The postman never delivered another letter from my brother. The December 25th correspondence was the last any of us received from him. The 1973 Merry Christmas of which he spoke was not to be.
On December 29th the doorbells ominously sounded at Jana and Karoni's home and, shortly thereafter, at Mom and Dad's house. When they opened the door to the sight of two Marine officers in dress uniform, that told the tale. Darkness filled the faces of my loved ones. We were in for heartache and the trials of Job.
His Last Mission
Colonel Wilson and an associate informed us that Ron was listed as missing in action. He had been so since December 27th. They didn't know if he was alive or dead.
Details were sketchy. On December 27, Ron and frequent flying companion Captain Jim Chipman, the Mormon missionary from Utah, were assigned a night bombing mission north of the twentieth parallel in North Vietnam. They were to reconnoiter a road and drop their lethal payload on any target they deemed worthy of destruction. A secondary target was assigned should reconnaissance fail to identify anything of military significance.
Few other facts could be ascertains. At 7:44 in the evening, the A6A, designated as Tiny 05, lifted off from the Royal Thai Air Force base in Nam Phong. At 8:20 p.m., Tiny 05 radioed Moonbeam, which was the code for Ground Control. Tiny 05 informed Moonbeam that they were on site and were going tactical. That meant that maneuvers were to commence. They had flown into the danger zone.
That was it. Moonbeam had no other contact with Tiny 05. Since the mission was of the standard sortie variety, no other aircraft had visual contact. Fuel exhaustion for Tiny 05 was estimated at 10:44 p.m. When the aircraft did not return, both men were listed as Missing. Thus far, efforts at location had born no fruit.
In God's Hands
Military consensus was clearly that Ron could handle captivity. We knew he could too. We had long known the stuff of which he was made, and it was the right stuff.
The problem was that we didn't even know if he was in the land of the living. If he was, we knew he was in a living hell. Needless to say, we preferred that to the alternative.
Solid information was unavailable. All we knew for sure was that our boy, a mighty warrior, had flown into harm's way. He had not returned to the nest. Ron was missing in action. That was it. That was the extent of our knowledge.
The saddest part about the situation was that we had no power to change it. We worried, we prayed, and we hoped, but Uncle Sam's boy was in God's hands and God's hands alone.