WHEAT, DAVID ROBERT

Name: David Robert Wheat
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander/US Navy 
Unit: Fighter Squadron 41 
(CVA-62 USS Independence) 





Date of Birth: 16 Dec 1939
Home of Record: Duluth, MN 
Date of Loss: 17 October 1965 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 214000N 1063800E (XJ689966)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Released Prisoner of War 
Category:

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Roderick L. Mayer (Prisoner of War)

REMARKS:  730212 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 17 October 1965,  Lt. Roderick Mayer, pilot; and then Lt. JG David R. Wheat, Radar Intercept Officer, comprised the crew of an F4B that launched from the deck of the USS Independence. They were participating in a day strike mission against the Thai Nguyen bridge located approximately 38 miles north of Hanoi in an attempt to curb the amount of war material being transported over it.

At 1150 hours, their aircraft was struck by intense enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire as they made a pass on the bridge. The crew of the crippled Phantom turned their aircraft due east in an attempt to returned to the USS Independence. Lt. Mayer and Lt. JG Wheat were able to keep their aircraft airborne for nearly 55 miles before it became clear the damaged jet would stay in the air no longer. Both men were seen by other aircrews in their flight to eject before it crashed near the town of Quang Lang, approximately 54 miles north of Haiphong and 65 miles northeast of Hanoi.

Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, but were hampered by enemy small arms fire and were never able to get close enough to determine the fate of either crewman. At the time the SAR operation was terminated, both Roderick Mayer and David Wheat were listed presumed dead. Later the status of both men was changed to Prisoner of War when it was learned they both had, in fact, been captured.

David R. Wheat returned to US control on 12 February 1973 during Operation Homecoming. In his debriefing he reported he believed Roderick Mayer was injured during ejection; however, he did not know the extent of Lt. Mayer's injuries. In spite of claims by the communists to the contrary, the US government maintained documents confirming that 117 American POWs who were known held captive in North Vietnam were not released from captivity in 1973.

Whether Roderick Mayer survived his injuries or died of them is unknown since the communists refuse to acknowledge having any knowledge of his fate. If he died in captivity, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he recovered from those injuries, his fate could be quite different.

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 call 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.