|Name:||Robert John Kuhlman|
|Rank/Branch:||Major/US Marine Corps|
1st Marine Air Wing
|Date of Birth:||25 August 1944 (Richmond, IN)|
|Home of Record:||.Richmond, IN|
|Date of Loss:||17 January 1969|
|Country of Loss:||South Vietnam|
|Loss Coordinates:||160700N 1072100E (YC470921)
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Edwin J. Fickler (missing)|
SYNOPSIS: With the addition of the A6A to its inventory, the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW) had the finest all-weather attack/bombing aircraft in the world. It displayed great versatility and lived up to the expectations of those who pushed its development after the Korean War. At the time it was the only operational aircraft that has a self-contained all-weather bombing capacity including a moving target indicator mode. In this role it was used rather extensively in the monsoon season not only in South Vietnam, but also in Laos and over the heavily defended areas of North Vietnam. The usual bomb load was 14,000 pounds.
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 17 January 1969, Capt. Edwin J. Fickler, pilot, and then 1st Lt. Robert J. Kuhlman, bombardier/navigator, comprised the crew of an A6A Intruder on a direct air support/armed reconnaissance mission east of the infamous A Shau Valley, Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam. Their mission, as well as that of American and allied ground troops they were supporting, was to cut the NVA's extension of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as it ran through the northwestern region of South Vietnam.
At 2125 hours, Capt. Fickler and 1st Lt. Kuhlman were providing close air support for embattled US and allied troops operating along the east rim of the A Shau Valley. After completing an attack pass on a known enemy position hidden in the rugged jungle covered mountains, the Intruder pulled off target and was struck by enemy ground fire. It was seen by friendly forces to crash approximately 1 mile south of a primary east/west road running from the east side of the A Shau Valley to Hue City. A second primary road branched off of the main road and ran to DaNang. These roads were a major part of the NVA's extended infiltration route.
Search and rescue (SAR) aircraft were immediately launched and initiated a visual and electronic search for Capt. Fickler and 1st Lt. Kuhlman. During the search operation, no parachutes were seen, no emergency electronic beepers heard and no voice contact could be established with either crewman. Further, a ground search was not possible because of heavy enemy activity in the area of loss. At the time the formal search was terminated, Edwin Fickler and Robert Kuhlman were listed as Missing In Action.
If Edwin Fickler and Robert Kuhlman died in the loss of their Intruder, each man has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if they were able to eject their crippled aircraft, 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. Either way, there is little doubt the Vietnamese could return them or their remains any time they had a desire to do so.
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.
Fighter pilots in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and 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.