still held in the countries in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Government operates on the "assumption" that one or more men are being held, but that it cannot "prove" that this is the case, allowing action to be taken. Meanwhile, low-level talks between the U.S. and Vietnam proceed, yielding a few sets of remains when it seems politically expedient to return them, but as yet, no living American has returned. Roderick L. Mayer was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing and David R. Wheat was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Rodney A. Knutson and Ralph E. Gaither were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period they were maintained as prisoner of war. Stanley E. Olmstead was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing. Porter A. Halyburton was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period he was maintained as a prisoner of war.
==================================== 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). DAVID R. WHEAT Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: October 17, 1965 Released: February 12, 1973 He attended Duluth, Minnesota schools and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1963 with a BA in Industrial Education. In October 1963 he entered the Navy AOC program at Pensacola, Florida, and was commissioned on February 14, 1964. He then entered the NFO school at Sherman Field, Pensacola, and in March 1965 he earned his NFO wings at VF 101, Key West, Florida. He then joined VF 41 at Oceana in April 1965. On May 10, 1965 he left Norfolk, Virginia for Vietnam on board the USS Independence. On July 1, he flew his first mission in Vietnam and after eighty missions was shot down on October 17, 1965. He was a POW for seven years and four months. He is single and the youngest of five children of a retired college professor. He enjoys being a bachelor along with outdoor activities such as boating, camping, golfing, skiing, flying and athletic events such as football and hockey. He plans to make the Navy a career. He has the following decorations and awards: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. I'd like to say: "It's been an honor to serve our fine country. You think of us as heroes but we didn't do anything that you, the average American, wouldn't have done under similar circumstances. Faith in the American people and government were the prime factors that sustained me during the long internment. Knowing that we would be coming back to a land of freedom and opportunity was a great lift. Let us not forget our disabled veterans, men MIA and KIA who gave so much by serving bravely and honorably in Vietnam and other wars. Thank you America for such a wonderful Homecoming!" =================
David Wheat retired from the United States Navy as a Commander. He and his wife Ginger reside in Minnesota. ===================
By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune