ZEMPEL, RONALD LEE
Name: Ronald Lee Zempel Rank/Branch: E3/US Navy Unit: Helicopter Support Squadron 1, Detachment Lima, USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31) Date of Birth: 17 December 1944 (Township MN) Home City of Record: Grand Rapids MN Date of Loss: 27 February 1967 Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 171708N 1074109E (YE855130) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 5 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: UH2B Refno: 0602
Other Personnel in Incident: Edward N. Letchworth; Bernard J. Sause; Litchfield P. Huie (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 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 1998.
REMARKS: BLOWN OFF CV - SANK - NORECV - J
SYNOPSIS: The USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31) saw early Vietnam war action. A World War II Essex-class carrier, she was on station participating in combat action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Her aircraft carried the first Walleye missiles when they were introduced in 1967. In November 1970, the BON HOMME RICHARD completed its sixth combat deployment and was scheduled for decommissioning by mid-1971.
LT Litchfield P. Huie was a pilot assigned to Helicopter Support Squadron 1, Detachment LIMA onboard the aircraft carrier USS BON HOMME RICHARD in 1967. On February 27 of that year, Huie launched from the aircraft carrier with his crew: LTJG Edward N. Letchworth, Airman Ronald L. Zempel, and Airman Bernard J. Sause, Jr. Airman Zempel was an aircrew survival equipmentman, and it is assumed that this crew normally conducted pilot rescue operations.
As the UH2B flown by Huie was launched from the carrier, it lifted tail high, flipped and partially recovered just prior to striking the water. Upon striking the water the helicopter broke apart on impact. A search helicopter was immediately over the scene and was later aided by two Navy destroyers. The search was terminated with negative results.
Huie, Zempel, Sause and Letchworth were declared Killed/Body Not Recovered. They are listed among the missing because no bodies were found to return home. Their accident is listed as non-combat related.
Since the war ended in Vietnam, refugees have flooded the world, bringing with them stories of American soldiers still held prisoner in their homeland. Many authorities now believe that hundreds were left behind as living hostages.
The Uh2B crew did not survive the accident on February 27, 1967. Their families have accepted that they are dead. They no longer expect them to come home someday. But hundreds of families wait expectantly and in the special agony only uncertainty can bring. Hundreds of men wait in caves, cages and prisons. How much longer will we allow the abandonment of our best men? It's time we brought them home.