|Major Bob Lodge, Pilot|
Captain Roger Locher, WSO
Callsign "Oyster One"
Over at the on-line Vietnam Veterans Memorial (here) I found part of the story as told by Roy Spencer, another Air Force Vietnam vet. The story tracks true with other accounts, I share it here with you.
It's worth noting that Maj. Lodge and Capt. Locher had two MiG-kills to their credit when they clashed with MiG-19s and MiG-21s on the fateful morning of 10 May 1972.
Two Heros-One Came Home
On the first day of Operation Linebacker in the Spring of 1972 a strike force of 32 F4s launched against the Paul Doumer Bridge and the Yen Vien railroad yard near downtown Hanoi. The North Vietnamese strongly defended these targets, firing a large number of SAMs and sending 41 MiGs to intercept the U.S. attackers.
After shooting down a MiG-21, one of the F4D MIGCAP aircraft was shot down by one of more MiG-19s near Yen Bai, North Vietnam. Maj. Robert A. Lodge was the pilot of the F4D, callsign Oyster 1. His Weapons Systems Officer was Capt. Roger Locher. The aircraft was observed to be on fire during descent, and impacted the ground in a ball of fire. No chutes were seen or beepers heard from either crewman. This crew had shot down two MiGs the previous week. On June 1, an F4 on a mission in the area reported a beeper and voice contact with a downed crew member in the vicinity of Yen Bai, North Vietnam. Search and Rescue (SAR) forces were immediately diverted to the area and established radio contact with the WSO, Capt. Locher. Minutes later helicopters arrived in the area. By this time, the A1s defending the rescue were receiving heavy anti-aircraft fire. The A1s had not been able to pinpoint Capt. Locher's location, and the helicopters, equipped with electronic location finders (ELFs), attempted to pinpoint his position. At this point a MiG-21 made a high-speed, low-altitude pass at the helicopters, followed by another pass within minutes. The helicopters were low on fuel, and it was decided to suspend rescue for the day. (Note: Rescue was being attempted within 7 miles of Yen Bai Airfield, a very strongly defended area and extremely dangerous for the rescue attempt.) It had been three weeks since Oyster 1 was shot down, and it seemed unlikely that anyone could evade capture against such heavy odds. It was felt that perhaps a "trap" was being laid for the Rescue Forces. Despite the possibility of an ambush, the SAR operation resumed the second day. Operations on the second day began with a diversionary strike against Yen Bai Airfield. Other F4s were used to hit anti-aircraft guns in the area. The rescue package and the bombers, plus the attendant array of F4 escorts, EB66s, F105G Weasels and KC135 tankers totaled 119 U.S. aircraft -- more aircraft than had been involved in the original 10 May attack on Hanoi when Locher was shot down. As the helicopters entered the rescue area, they picked up strong radio signals from Locher. The A1 escorts were receiving heavy AAA fire and called in more F4 strikes against the guns. The SAR helicopters, to avoid SAMs and MiGs, flew at an altitude of about fifty feet (all within 3-7 miles of the enemy airfield). As they approached Locher's position, they began taking heavy ground fire from the many villages in the area. The ELF equipment proved to be particularly valuable, as its signals directed the helicopters right to Locher. A jungle penetrator was lowered, and Locher brought on board under heavy ground fire. It was not until Locher was actually onboard that SAR forces knew for certain that the rescue had not been a trap. Roger Locher had walked about twelve miles from where he had parachuted and had kept himself alive on wild fruit and weed shoots. The many streams had provided him a plentiful supply of fresh water. The extent of the SAR effort was indicative of the efforts put forth to rescue downed pilots.
It was believed possible that Robert Lodge had also escaped the crippled aircraft, and he was classified Missing in Action. In 1973, 591 Americans were released from prisons in Hanoi. Robert A. Lodge was not among them.
On September 30, 1977, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Robert A. Lodge and returned them to U.S. control.A much longer account is given here.
|Captain Locher shortly after his rescue in 1972.|
|Major Robert Alfred Lodge, USAF|
USAF Academy, Class of '64
Two Aerial Victories, Southeast Asia
Killed in Action, May 1972
Requiescant in pace, Major Lodge