|Name:||Robert Allen Govan|
|Rank/Branch:||Colonel/US Air Force|
Nakhon Phanom Airfield, Thailand
|Date of Birth:||27 May 1934|
|Home of Record:||Washington, DC|
|Date of Loss:||01 April 1967|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view(4) maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||David R. Williams (missing)|
REMARKS: NEGATIVE SAR CONTACT
SYNOPSIS: The North American T28D Nomad fighter/bomber was a single-engine aircraft that was utilized throughout Southeast Asia by both US and Allied personnel primarily for counterinsurgency and escort missions. When flying as an escort, the Nomad relied on the more sophisticated detection equipment aboard other aircraft to direct them to the target area, then the pilot would fly in low in a shallow dive in order to most effectively carry his attack to the enemy.
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.
On 1 April 1967 Major David R. Williams, instructor pilot; and then Major Robert A. Govan, pilot; comprised the crew of a T28D aircraft on a night armed reconnaissance mission over eastern Laos. The Nomad's intended flight plan took them from Nakhon Phanom (NKP) Airfield to "FAS Steel Tiger, Delta Echo;" then back to NKP. The target area included Route 911, a major artery in the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail that passed through the Ban Karai Pass. That pass was one of two major ports of entry employed by the North Vietnamese into Laos.
Once in the target area southwest of the Ban Karai Pass, Major Williams established radio contact with the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC). After providing him with current mission information, the ABCCC handed the flight off to the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC) who would direct air operations in that sector.
The FAC observed two trucks going south on Route 911. He dropped a flare to illuminate the target, but more light was needed as the targets were no longer visible. Major Govan descended to an altitude below the FAC, which was estimated to be 1000 to 2000 feet above the terrain. Another truck was spotted traveling north, and Major Govan dropped two more flares. Those flares were off target and ultimately served no useful purpose.
The aircraft was observed by the FAC as it rolled out of a northeast heading. After dropping another flare, the FAC reported seeing numerous flashes that appeared to be enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire directed toward the Nomad. At 2102 hours, roughly six minutes later, the FAC observed a large fireball on the ground that was followed by numerous secondary explosions. The FAC tried to raise Williams and Govan on the radio, but without success. Search and rescue (SAR) operations began immediately. Unfortunately, no parachutes were sighted and no beepers heard. David Williams and Robert Govan were listed Missing in Action.
The Nomad's last known location was over a very long and narrow jungle covered valley with mountains and karsts rising up along both sides of the valley. Small hamlets and villages dotted the region, which was laced with many roads, trails and footpaths. The location of loss was approximately 10 miles east of Ban Muong Sen, 27 miles southwest of the Ban Karai Pass and 75 miles southeast of Nakhon Phanom, Savannakhet Province, Laos.
David R. Williams and Robert A. Govan are among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians 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 through the Paris Peace Accords that ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
If David Williams and Robert Govan died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they survived, they most certainly could have been captured and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos 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.