Remains Repatriated December 1988; Identified 21 January 1993
Name: Ralph Eugene Foulks, Jr.
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant /US Naval Reserve
Unit: Attack Squadron 163
USS Oriskany (CVA-34) 

Date of Birth: 21 July 1943 (Jacksonville, FL)
Home of Record: Ridgecrest, CA
Date of Loss: 05 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 200600N 1060400E (XH167227) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS:   The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was the US Navy's single-seat light attack jet flown by both land-based and carrier-based squadrons. It was the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings, as well as the only one which required a ladder for the pilot to enter/exit the cockpit. The Skyhawk was used to fly a wide range of missions throughout Southeast Asia.

On 5 January 1968, then Lt. JG Ralph E. Foulks, Jr., launched from the deck of the USS Oriskany in an A4E (serial # 150131, tail # AH 303)  as the number two aircraft in a flight of two on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. Their briefed area of operation included the densely populated and fertile coastal plain laced with numerous rivers, canals, waterways and rice fields northeast of Thanh Hoa. Shortly after crossing the coastline, the flight leader spotted a column of enemy trucks traveling along a primary road closely paralleling a small river on the southeast edge of Phar Diem City, approximately 11 miles east of the coastline, 28 miles northeast of Thanh Hoa, 63 miles south-southeast of Hanoi and the same distance southwest of Haiphong.

At 2210 hours, Lead initiated his attack pass against the convoy and Lt. Foulks acknowledged seeing his bomb impacts. Lead believed that Ralph Foulks initiated his own attack pass on the convoy at that time. When he was unable to establish radio contact with his wingman, Lead immediately initiated a visual search of the suspected area of loss. He also called for additional search and rescue (SAR) aircraft, who were orbiting offshore in the event they would be needed, to join the search. When no trace of the pilot or his aircraft was found, all aerial SAR efforts were terminated.

Under the circumstances, it was thought there was a good chance that Lt. Foulks could have experienced radio failure along with possible battle damage and chose to divert to an alternate airfield rather then attempt to return to the USS Oriskany at night. The closest alternate airfields capable of handling jet aircraft were located at DaNang and Chu Lai, South Vietnam. The squadron duty officer contacted both airfields. After his inquiries netted no information about the whereabouts of Ralph Foulks, he was immediately listed Missing in Action.

In early 1973, 591 American Prisoners of War were released by the communists during Operation Homecoming. All returnees were debriefed by US intelligence to include any information each possessed about other Americans who were known or believed to be prisoners and who were not released from captivity. According to an Air Force pilot released from one of the camps in Hanoi, he believed Ralph Foulks was possibly a POW in the same camp he was in. Further, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) correlated intelligence data they believed supported the probability that Lt. Foulks' aircraft sustained severe battle damage, was forced to eject his Skyhawk and was captured by the North Vietnamese.

No further information concerning the fate of Ralph Foulks was forthcoming until December 1988. At that time the North Vietnamese returned his remains without explanation to US control. These remains were identified by the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CIL-HI) as belonging to Lt. JG Ralph Eugene Foulks, Jr. on 21 January 1993.

Ralph Foulks' fate has finally been resolved and his family has the comfort of knowing where his mortal remains lie. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Indochina, their fates continue to be unresolved.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam 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.