Name: Robert Douglas
AVERY, ROBERT DOUGLAS
Rank/Branch: United States Marine Corps/O2
Unit: VMFA 533 MAG 12
Date of Birth:18 December 1941
Home City of Record: Morgantown NC
Date of Loss: 03 May 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164658 North 1070157 East
Status (in 1973): Presumptive Finding of Death
Other Personnel in Incident: Thomas Clem
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File, and Senate Select Committee Hearings.
REMARKS: DID NOT RETURN FROM MISSION
Capt. Avery was part of the A6A aircrew. Radar contact was lost after leaving the target area of Quang Binh, 10 miles south of Quang Kue.
No further information available at this time.
Senate Select Committee Report:
North Vietnam Robert D. Avery
Thomas D. Clem
On May 3, 1968, Avery and Clem were the crew in an A-6A on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam providing support to U.S. Air Force operations along Route Package 1. Radar contact was lost with the aircraft when it was approximately 10 kilometers northwest of the coastal town of Dong Hoi and six kilometers southeast of the district seat of Bo Trach in Quang Binh Province. SAR forces were unable to locate any sign of the crew which was declared missing. Returning U.S. POWs were unable to provide any information on the eventual fate of the crew. After Operation Homecoming they were declared killed in action, body not recovered, based on a presumptive finding of death. In January 1991, a U.S. team in Vietnam visited Bo Trach District and reviewed archival documents. One document listed the downing of an A-6A on May 3, 1968 in which both crewmen died. In July 1991, U.S. researchers at the Military Region IV museum in Vinh City obtained access to an archival list of gravesites of Americans who died there during the war. One entry listed Robert D. Avery as buried in Quang Ninh District from an F-105 downed on April 15, 1968. In January 1992, a Region IV air defense record listed an A- 6A downed on May 3, 1968 with both crewmen dead. In December 1992, a copy of the list of burial sites was turned over by Vietnam to Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs.
Tuesday, July 2, 2002
MIA MYSTERY LEFT FAMILY WONDERING; LEARNED ABOUT CRASH SITE 7 YEARS AFTER DISCOVERY
The mystery of what happened to Doug Avery has tormented his family for
34 years. They know his Marine Corps jet vanished off radar while on a classified mission over North Vietnam.
Years later, through a conversation at a Washington cocktail party, his wife
heard he had gone down over water. That would make finding him all but
impossible. But his plane did not crash in the Gulf of Tonkin, though even the
Vietnamese believed it had.
In 1995, nearly three decades after Avery's plane disappeared, a joint
U.S.-Vietnamese team was probing the coast of Vietnam for another airplane,
part of a continuing effort to locate unaccounted- for veterans. On a narrow, sandy plain near a row of scrub pines, they found a brackish-water- filled crater they would later confirm as the crash site of an A-6A.
The pilot of that plane was Lt. Thomas Dean Clem. His friend and crew mate
was Robert Douglas Avery.
Declassified records in the Library of Congress show that the plane's
mission in the dark, early morning of May 3, 1968, was to bomb enemy supply
routes to the south. The records also detail the government's attempts to
find the plane.
But though the military has known about the crash site since the mid-1990s,
the Avery family learned about it only within the past few weeks. The news
came too late for Avery's mother, who died last spring. His father died in
1984, enduring an agony of uncertainty.
Doug Avery's wife, Grace, who wrote him letters on forms supplied by the
North Vietnamese, died of cancer in 1986, not knowing for sure what
Fueled by Rambo movies and Internet tales of bamboo cages, a cultural myth
has arisen that the U.S. government is not doing anything to account for the
1,912 Americans still missing from the war in Southeast Asia.
But there is a year-round effort, supported by a $40 million annual budget
for the military's Joint Task Force-Full Accounting, as well as a $20 million annual budget for the Army's Central Identification Laboratory, both based in Hawaii.
The Pentagon also has an office of POW/MIA affairs. The Avery case shows the disconnect that sometimes occurs with family members desperate for information.
Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, a spokesman for the Joint Task Force, bristles at the
notion that the Avery family was not notified, even though the excavations
were done seven years ago and the family found out only through a newspaper project.
"Every time we visit a case, the family gets a report. Every time, without
exception. We did dig in '95; they were given a report. That's automatic."
He would not release a copy of the latest excavation report, saying it could
go only to the next of kin. "We know we had the right aircraft," he said. "We found personal effects. We found crew materials. We found human remains [but they] have no DNA potential."
Avery family members do not dispute that the military might have tried to contact them, but for whatever reason they never got the news. Avery's mother, "Lou Doug" Avery, was in a nursing home when the excavations were done, and she could have received the report and not realized it, family members said.
Avery's daughter, Cindy Avery Sugg, of Knoxville, was just 15 months old on
her father's last full day home. He chose to spend the afternoon playing
with her in the living room. She gasps on hearing that a search team found bits of clothing and an unexploded 500-pound bomb at the crash site.
As the daughter of an MIA who later was declared dead, Sugg longs for what
might have been. "For me, it's a sadness and loss for something I never had," she said, starting to cry.
Source: POW Network