WILLIAMS, ROBERT JOHN
Name: John Robert Williams
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: Battery F, 79th Artillery Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division
Date of Birth: 17 September 1943 (Gilroy CA)
Home City of Record: Daleville AL
Date of Loss: 11 May 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 113825N 1063639E (XT766872)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Source: Compiled 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 in 1998.
Other Personnel in Incident: Rodney L. Strobridge (missing)
SYNOPSIS: On May 11, 1972, Capt. Robert J. Williams, pilot, and Capt. Rodney
L. Strobridge, co-pilot, were flying an AH1G helicopter (tail #69-15009), as
wingmen in a flight of three AH1G helicopters launched to support allied
forces at An Loc, in Binh Long Province, South Vietnam.
While pulling off the target, the aircraft was hit by enemy ground fire.
Something had hit near the tail boom, and it was severed from the fusilage.
The aircraft went into a flat spin and crashed. It was believed that a SAM
(surface to air missile) had hit the aircraft because of the immediate
separation of the tail boom.
Capt. Williams' last radio transmission was, "Oh, my God!"
No further radio contact was made with Williams and Strobridge. No one saw
the helicopter hit the ground. Both men were thought to have died in the
crash of their aircraft.
A refugee later reported that while serving in the 21st Division Engineers
at An Loc, he discovered the skeletal remains of an American. The U.S. Army
believes this could have been Williams or Strobridge, but the remains have
never been recovered.
According to witnesses, Williams and Strobridge are almost certainly dead.
Tragically, their families have no grave holding their bodies to visit.
Their remains are on enemy soil and not buried in their homeland. Even more
tragically, evidence mounts that hundreds of Americans are still alive, held
captive in Southeast Asia. What must they be thinking of us?
On 11 May 1972 the city of An Loc, SVN, was under attack by
North Vietnamese forces during the so-called Spring Offensive. US air power was
used extensively in defense of the city, and five aircraft were lost that day:
A-37B serial 69-6345, 1st Lt Michael J. Blassie, 8th SOS
O-2A serial 68-11000, Capt Barry K. Allmond, 21st TASS
O-2A serial 68-11004, 1st Lt John H. Haselton, 21st TASS
AH-1G serial 68-15009, Cpt Rodney L. Strobridge and Cpt Robert J Williams,
A-1 Skyraider, RVAF, pilot and circumstances unknown
Blassie's aircraft was observed from the time it was hit by 23mm AAA fire until
impact in a jungled area, where it exploded; Blassie did not eject before
Allmond's aircraft too was observed from the time it was hit by AAA until it
crashed; he did not bail out of his aircraft. Haselton was hit about four hours
later, and he too rode his aircraft into the ground.
Strobridge and Williams were hit by AAA fire and lost their tail boom; the
aircraft went into a flat spin and crashed, but the actual crash was not
observed by anyone else.
At the time, the four US losses were outside the An Loc defensive perimeter and
ground search and rescue simply was impossible. Airborne SAR was restricted due
to heavy AAA fire and the absolute necessity of allocating available resources
to support of the ground troops defending An Loc. Since the downing of the three
Air Force pilots had been observed and there was no evidence that any of them
had been able to leave their aircraft, they were classed as Killed in
Action/Body not Recovered. Strobridge and Williams were classed as Missing in
After the NVA gave up on the Spring Offensive it was possible to search for the
downed aircraft. In October 1972 an ARVN patrol located a crash site, recovering
fragmentary human remains and aircrew items, including 1st Lt Blassie's
identification card - but the card was stolen before the remains reached the
mortuary in Saigon, and only a tentative identification could be made. By 1980,
this had been downgraded and the remains were classed as "unidentifiable". In
1984 the remains were buried with full honors in Arlington Cemetery as the
Vietnam War's Unknown Soldier. In 1998, President Clinton directed that the
remains be disinterred for DNA examination, which proved beyond doubt that they
beonged to Michael Blassie. At his family's request, 1st Lt Blassie was buried
with honors in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri.
During the period between their loss and the fall of South Vietnam, the wreckage
of both O-2s was located and the remains of Captain Allmond and 1st Lt Haselton
recovered, confirming that they died on 11 May 72.
Neither the AH-1G wreckage nor the remains of Strobridge and Williams have been
located; they remain among the missing.
Jack L. Morrison
The Virtual Wall ®
B Battery, 1st Battalion,
77th Artillery (105mm),
1st Cavalry Division,