ROBINSON, LEWIS MERRITT

Remains Returned 19 February 1988; Identified 5 March 1999
Name: Lewis Merritt Robinson 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Colonel/US Air Force 
Unit: 1st Air Commando Squadron,
Pleiku Airfield, South Vietnam 





Date of Birth: 01 February 1921
Home of Record: Saginaw, MI
Date of Loss: 04 June 1967 
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 161558N 1064259E (XD834990) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1E "Skyraider"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS:  With its fantastic capability to carry a wide range of ordnance (8,000 pounds of external armament), great flight range (out to 3,000 miles), and the ability to absorb punishment, the single-seat Douglas A1 Skyraider became one of the premier performers in the close air support and attack mission role (nickname: Spad) and RESCAP mission role (nickname: Sandy). The Skyraider served the Air Force, Navy and Marines faithfully throughout the war in Southeast Asia.

Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley. Oscar Eight was also located at the southeastern end of a large and narrow jungle covered valley that had two primary roads running through it, one on each side of the valley with Highway 92 being the road on the west side. A power line ran parallel to Highway 92 and sometimes crossed it. In addition to the roads and power line, the Hoi An River also flowed through the valley passing the road junction roughly 1 mile west of it.

More American aircraft were downed in the vicinity of the junction of Highways 92 and 922 than any other place in Laos. This was because burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight and located just to the east of the road junction was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center as well as containing the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees. All of these AAA batteries were expertly camouflaged. Oscar Eight also favored the enemy because the only suitable landing zones were located in a wide bowl surrounded by jungle covered high ground containing AAA guns and bunkered infantry.

A major raid on Oscar Eight began on 2 June 1967 with a dawn Arc Light mission by 9 B52 bombers. As the smoke cleared, 9 ARVN Kingbee and 5 Marine CH46 helicopters landed a Nung Hatchet Force company including the company's 3 American MACV-SOG advisors SFC Billy R. Laney, SFC Ronald J. Dexter and SFC Charles F. Wilklow. The raiders had barely landed when the 100-man force was surrounded and vastly outnumbered by NVA soldiers. The Hatchet Force took cover in a few bomb craters and began calling in gunships and tactical airstrikes danger close.

A flight of 2 A1E Skyraiders from Pleiku Airbase, South Vietnam was participating in those airstrikes. The #2 aircraft was flown by Lt. Col. Lewis M. Robinson. The flight was conducting a strike mission against NVA positions surrounding the embattled Hatchet force when it flew low over the battle site. Immediately the enemy AAA batteries opened fire and the Lead Skyraider was struck by flak. Lt. Col. Robinson flew beneath the Lead aircraft to check for battle damage. As he passed below Lead and began to pull out in front, Lewis Robinson's aircraft was struck by gunfire, pitched up and into the flight leader's propeller. Immediately Lead's propeller cut off the tail of the #2 Skyraider sending it out of control.

The Hatchet Force watched in horror as the tailless Skyraider went into an inverted spin and crashed into a jungle covered valley located approximately 5 miles south and slightly east of the battle site. It was also roughly 12 miles south of the Lao/South Vietnamese border and 26 miles south-southwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam; Saravane Province, Laos. Lt. Col. Robinson never had an opportunity to eject. Due to the circumstances surrounding his loss. Lewis Robinson was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

In addition to Lt. Col. Robinson's Skyraider, 2 helicopter gunships and 1 F4 Phantom were also shot down during this rescue operation. Fortunately, the aircrews of these aircraft were safely rescued.

In 1988, communist Lao officials unilaterally turned over a small amount of burned and fragmented remains to Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) personnel. At the same time the Americans were informed the remains had been recovered from a crash site in Saravane Province.

In 1993, an investigative element from the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) traveled to Saravane Province to investigate Lt. Col. Robinson' loss. An informant took them to a crash site near the recorded loss coordinates for this incident. The team surveyed the site and dug a test pit. In it they found and recovered small fragments of burned bone, aircraft wreckage and pilot related items.

In 1998, 10 years after the 1st batch of bone fragments were turned over to US personnel and 5 years after the site was surveyed for excavation, a JTFFA recovery excavation team returned to the crash site. During the excavation, additional remains were recovered along with more pilot related material and wreckage. All the remains turned over by the Lao officials and recovered from this location were combined into one group, which included teeth and bone fragments from various parts of the body.

Shortly thereafter the combined remains were transported to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. On 5 March 1999, those remains were positively identified as belonging to Lewis Robinson through the use of dental matches and mt-DNA analysis. Shortly thereafter Lt. Col. Robinson's remains were returned to his family for burial.

For Lewis Robinson his fate is finally resolved and his family and friends have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved one lies. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fates 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, aircrews and ground troops 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.