|Name:||Alan Robert "Al" Trent|
|Rank/Branch:||Captain/US Air Force|
12th Tactical Fighter Squadron
Phu Cat Airbase, South Vietnam
|Date of Birth:||22 May 1940|
|Home of Record:||Wadsworth, OH|
|Date of Loss:||13 May 1970|
|Country of Loss:||Cambodia|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:||F4D "Phantom II"|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||Eric J. Huberth (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.
When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos and Cambodia 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 13 May 1970, Capt. Alan R. "Al" Trent, pilot; and 1st Lt. Eric J. Hubert, co-pilot; comprised the crew of an F-4D (serial # -0607), call sign "Cobra 84," that departed Phu Cat Airbase in a flight of two to conduct a scramble alert mission in support of US/allied troops operating in the hotly contested tri-border region where South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia meet. The target area was located in the rugged jungle covered mountains of Rotanokiri Province, Cambodia; some 105 miles northwest of the Phu Cat Airbase. This region also contained the southernmost arteries of the Ho Chi Minh Trail used by the NVA to infiltrate into southern South Vietnam. The briefed flight path was from Phu Cat Airbase to the target and back to base.
As soon as Cobra flight arrived in the target area, the flight leader established radio contact with the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) for updated mission information. In turn, the ABCCC handed Cobra flight over to the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC) who was directing all air operations in this sector. The FAC cleared the Phantoms in to bomb an identified target.
At 1450 hours, Capt. Trent and 1st Lt. Huberth initiated their first close air support attack pass on a communist position. As the Phantom pulled off target, intense and accurate enemy .30 and .50 caliber machinegun fire struck it. Other pilots watched in horror as the aircraft crashed into a ridgeline. The FAC saw no one eject the crippled aircraft, saw no parachutes and heard no emergency radio beepers emanating from the jungle below. The other F-4 onsite had a clear view of the crash site. The aircrew reported the aircraft exploded on impact with a full load of munitions on board and the resultant wreckage was spread over a 500-meter area.
Aerial search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated and ground teams were inserted into the crash site the next day, but found no trace of either pilot. Aerial searches continued on 15 May with negative results. At the time the formal search was terminated, Al Trent and Eric Huberth were reported as Missing in Action.
The crash site was located approximately 2 miles west of the Cambodian/South Vietnamese border, 3 miles south of the closest point on the Cambodian/Lao border, and 19 miles south-southwest of the point at which the three countries meet. It was also 25 miles southwest of Dak To, South Vietnam.
In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 2 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: "Note; aircraft impacted a hilltop on pullout from bomb run. Rifle fire struck the aircraft … shot down the aircraft. ..… captured an American pilot. DIA preliminary assessment; DIA concurs with the initial correlation for this case. The ..… indicates that one of the two crew (members) was captured. On the ground SAR teams the next day found no trace of either crew. The aircraft went down in a village and destroyed several homes. No beepers or parachutes were ever reported by other aircraft flying with Refno 1619. This SIGNET should be used to approach Cambodian government or the Vietnamese as to the final fate of Refno 1619."
If Al Trent and Eric Huberth 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 by enemy forces who shot them down 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, 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.
Military personnel in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to undertake many dangerous missions, 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 proudly served.