Name: Robert Arthur Gomez g074p
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Air Force
Unit: 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Ubon Airfield, Thailand

Date of Birth: 20 March 1944
Home of Record: Jacksonville, FL
Date of Loss: 23 April 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 170900N 1060500E (XD122982)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4D "Phantom II"
Other Personnel in Incident: Albin E. Lucki (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 23 April 1970, Capt. Al Lucki, pilot, and then 1st Lt. Robert Gomez, weapons systems officer, comprised the crew of an F4D, call sign "Wolf 02," that departed Ubon Airfield at 1745 hours as the lead aircraft in a flight of 3. They were on a strike mission near the Ban Karai Pass, approximately 13 miles west-southwest of Ban Lobey and 14 miles southwest of the Lao/North Vietnamese border, Khammouan Province, Laos.
,p>This area of eastern Laos was considered a major gateway into 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.

The flight reached their target area at approximately 1800 hours. At the direction of the on site Forward Air Controller (FAC), Capt. Lucki then descended to begin to reconnoiter the area while the rest of the flight orbited at a high altitude. As a result of the altitude difference, the reduced visibility due to the twilight conditions at this time of day and existing haze in the target area, the other aircrews lost sight of the flight leader. However, they heard Capt. Lucki report, "I'm in to mark" the target which was an enemy truck traveling along Route 9125.

Approximately 30 seconds after this transmission, a large fireball was observed on the ground by the other flight members as well as by the FAC. The alternate flight leader tried to establish radio contact with Al Lucki and Robert Gomez, but without success. When that failed, the FAC conducted a low level examination of the area of the fireball. He observed wreckage generally grouped and numerous secondary explosions. The crash site location consisted of high karsts, between 1500 and 1850 meters north of Ban Topen and 300 meters west of Route 9125. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, but when no beepers were heard and no contact could be established, it was discontinued on 24 April. No ground SAR was possible due to enemy activity in the area of loss. At the time formal SAR operations were terminated, both Al Lucki and Robert Gomez were listed Missing in Action.

Al Lucki and Robert Gomez 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 which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.

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 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.