COLLINS, RICHARD FRANK

Name:  Richard Frank Collins 
Rank/Branch: Commander/USN
Unit:  Attack Squadron 196 
USS RANGER (CVA-61) 




Date of Birth: 15 October 1936 (Santa Monica, CA) 
Home of Record: Huntington Park, CA
Date of Loss: 22 November 1969 
Country of Loss:  Laos
Loss Coordinates:  163000N 1062500E (XD511246)
Click coordinates to view maps




Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A6A "Intruder"
Other Personnel in Incident: Michael E. Quinn (missing)
REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:   With the addition of the Grumman A6A Intruder to its inventory, the Navy and Marine Air Wings 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 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 22 November 1969, then Lt. Cmdr. Richard F. Collins, pilot; and Lt. Michael E. Quinn, bombardier/navigator; comprised the crew of an A6A Intruder that launched from the deck of the USS Ranger as the lead aircraft in a flight of two. Their flight was to conduct a night road reconnaissance mission against targets of opportunity along the border between South Vietnam and Laos. During the flight into the target area, the two Intruders were forced to separate due to a navigation instrument problem with the #2 aircraft.

The flight's area of operation was considered to contain major arteries 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.

Approximately 5 minutes into the flight, Lt. Cmdr. Collins' wingman reported that he was at checkpoint "A," a designated location used to keep tract of each other. Both aircraft proceeded to the operational area and began their mission. At 2240 hours and five to six minutes after beginning his reconnaissance run, the wingman saw a billowing explosion on the ground and radioed the lead aircraft, but received no response from either crewman. After the wingman completed his attacks on enemy ground targets, he returned to the ship while other aircraft initiated search and rescue (SAR) efforts. The last known location placed the downed aircraft approximately 3 miles east of Ban Taling and 16 miles south of Muang Xepon, Savannakhet Province, Laos.

SAR operations were hampered by the darkness and the lack of a specific loss location in the rugged jungle covered mountains of eastern Laos. There was no voice contact established with either downed crewman and no emergency beepers heard by the SAR forces. Likewise, no parachutes were seen and no other form of visual sighting made. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, both Cmdr. Collins and Lt. Quinn were listed Missing in Action.

Richard Collins and Michael Quinn are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. The Lao 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 the Paris Peace Accords since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, 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.

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