KENT, ROBERT DUANE "BOB"

Name:  Robert Duane "Bob" Kent
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Marine Corps
Unit:  VMFA-324; Marine Air Group-13;                
1st Marine Air Wing 

Date of Birth: 06 December 1940 (Marshall, TX) 
Home of Record: Dallas, TX
Date of Loss: 20 December 1968 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  163500N 1061300E (XD300341) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  F4B "Pantom II" 
Other Personnel in Incident: Richard G. Morin (missing)

REMARKS:

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 20 December 1968 Capt. Robert D. Kent, pilot, and 1st Lt. Richard G. Morin, bombardier/navigator, comprised the crew of an F4B that departed their base on a night bombing mission to interdict enemy movement through the jungle covered mountains approximately 11 miles southwest of Muang Xepon, 7 miles northeast of Muang Phin and 25 miles west of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

This area of Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.

At 0340 hours, while conducting its bombing mission, the F4B disappeared without a trace. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were initiated at first light, but heard no emergency radio beepers, saw no parachutes and found no trace of the aircraft or its crew. Both Bob Kent and Richard Morin were listed Missing in Action.

After the war ended, family members of the crew of the missing F4B fighter/bomber who questioned the Marine Corps about the fate of their missing loved ones were told that "the aircraft probably exploded in mid-air and there would be nothing to find."

There was no additional information about the fate of Bob Kent and Richard Morin until 24 July 1992 when Capt. Kent's cousin reviewed his casualty file during an annual meeting of family members in Washington, DC. When she opened the cover of his records, she found Bob Kent's military ID card, his Geneva Convention card and his drivers license inside a 3"x4" manila photo envelope. Each one of these pieces of personal identification, which were carried by Bob Kent in his flight suit during that last mission, was in perfect, undamaged condition. When asked, "When were these documents returned?" "By whom and under what circumstances?" "How, when and by whom were they placed in his records?" and "Why was the family not notified when they were returned?" The Marine Corps had no answers. To date they still have no answers.

Robert Kent and Richard Morin are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly and fight 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.