On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, an EC-47Q electronic warfare collection aircraft tail number 43-48636, call-sign BARON 52, flying out of Ubon RTAFB, was shot down over Saravane Province, Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The aircraft belonged to and was crewed by the 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron, but the collection crew “back-enders” were from Det 3, 6994th Security Squadron:
The aircraft was on a night-time radio-direction-finding mission, attempting to locate North Vietnamese tanks moving south on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The last radio call from BARON 52 indicated that the aircraft was taking anti-aircraft fire. A search and rescue effort was launched immediately after the aircraft failed to make a scheduled radio check.
Wreckage of the aircraft was spotted by an aerial reconnaissance aircraft on 7 February 1973 and on 9 February 1973, a Search and Rescue team inspected the crash site and observed at least 4 bodies in the wreckage, but were only able to recover the partial remains of one individual before they had to withdraw due to a heavy presence of hostile forces in the area. Air Force officials concluded that based on the evidence they were able to obtain, the crew had perished in the crash and declared them killed in action.
In November 1992, the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting was able to conduct an archeological excavation of the BARON 52 crash site and recovered partial remains of several individuals. However, none of the remains could be positively identified with particular individuals of the crew.
The BARON 52 crew was finally laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, in December 1995 in a communal grave in Section 34, Site number 4402.
BARON 52 was the last EC-47 lost during the Vietnam conflict.
6994th Security Squadron
361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron
- Capt. George R. Spitz – Pilot
- 2nd Lt Severo J. Primm III – Co-Pilot
- Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger – Navigator
- 1st Lt Robert E. Bernhardt – 3rd Pilot