WILSON, HAL K. III
Name: Hal K. Wilson III Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force, pilot Unit: 307th Strat Wing, Utapao AB TH Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Hamburg NY Loss Date: 19 December 1972 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 205900N 1054359E (WJ762203) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: B52D Missions: 250
Others In Incident: Richard W. Cooper; Charlie S. Poole (both missing); Charles A. Brown Jr.; Fernanco Alexander; Henry C. Barrows (all POWs released in 1973).
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 July 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.
REMARKS: RELSD 730329 BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: Frustrated by problems in negotiating a peace settlement, and pressured by a Congress and public wanting an immediate end to American involvement in Vietnam, President Nixon ordered the most concentrated air offensive of the war - known as Linebacker II - in December 1972. During the offensive, sometimes called the "Christmas bombings," 40,000 tons of bombs were dropped, primarily over the area between Hanoi and Haiphong. White House Press Secretary Ronald Ziegler said that the bombing would end only when all U.S. POWs were released and an internationally recognized cease-fire was in force.
On the first day of Linebacker II, December 18, 129 B52s arrived over Hanoi in three waves, four to five hours apart. They attacked the airfields at Hoa Lac, Kep and Phuc Yen, the Kinh No complex and the Yen Vien railyards. The aircraft flew in tight cells of three aircraft to maximize the mutual support benefits of their ECM equipment and flew straight and level to stabilize the bombing computers and ensure that all bombs fell on the military targets and not in civilian areas.
The pilots of the early missions reported that "wall-to-wall SAMS" surrounded Hanoi as they neared its outskirts. The first night of bombing, December 18 and 19, two B52s were shot down by SAMs.
Onboard the first aircraft shot down on December 18 was its pilot, LTCOL Donald L. Rissi and crewmen MAJ Richard E. Johnson, CAPT Richard T. Simpson, CAPT Robert G. Certain, 1LT Robert J. Thomas and SGT Walter L. Ferguson. Of this crew, Certain, Simpson and Johnson were captured and shown the bodies of the other crew members. Six years later, the bodies of Rissi, Thomas and Ferguson were returned to U.S. control by the Vietnamese. Certain, Simpson and Johnson were held prisoner in Hanoi until March 29, 1973, when they were released in Operation Homecoming.
Capt. Hal K. Wilson was in the lead aircraft of a B52 cell from Utapoa. Also on board his aircraft were crew men MAJ Fernando Alexander, CAPT Charles A. Brown, Jr., CAPT Henry C. Barrows, CAPT Richard W. Cooper Jr. (the navigator), and SGT Charlie S. Poole (the tailgunner). Wilson's aircraft was hit by a SAM near his target area and crashed in the early morning hours of December 19, sustaining damage to the fuselage. In the ensuing fire, there was no time for orderly bailout, but as later examination of radio tapes indicated, all six crewmen deployed their parachutes and evidently safely ejected. The aircraft damage report indicated that all six men were prisoner.
Radio Hanoi announced that Poole had been captured and that he was uninjured. Whether Cooper's name was also reported is unknown, as the airman who heard this report on Guam heard only part of the broadcast, and being a friend of the Poole family, remembered vividly only the parts concerning Charlie Poole. When the war ended, however, only four of the crew returned from Hanoi prisons. Hanoi remained silent about the fate of Charlie Poole and Richard Cooper.
The Christmas Bombings, despite press accounts to the contrary, were of the most precise the world had seen. Pilots involved in the immense series of strikes generally agree that the strikes against anti-aircraft and strategic targets was so successful that the U.S., had it desired, "could have taken the entire country of Vietnam by inserting an average Boy Scout troop in Hanoi and marching them southward."
To achieve this precision bombing, the Pentagon deemed it necessary to stick to a regular flight path. For many missions, the predictable B52 strikes were anticipated and prepared for by the North Vietnamese. Later, however, flight paths were altered and attrition all but eliminated any hostile threat from the ground.
Linebacker II involved 155 Boeing B52 Stratofortress bombers stationed at Anderson AFB, Guam (72nd Strat Wing) and another 50 B52s stationed at Utapoa Airbase, Thailand (307th Strat Wing), an enormous number of bombers with over one thousand men flying the missions. However, the bombings were not conducted without high loss of aircraft and personnel. During the month of December 1972, 61 crewmembers onboard ten B52 aircraft were shot down and were captured or declared missing. (The B52 carried a crew of six men; however, one B52 lost carried an extra crewman.) Of these 61, 33 men were released in 1973. The others remained missing at the end of the war. Over half of these survived to eject safely. What happened to them?
Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still held captive in Southeast Asia. Are Poole and Cooper among them? Do they know the country they love has abandoned them? Isn't it time we found them and brought them home?
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). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
HAL K. WILSON Captain - United States Air Force Shot Down: December 19, 1972 Released: March 29, 1973
My military service started in January 1959 when I joined the Army after having completed one year of college. After basic training and radio operator school I spent my Army time stationed at Verdun, France. After separation from the Army, I returned to school for a BS degree in Aeronautics at Parks College of St. Louis University.
After working for a period of time as an aircraft maintenance engineer, I decided to return to the service for Air Force pilot training. My first duty station was Dyess AFB, Texas as a B-52 co-pilot. I completed one six month TDY to SEA from Dyess, and then went PCS to the B-52 wing at Westover AFB, Mass., where I completed another six month TDY to SEA. I then upgraded to aircraft commander and went to SEA twice in 1972, the second trip being slightly extended by a SAM missile over Hanoi on 18 Dec 72.
I completed a total of 250 B-52 missions in Southeast Asia, and my last mission was flown out of Utapao, Thailand. I was captured near Hanoi and spent only 101 days as a POW.
I am presently at Luke AFB, Arizona, and will be going to Plattsburg AFB, New York for FB-111 training in October 1974.
My wife, Sally, is originally from Titusville, Fla. She is from an Army family, and has lived in France, Germany, and the U.S. We have two sons, Kelly, age 7 and Scott, age 5.
Words are inadequate, but I would like to express my sincere thanks to all who have shown their concern for the POW/MIA cause, and to those who have helped the families of these men. I know this concern will continue until the fate of all MlAs is known.
Hal Wilson III retired from the United States Air Force as a Major. He and his wife Sally reside in New Mexico. For the past 17 years, Hal has worked as a psychotherapist, specializing in PTSD. He is also currently doing some work, training therapists in Northern Ireland in the treatment of PTSD.