Robert Malcolm Elliot
Remains Identified - 1999
|SYNOPSIS: Capt. Robert M. Elliot was assigned to the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at
Korat Airbase in southern Thailand. On Valentine's Day 1968, Elliot was the pilot of an
F105D fighter jet assigned a combat mission near Hanoi, North Vietnam.
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. Between 1965 and 1971, the
aircraft was equipped with armor plate, a secondary flight control system, an improved
pilot ejection seat, a more precise navigation system, better blind bombing capability
and ECM pods for the wings. While the D version was a single-place aircraft, the F
model carried a second crewman which made it well suited for the role of suppressing
North Vietnam's missile defenses.
Eighty-six F-105Ds fitted with radar homing and warning gear formed the backbone of
the Wild Weasel program, initiated in 1965 to improve the Air Force's electronic warfare
capability. Upon pinpointing the radar at a missile site, the Wild Weasel attacked with
Shrike missiles that homed on radar emissions. The versatile aircraft was also credited
with downing 25 Russian MiGs. Thirteen of these modified F's were sent to Southeast
Asia in 1966.
Capt. Elliot's Thunderchief was number two in a flight of four. The flight was to make
successive runs on their target near Hanoi. As Elliot was pulling off the target during one
of his planned runs, his aircraft was hit by hostile fire. He radioed that he was hit, but
the rest of the flight did not see any parachute or hear emergency beeper signals indica-
ting that he was able to eject from the aircraft. Elliot was declared Missing in Action.
The Air Force was careful not to declare Elliot dead unduly, even though no evidence
existed to indicate that he survived. Early in the war, pilots had been declared dead
because of the grim circumstances surrounding the crash of their aircraft, only to turn
up in the prison systems of North Vietnam. Indeed, several intelligence reports were
received that indicated Elliot had been captured, although outside confirmation of this
fact was apparently never made.
Elliot is among many Americans on whom information is almost certainly held by the
Vietnamese, but the Vietnamese continue to deny knowledge of him or of his fate. As
reports mount convincing many authorities that Americans are still alive in Southeast
Asia, held captive by our long-ago enemy, one must wonder if one of those said to be
still alive is Robert Elliot. He may not know that he has been promoted to the rank of
Lt. Colonel. What must he be thinking of us?
No. 195-M MEMORANDUM FOR CORRESPONDENTS December 27, 1999
The remains of an American serviceman previously unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War have been identified
and are being returned to his family for burial in the United States.
He is identified as Air Force Colonel Robert M. Elliot of Springfield, Mass.