WAGNER, RAYMOND ANTHONY
Name: Raymond Anthony Wagner
Rank/Branch: E3/US Air Force
Unit: 40th Air Rescue/Recovery Squadron, Nakhon Phanom, Airfield, Thailand
Date of Birth: 22 October 1951
Home City of Record: Evansville IN
Date of Loss: 27 March 1972
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 140622N 1063350E (XA682585)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: HH53C 10359
Other Personnel in Incident: Richard E. Dreher; James Manor; David E.
Pannabecker; Raymond J. Crow (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project March 15, 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 with information from David E. Pannabecker Jr. 2020
REMARKS: CRASH S SEARCH - NO SURV FND - J
SYNOPSIS: Altogether, the HH-53 "Super Jolly Green Giant" was the largest,
fastest and most powerful heavy lift helicopter in the U.S. Air Force
inventory. In 1967, the Air Force started a development program to acquire a
night rescue capability, and by March 1971, it had succeeded in installing a
nighttime recovery system aboard five HH53C Super Jolly helicopters in
Southeast Asia. The Super Jolly was involved in such famed rescue attempts
as the attempt to rescue American POWs held at the Son Tay prison compound
near Hanoi in late November 1970, and the assault operation to free the
Mayaguez crew in May 1975.
Captain David E. Pannabecker, pilot and Capt. Richard Dreher, co-pilot,
were assigned as part of a day rescue mission and departed NKP at 0830 on
the morning of March 27, 1972. Pannabecker's Super Jolly was the second
aircraft in a flight of two. Aboard the aircraft was the pararescue team
consisting of James Manor and Raymond A. Wagner.
Following aerial refueling over southeastern Thailand, they departed the
tanker to complete the mission, maintaining interplane communications on FM
and UHF radios. The lead aircraft called a "tally ho" on the aircraft they
were escorting. When the lead aircraft did not receive an answer, the pilot
attempted to find him visually without success. After completing a 180
degree turn, the pilot of the lead aircraft reported sighting a column of
black smoke coming from the dense jungle five miles away. Their position at
this time was in Stoeng Treng Province, Cambodia, about 10 miles southeast
of the city of Siempang.
A pararescue specialist was lowered to the ground at the site of the crash
to check for survivors, but due to the intense heat from the burning
helicopter, he could not approach near enough to determine if there were
crew members inside the aircraft.
Some three hours later a second rescue specialist was deployed in the
immediate area, who reported the wreckage was still burning, precluding
close inspection. It was never determined if any aboard the Super Jolly
survived, but all aboard were declared Killed/Body Not Recovered.
In an attempt to classify the cases of the Missing in Action to determine
which cases could be readily resolved, the Defense Department assigned
"enemy knowledge" categories to each missing man, according to the liklihood
their fates would be known by the enemy. In the case of the downed Super
Jolly, Wagner, Pannabecker and Dreher were assigned "Category 2", and Manor
and Crow "Category 3".
Category 3 includes personnel whose loss incident is such that it is
doubtful that the enemy would have knowledge of the specific individuals
(e.g. aircrews lost over water or remote areas). Category 2 includes
personnel who were lost in circumstances or in areas that they may
reasonably be expected to be known by the enemy (e.g. individuals connected
with an incident which was discussed but not identified by name by enemy
news media, or probably identified by analysis of intelligence reports.) No
explanation has been given as to why the crewmembers were classified
The Americans missing in Cambodia present a special problem. The U.S. has
never recognized the government of Cambodia, nor has it negotiated for the
release of any Americans captured there. It has generally been believed that
any POWs held in Cambodia after the end of U.S. involvement in Southeast
Asia perished in the genocide committed by Pol Pot in the mid-1970's.
In 1988, the Cambodian government announced that it had the remains of a
number of American servicemen it wished to return to the United States. The
U.S. did not respond officially, however, because there are no diplomatic
ties between Cambodia and the U.S. Several U.S. Congressmen have attempted
to intervene and recover the remains on behalf of American family members,
but Cambodia wishes an official overture. Meanwhile, the bodies of Americans
remain in the hands of our former enemy.
Even more tragically, evidence mounts that many Americans are still alive in
Southeast Asia, still prisoners from a war many have long forgotten. It is a
matter of pride in the armed forces that one's comrades are never left
behind. One can imagine any of the men lost in Cambodia on March 27, 1972
being willing to go on one more mission for the freedom of those heroes we