|Unit:||USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63)|
|Date of Birth:||01 August 1934|
|Home of Record:||Nogales, AZ|
|Date of Loss:||28 April 1968|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
single-seat McDonnell A4E Skyhawk was a light attack jet flown by both Navy
and Marine Corps pilots from land bases and aircraft carriers throughout
Southeast Asia. The Skyhawk is the only carrier-based aircraft that did not
have folding wings as well as the only type that required a ladder to enter/exit
the cockpit - a feature not popular with maintenance men
On 28 April 1968, Cmdr. Robert Saavedra launched his A4E (serial# 151070) from the deck of the USS Kitty Hawk as the lead pilot in a two-plane section on a night armed reconnaissance mission. Their orders were to attack any target of opportunity they encountered along Route 15 and 1A in North Vietnam. Route 1A flowed into Route 15; a primary road that ran through the Mu Gia Pass and was considered one of two major gateways 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 proceeded together in a tight formation until they crossed the coastline at Cape Mui Ron, North Vietnam. At 0245 hours, the flight separated into a standard trail formation with Cmdr. Saavedra in the lead. Both aircraft remained under US radar surveillance as they proceeded to the target area. Eight minutes later, at 0253 hours, Robert Saavedra transmitted "I've got some movers" referring to enemy truck traffic. Less than ten seconds later he radioed "Rolling in" as he initiated his attack pass on the trucks. Cmdr. Saavedra's wingman watched as the lead aircraft descended toward the ground. Less than thirty seconds later Robert Saavedra's wingman observed a large ground explosion in the target area. The fire from the explosion was visible for over an hour.
The location of loss was in densely populated rolling hills approximately 1 mile east of Route 15, 7 miles northeast of a single-track railroad line that ran between the major communist cities of Vinh and Dong Hoi, and 10 miles east of Xuan Lung. It was also 37 miles south-southeast of Vinh and 67 miles northwest of Dong Hoi.
No parachute was seen in the darkness. Likewise, no emergency beeper was heard and no voice contact could be established with the downed pilot. No enemy ground fire or bomb impacts were observed by the wingman prior to the large explosion believed caused by the Skyhawk impacting the ground. Immediately Robert Saavedra's wingman initiated visual and electronic search procedures. At the same time he called in formal search and rescue (SAR) aircraft. He was able to remain on station until he was forced to depart the area due to being low on fuel. During the entire SAR process no trace of Cmdr. Saavedra could be found. At the time the formal search was terminated, Robert Saavedra was listed Missing in Action.
If Robert Saavedra died in the loss of his Skyhawk, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he was able to eject, he would most certainly have been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is no doubt the Vietnamese know what happened and could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.
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 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.