Name: Bruce Carlton Fryar
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 196, USS RANGER (CVA 61)
Date of Birth: 28 March 1944
Home City of Record: Ridgewood NJ
Date of Loss: 02 January 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 173400N 1053900E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident:
Nicholas G. Brooks (remains returned)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
On the second day of 1970, warplanes were launched from the American aircraft carrier USS RANGER, passed over the South China Sea and central Vietnam and began once again the almost impossible task of trying to close the Ho Chi Minh Trail with bombs and guns.
The planes included A6 Intruders, at the time the best all-weather, ship-based attack aircraft in the world. Sophisticated radar and other advanced technology allowed the strangely shaped planes to bomb through the clouds as well as veteran pilots usually did in the sunshine.
Flying one particular A6, the A model, was Lt. Bruce Fryar. The primary missions of the A models were close-air-support, all-weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction. Flying with Fryar was Lt. Nicholas G. Brooks, the Bombardier/Navigator (BN). At an altitude of approximate 7,000 feet, during a visual dive-bombing attack on a target, the aircraft was struck by enemy aiti-aircraft fire. The Intruder immediately begain breaking up and subsequently impacted the ground, exploded and burned.
Both the strike control aircraft and the downed aircraft's wingman observed two parachutes, and heard the beeper signals from two survival radios. Both crewmen had safely ejected from the crippled aircraft.
Search and Rescue (SAR) efforts began immediately. Incident to SAR efforts, one man was sighted on the ground in a prone position with the parachute still attached. A SAR helicopter crewman was lowered to the ground and attempted to attach a hoist to the prone man. Heavy enemy ground fire forced the helicopter to depart prior to hoisting the downed flyer. The SAR crewman had scarcely seconds to attempt the recovery, but was able to identify the downed crewman as Lt. Fryar. The SAR crewman indicated that the flyer was unconscious but did not have time to determine if he was dead or alive. Darkness precluded further rescue attempts that day.
Upon resumption of rescue efforts at first light on January 3, the SAR helo returned to the location of the prone man to find that he and the parachute were no longer in sight. An emergency beeper was heard during the morning, but attempts to have any pattern of transmission or voice contact were unsuccessful. SAR efforts were eventually called off several days later. Both men were classified Missing in Action.
The Brooks family later received information that Nick had been captured and escaped at least three times. In 1982, Nick Brooks' remains were returned to his family. His parents had his remains independently analyzed, and satisfied with the results, buried their son at sea on March 25, 1982. They had been recovered by "Lao Nationals" (freedom fighters), and returned through an American working with resistance elements in Laos in an attempt to bring home living American POWs.
Brooks' remains are among very few recovered from Laos. Nearly 600 Americans disappeared there during the war, but as Laos was not included in the peace agreements which ended American involvement in Southeast Asia, no Americans held in Laos were released at the end of the war...or since.
Brooks and Fryar did not die when their plane was shot down. Brooks is home. Fryar could be one of the hundreds of Americans experts believe are still alive, waiting for their country to bring them home. It's time we did.
Nicholas G. Brooks graduated from the Naval Academy in 1966.