Name: Robert St. Clair Fant 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander /US Navy 
Unit: Fighter Squadron 102
USS America (CVA-66) 

Date of Birth: 19 August 1938 
Home of Record: Laramie, WY
Date of Loss: 25 July 1968 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 184300N 1054100E (WF720694)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Returned Prisoner of War 

Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F-4J "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: Charles C. Parish (missing) 


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 25 July 1968,  Lt. Charles C. Parish, pilot; and then Lt. Robert S. Fant, radar intercept officer; comprised the aircrew of the #2 F-4J in a two-aircraft section that launched from the deck of the USS America conducting an afternoon armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. Once the section arrived in their area of operation, the flight commander established radio contact with the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC) directing all missions in this sector and was directed to commence their mission.

At 1600 hours, the Phantoms found and attacked an enemy target north of the major industrial city of Vinh. The lead Phantom completed its bomb run and pulled off target when Lt. Parish's aircraft rolled in behind it on his own attack pass. The aircrew of Lead observed Charles Parish's aircraft as it pulled off target on fire. Lead also watched in horror as the crippled Phantom fell toward the ground and exploded in midair before impacting the ground. Lead immediately notified the ABCCC of his wingman's loss and then implemented an electronic and visual search for Lt. Parish and Lt. Fant. In the chaos of battle, Lead saw no signs of survivors and heard no emergency radio beepers emanating from the crash site. At the time the initial search was terminated, Charles Parish and Robert Fant were reported as Missing in Action.

The Phantom's wreckage was located in a densely populated and heavily defended region covered in rice fields approximately ¼ mile east of Highway 1A, ½ mile southeast of Vinh airfield, 2 miles north of Vinh and 6 miles west of the coastline. The Song Ca River flowed around Vinh before emptying into the Gulf of Tonkin. Highways, roads and footpaths of all sizes crisscrossed the entire region connecting villages with cities, industrial centers and military complexes.

Unknown to US agencies at the time, Lt. Fant was able to successfully eject his damaged Phantom and was captured as soon as he reached the ground. Within days the North Vietnamese transported Robert Fant to Hanoi for incarceration. He was released to US control on 14 March 1973. According to his post-release debriefing, Robert Fant stated he believed that Charles Parish "experienced an equipment malfunction that prevented him from ejecting before the aircraft exploded."

If Charles Parish died in his Phantom, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he was able to eject before the explosion, he most certainly would have been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no doubt the Vietnamese could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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 Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military personnel in Vietnam 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.