BARBER, ROBERT FRANKLIN
                             
Name:  Robert Franklin Barber
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant/US Navy

Unit:  Attack Squadron 75,
USS Independence (CVA-62) 

Date of Birth: 17 April 1926

Home of Record: Seattle, WA

Date of Loss: 18 September 1965

Country of Loss:  North Vietnam/Over Water

Loss Coordinates:  200559N  1074459E
(YH875247)
Click coordinates to view maps


Status in 1973 Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered

Category: 5

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A6A  “Intruder”
Other Personnel in Incident:  Leonard F. Vogt, Jr. (missing)

REMARKS:CRASH/EXPLODE AT SEA - NSURV - J

SYNOPSIS::With the addition of the Grumman A6A Intruder to its inventory, the US Navy had the finest two-man, all-weather, low-altitude attack/bombing aircraft in the world.  It displayed great versatility and lived up to the expectations of those who pushed for its development after the Korean War.  At the time it was the only operational aircraft that had a self-contained all-weather bombing capacity including a moving target indicator mode.  In this role it usually carried a bomb load of 14,000 pounds and was used rather extensively in the monsoon season not only in South Vietnam, but also in Laos and over the heavily defended areas of North Vietnam.  The Intruder was credited with successfully completing some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, and its’ aircrews were among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.

On 18 September 1965, Cmdr. Leonard F. Vogt, Jr., pilot and Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 75; and Lt. Robert F. Barber, bombardier/navigator; comprised the crew of an A6A Intruder (aircraft serial #151588) that launched from the deck of the USS Independence as the lead aircraft in a flight of four conducting a night strike mission against the North Vietnamese Navy Swatow torpedo patrol boats that were based at Dao Bach Long Island.  The island was located well out to sea in the Gulf of Tonkin approximately 76 miles southeast of the major port city of Haiphong.

When the flight entered the target area, Cmdr. Vogt established radio contact with the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC).  After receiving updated weather and mission instructions, the flight was given clearance to commence operations.  They found two enemy patrol boats just south of the island and one of the Intruders dropped flares to illuminate the surface of the water while the other aircraft made attack passes on the gunboats. 

Just as Cmdr. Vogt and Lt. Barber approached the target, the flares burnt out.  Leonard Vogt continued through the attack run on the gunboat and dropped his bombs.  Shortly afterward the other pilots reported seeing a huge fireball on the surface of the water.  During their after action debriefings, each reported it was his belief that the explosion was caused by the Intruder impacting the water.  However, they were unable to determine if Lead had been hit by the heavy anti-aircraft artillery fire (AAA) directed at it by enemy gunners onboard the boats, or if the Intruder flew into the sea because of pilot disorientation or instrument failure.  In the darkness no parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers heard.

After all attempts to establish voice contact with Leonard Vogt and Robert Barber failed, other flight members initiated an electronic and visual search while the ABCCC called in and coordinated the search and rescue (SAR) operation that began at first light. 

During the daylight search, SAR personnel located an oil slick, but found no trace of Cmdr. Vogt or Lt. Barber.  The area in which the oil slick was located was less than 1 ½ miles south of the east side of Dao Bach Long Island, 71 miles east-southeast of the closest point on the coast of mainland North Vietnam, 78 miles southeast of Haiphong and 125 miles east-northeast of Thanh Hoa.  At the time the formal search operation was terminated, Leonard Vogt and Robert Barber were declared Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

Based on the official record, there appears to be virtually no chance Cmdr. Vogt and Lt. Barber survived the loss of their aircraft or that their remains are recoverable.   However, if they were able to eject before the Intruder impacted the water, there is a slight possibility that North Vietnamese Naval forces operating in the area could have recovered Leonard Vogt and Robert Barber either alive or dead.  In that case their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.  Above all else, each man has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life. 

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. 

Fighter pilots 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.