Name: Stephen Arthur Rusch
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Da Nang
Date of Birth: 23 July 1943
Home City of Record: Lambertville NJ
Date of Loss: 07 March 1972
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 160100N 1063500E (XC720744)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident:
Carter A. Howell (missing)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Copyright 1991 Homecoming II Project.
The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. 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. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
1Lt. Carter A. Howell was the pilot and 1Lt. Stephen A. Rusch the co-pilot of an F4E Phantom from the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. On March 7, 1972, the two were sent on an operational mission over Laos. During the mission their aircraft was seen to impact the ground while making a run on a target. No parachutes were seen and no emergency beepers were heard to indicate the crew was safe. However, the opportunity existed for the two to safely eject, and they were not declared dead, but missing in action. The loss occurred about 25 miles east of the town of Ban Toumlan in Saravane Province, Laos.
When American involvement in Southeast Asia ended with the signing of the Paris Peace agreements, prisoners of war, it was agreed, would be released. The country of Laos, meanwhile, not having been included in the peace talks, announced publicly that prisoners of war held in Laos would be released from Laos. The U.S. never negotiated for the release of these men. Not one American serviceman held in Laos was released, although nearly 600 went down there, and many survived their crashes and were known to have been captured.
Over the years since the war, reports have amassed indicating that many Americans are still held prisoner. As of July 1987, nearly 6000 such reports had been received by the U.S. Government, yet the U.S. seems unable to secure the freedom of those men who were left behind.
Men like Rusch and Howell served in Vietnam because their country asked them to. They went to war prepared to be injured, killed or even taken prisoner. They were not prepared to be abandoned. They must be brought home.