HESTLE, ROOSEVELT L. JR.
Remains Identified/Announced 06/22/17
Name: Roosevelt L. Hestle, Jr.
Date of Birth: 02 March 1928
Home City of Record: Orlando FL
Date of Loss: 06 July 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 212957N 1054437E (WJ776774)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Charles E. Morgan (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 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 2017.
REMARKS: NO CHUTE-BEEPER OR SAR
SYNOPSIS: The F105 Thunderchief ("Thud"), in its various versions, flew more
missions against North Vietnam than any other U.S. aircraft. It also
suffered more losses, partially due to its vulnerability, which was
constantly under revision. The F model carried a second crewman which made
it well suited for the role of suppressing North Vietnam's missile defenses.
Maj. Roosevelt L. Hestle, Jr. was the pilot and Capt. Charles E. Morgan the
backseater onboard an F105F sent on a mission over North Vietnam on July 6,
1966. The aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire about 35 miles
north-northwest of Hanoi, and evidently hit the side of a mountain. No
parachutes were observed, and no emergency beepers were detected. Search and
Rescue was not initiated. Although the outlook was grim, neither man was
declared Killed/Body Not Recovered, but instead, both were classified
Missing In Action.
One night NBC evening news aired footage from a press conference held in
Hanoi. Hestle's wife recognized her husband in the footage as the camera
panned across a group of American POWs and lingered on him. Hestle, a black
man, had a bad case of chicken pox as an adult, and his scarred face was
quite recognizable. Mrs. Hestle went to the NBC studios in Burbank,
California and had them rerun the film on a big screen so she could make
doubly sure that it was indeed her husband. She was convinced.
Mrs. Hestle waited, confident that her husband would return at the end of
the war. When the general prisoner release occurred in 1973, however, the
U.S. received some surprises. Some men whom intelligence analysts were
certain had perished with their planes had survived to be released. Of
greater surprise, perhaps, was that hundreds of Americans expected to return
had not. Morgan and Hestle had never been declared prisoners, but it was
thought the Vietnamese could account for both of them.
The biggest surprise came when Vietnam was overrun by communist forces, and
Vietnamese refugees began to flood the world. These refugees brought with
them thousands of reports of Americans still in captivity in their homeland.
In early 1990, the numbers of such reports amassed to "millions of
documents" and resulted in thousands of interviews. Still, no solution has
been found to secure the freedom of any who may be still alive.
Mrs. Hestle kept looking for information. Seven released POWs called her to
say they had seen her husband in camp, and to rest assured he would come
home soon. Still, he didn't show up.
When the prisoner release was over, Mrs. Hestle approached the Defense
Department and inquired about her husband. She was told that she was
mistaken, that she must have seen one of the other two black airmen shot
down, Cherry or McDaniel. After all, DOD said, all blacks look alike. When
Mrs. Hestle told them seven POWs had seen her husband, they said they weould
look into the matter.
When DOD recontacted her, they told Mrs. Hestle the witnesses had changed
their stories and now said they were mistaken. Mrs. Hestle checked with the
seven as well as the other two black airmen, Cherry and McDaniel. The seven
POWs said they had done no such thing; they maintained Hestle had been held
with them. Cherry and McDaniel said they had not been present when the
newsfilm was shot. Besides, Hestle was a full six inches taller than Cherry
or McDaniel. His pock marks made him very distinctive and he did not closely
resemble anyone else.
On July 31, 1989, the Vietnamese returned remains to U.S. control which were
subsequently positively identified as being those of Capt. Charles E.
Morgan. For nearly 25 years, Morgan was a prisoner of war - dead or alive.
Many authorities who have examined the evidence now believe there are
hundreds of Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, captives of our
long-ago enemy. Certainly, there are hundreds of Americans the Vietnamese
can account for -- including several score known to have been prisoners but
The Defense Department never acknowledged that Hestle was captured in spite
of seven eye-witness reports from American POWs and Mrs. Hestle's
identification. Hestle, a talented engineer, would be a very useful captive
to the Vietnamese.
As long as even one American is unjustly held, we owe him our very best
efforts to secure his freedom. Roosevelt Hestle could still be alive,
wondering why his country has abandoned him.
Charles E. Morgan was promoted to the rank of Major and Roosevelt L. Hestle,
Jr. to the rank of Colonel during the period they were maintained Missing in
From: Duus, Kristen L SFC USARMY DPAA EC (US)
Sent: 22 June, 2017 13:00
To: Undisclosed recipients:
Subject: Pilot Killed In Vietnam War Identified (Hestle)
Air Force Col. Roosevelt Hestle, Jr., has now been accounted for.
On July 6, 1966, Hestle was a pilot assigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter
Squadron, aboard the lead aircraft in a flight of four F-105s on a strike
mission against surface-to-air missile sites in northern Vietnam. As they
approached the target, Hestle issued a missile launch warning, and all
aircraft began evasive action by diving toward the ground. As the aircraft
approached the town of Thai Ngyuen, anti-aircraft began firing at them. Due
to the evasive action, the other aircraft lost site of Hestle. Crews aboard
one aircraft observed a large ball rising from the ground, though no crash
was observed. Contact attempts were unsuccessful and no parachutes or
distress signals were seen or heard. Due to hostile conditions in the area,
search and rescue attempts could not be initiated and an aerial search of
the area produced no results. Based on this information, Hestle was declared
missing in action.
Interment services are pending.
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