More Than A Name on a Red Band

I wear a red metal band on my wrist, a POW/MIA bracelet. On it is enscribed the name of CDR Richard Rich who has been listed as Missing in Action since 1967! Just for a moment, try to imagine that you are his wife, or his son, or his brother or sister, and you have been waiting for 22 years to find out if he is dead or alive. Wouldn't you want answers??????

I don't know how many of you visiting this page have ever been to a Vigil held for the POW/MIA cause. In Connecticut where I lived until two years ago, the local VVA Chapter and several American Legion Posts sponsored these vigils. Veterans signed up for their hour of cage time. They were dressed in "black pajamas", manacled at the wrists and ankles, and led blindfolded to the "tiger cage" where they sat for one hour in representation of the Prisoners of War still unaccounted for. The first vigil I went to was the most moving thing I had ever seen. My brother had his cage time and the feelings of panic that spread over me when they lowered the bamboo cage over him is a feeling I will never forget and one I just can't explain. I thanked God that this was not real because the thought of him being thousands of miles away from home, all alone in that cage was more that I could bear to think of. I imagined all of those wives, children, and parents who were still waiting for their loved ones, waiting much longer than the hour that I had to wait for Tim to be set free. When his hour was up, another took his place and he was "welcomed home" unlike those who still wait to be freed. Please, please, as Americans, as sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers, please write to your Senators, Congressmen, Representatives and to the President of the United States and tell them that as an American, you are tired of waiting. Tell them that you want an accounting NOW!! One letter alone might not make the difference, hundreds might, thousands are sure to be noticed. It is time that the voice of the American public is heard.

CDR Richard Rich USN

Name: Richard Rich Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy, pilot Unit: Fighter Squadron 96, USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65) Date of Birth: 27 October 1925 (New York NY) Home City of Record: Stamford CT Date of Loss: 19 May 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 203952N 1054125E (WH718962) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Other Personnel in Incident: William R. Stark (released POW) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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: SYNOPSIS: When nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with her not only an imposing physical presence, but also an impressive component of warplanes and the newest technology. By the end of her first week of combat operations, the ENTERPRISE had set a record of 165 combat sorties in a single day, surpassing the KITTY HAWK's 131. By the end of her first combat cruise, her air wing had flown over 13,000 combat sorties. The record had not been achieved without cost. One of the aircraft launched from the decks of the ENTERPRISE was the F4 Phantom fighter/bomber. The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around. When the ENTERPRISE arrived in Vietnam on its second combat cruise, two of its pilots were LTCDR William R. Stark and CDR Richard Rich. The two comprised the crew of an F4B Phantom sent on a mission over North Vietnam near the city of Hanoi on May 19, 1967. Rich served as the pilot of the aircraft, while Stark was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO). During the mission, Rich's wingman reported that enemy defenses, both anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were extremely heavy. He and CDR Rich were forced to fly their aircraft at very low altitudes in order to avoid the numerous missiles. While over the target, the wingman observed a missile detonate close behind CDR Rich's aircraft and he subsequently lost sight of Rich's aircraft during the violent evasive maneuvering. Visual contact was completely lost and repeated radio calls to CDR Rich produced negative results. The wingman found no trace of Rich's aircraft, there were no emergency radio signals, and the wingman saw no parachutes. Search and rescue efforts were impossible due to the high threat in the Hanoi area. Electronic surveillance of the area produced negative results. In 1973, 591 Americans were released by the Vietnamese from Hanoi, including William R. Stark. Stark had been advanced to the rank of Commander during the years of his captivity. Richard Rich was among hundreds known or suspected to be held captive that were not released. Since that time, the Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fate of Richard Rich. For 23 years, the Vietnamese have denied knowledge of the fate of Richard Rich, even though his aircraft went down in a heavily populated area. There is every reason to believe that Vietnamese could account for Rich, even if he died when his aircraft went down. On November 11, 1976, the Department of the Navy declared Richard Rich dead, based on no specific information he was still alive. During the time he was maintained Missing in Action, Rich was advanced to the rank of Captain. Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese "stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous times. Could Rich be waiting, in a casket, for just such a moment? Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S. relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Could Rich be among these? Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive. As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must do everything possible to bring him home -- alive. -- George M. "Gunny" Fallon
Please visit Gunny's Page Thank you for caring about America's Missing Servicemen. "A Man is not dead until he is forgotten!"

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