|Name:||Keith Norman Hall|
|Rank/Branch:||Captain/ US Air Force|
Udorn Airbase, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||24 February 1934|
|Home of Record:||Grand Forks, North Dakota|
|Date of Loss:||10 January 1968|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||202559N 1044659E (VH774777)
Click coordinates to vew maps
|Staus in 1973:||Returned Prisoner of War|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4D "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Earl P. Hopper, Jr. (missing)|
REMARKS: 730314 RELEASED BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. 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. It 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.
On 10 January 1968, Capt. Keith N. Hall, aircraft commander, and 1st Lt. Earl P. Hopper, Jr., pilot, comprised the crew of a F4D, call sign "Rematch 3," that departed Udorn Airfield as the #3 aircraft in a flight of 4. Their late afternoon mission was to escort and protect an "Iron Hand" flight of F105s that were to bomb the Hoa Lac MiG Base, 19 miles west of Hanoi. At 1607 hours and approximately 15 miles from bomb drop, the North Vietnamese fired 3 Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM). Two passed harmlessly through Rematch flight while the third SAM exploded 100 feet below and to the right of Rematch 3 damaging the hydraulic and fuel systems. The aircraft was seen streaming fuel and several fireballs shot out of the aft section of the left engine. Neither man was injured by the blast. After initial ejection problems Capt. Hall successfully ejected. The other pilots in the flight marked Keith Hall's position, then continued with Earl Hopper while he headed for Laos in an attempt to overfly that country to return to Udorn; or at a minimum, to reach more friendly territory. Further, the other pilots stationed their aircraft in an escort formation - one on each side of the damaged jet, and the third behind and slightly above it.
Other flight members heard two emergency radio signals, one being very strong and the other rather weak and both nearly on the same frequency. Keith Hall was captured approximately 20-25 minutes after reaching the ground near Ta Lao Hamlet, Xuan Nah Village, Son La Province, North Vietnam. He arrived at the Hao Lo (Hanoi Hilton) Prison Camp 4 days later. The last known position for Earl Hopper was approximately 5 miles across the river west of Ban O Veuo, Son La Province, North Vietnam. At the time formal SAR efforts were terminated, Keith Hall and Earl Hopper were listed Missing in Action. When the US government learned Capt. Hall had in fact been captured, his status was upgraded to Prisoner of War.
Capt. Keith Hall returned to US control on 14 March 1973 during Operation Homecoming. In his debriefing, Capt. Hall recounted an incident that occurred in August 1970 - over 2 ½ years into his captivity. He was pulled out of his cell in the Hanoi Hilton and interrogated for roughly 10 minutes about 1st Lt. Hopper's personal life: Was he married - Did he have children - Where was he from - Where did he go to school - What were his hobbies, etc? The importance of this fact is if Earl Hopper were dead at that time, the Vietnamese would have no interest in him or his background. Because this was the first mission they flew together, Keith Hall knew virtually nothing about his backseater, and he responded to the questions with "I don't know." When the guard began to leave, Keith Hall asked if this meant that Earl Hopper was also imprisoned there? The guard just shrugged his shoulders in a noncommittal manner, said, "I don't know" and left. While Keith Hall returned to the country he faithfully served, Earl Hopper did not and his fate remains in doubt.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Fighter pilots in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.