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The Story

HENSLEY, RONNIE LEE Remains returned and identified September 1995. Name: Ronnie Lee Hensley Rank/Branch: E5/US Air Force Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airbase, Thailand Date of Birth: 08 June 1948 Home City of Record: Richwood WV Date of Loss: 22 April 1970 Country of Loss: Laos Loss Coordinates: 154400N 1065100E (XC990410) Status (in 1973): Missing In Action Category: 2 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998. Other Personnel in Incident: Thomas Adachi; Robert Ireland;Stephen Harris; Donald Lint; William Brooks; Charles B.Davis; Donald G. Fisher; John C. Towle; Charles Rowley (all missing); Eugene L. Fields (rescued). REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: In the early hours of April 22, 1970, an AC130 gunship flown by veteran pilot Major William Brooks departed Ubon Airbase with a crew of ten for a Commando Hunt mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. The aircraft, code named "Ad Lib", was joined near its destination by two jet escort fighter bombers, code named "Killer 1" and "Killer 2", and immediately began air strikes against enemy traffic below. The crew of the aircraft included Brooks, the pilot; SSgt. Thomas Y. Adachi, the aerial gunner; LtCol. Charlie B. Davis, a navigator; Maj. Donald G. Fisher, a navigator; SSgt. Stephen W. Harris; SSgt. Ronnie L. Hensley; Master Sgt. Robert N. Ireland; Airman Donald M. Lint; LtCol. Charles S. Rowley; and 1Lt. John C. Towle. During its fourth strike, the gunship was hit by anti-aircraft fire and began burning. Brooks radioed, "I've been hit, babe". Fisher, the navigator, reported that his position was OK. Fields and Hensley, battling the blaze in the rear of the aircraft, lost contact with each other in the smoke. Fields inched his way to Adachi's position, and found Adachi gone and the left scanner window open. Fields used an auxiliary parachute to abandon the aircraft. Killer 1 reported seeing no parachutes, although Killer 2 reported the crew was bailing out. Just before Killer 1 departed the area for refueling, it received one emergency beeper signal from the ground. Killer 2 established voice contact with a member of the crew identifying himself as Ad-Lib 12 (Fisher), who reported that he had burns on his face and hands. Killer 2 also left for refueling, while other aircraft monitored the downed craft and waited for morning to attempt rescue of the survivors. The following morning, Ad-Lib 11 (Fields) was rescued, but due to hostile ground forces, no ground search or photographs were made at the time. The Air Force assumed at the time that Fields had incorrectly identified himself, and announced that 6 of the crew had been killed and four were missing. The rest of the story is confusing. The family of one of the crew was told that a ground crew had been inserted and that partial remains of one crew member had been recovered. Another family was advised that photographs of the crashsite existed. A photograph of a captive airman having burn bandages on his hands was identified as being Fisher by his family. Rowley's family was informed of a secret intelligence report indicating that 8 of the crew had been captured, and that a controlled American source had witnessed them being tortured to death for their "crimes". A returned POW reported seeing Rowley in a propaganda film. Another returned POW stated that Fisher had been a POW. Although the Air Force would not allow family members to contact the only survivor, Fields, Fisher's son located him after 18 years. Fisher denied ever being in contact with any of the Killer jet escorts. It was not he who identified himself by radio to rescue forces. Apparently, at least some of the crew of Ad Lib survived to be captured in Laos, often called the "Black Hole" of the POW issue because of nearly 600 lost there, not a SINGLE man was released that had been held in Laos. The Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held prisoners, yet we never negotiated their freedom, and reports continue to be received that some of these men are still alive. The surviving crew members lost that day were abandoned by the country for which they bravely fought.

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