Albert Eduardo Rodriguez
18 July 1942 – ????
Then Maj. Ernest A. Olds and 1Lt. Albert E. Rodriguez comprised the crew of an F4D Phantom fighter/bomber sent on a mission over North Vietnam on March 11, 1968. Their mission area was near a railroad which runs parallel to the Nguon Nay River in Quang Binh Province.
The F4 Phantom D model had only arrived in Vietnam the previous May and was initially part of the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron’s aircraft inventory. The D model was improved over the C model with the addition of a lead-computing sight and central air data computer for both bombing and navigation. The computer automatically determined the weapon release point for all bombing modes – dive or level, at night or in bad weather. The D model also launched Walleye television guided missiles and laser guided bombs. All in all, the Phantom was the “hot” aircraft of the day, and pilots were proud to fly them.
Rodriguez and Olds are both in “pilot” classifications, so it is unclear which is the pilot and which was the backseater/bomber/navigator on this flight, but given the ranks and the fact that Rodriguez’ military occupational specialty is classified, it is rather safe to assume that Olds was the pilot and Rodriguez the “guy in back” – the one with the extensive systems knowledge.
At a point about 5 miles southwest of the city of Ron, Olds and Rodriguez’ aircraft was shot down. Other aircraft in the area saw the crash site, but heard no emergency beepers, nor did they see any parachutes indicating that one or more of the crew ejected from the crippled aircraft.
Because the area in which the aircraft went down was a populous one, there is reason to believe that, if the crew survived, the enemy knew their fate. The area was not conducive for rescue efforts, although one would have commenced if there had been any indication that the crew was safe.
Since 1968, the Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fates of Olds and Rodriguez. Then on July 24, 1989, it was announced that remains “discovered” and returned by the Vietnamese to the U.S. had been positively identified as being those of 1Lt. Albert E. Rodriguez.
The Rodriguez family can now lay their well loved son to rest. They know now that he is dead. In light of the thousands of reports of Americans still in captivity in Vietnam, however, they may never know when – or how – he died.