Ronald Wayne Forrester
Captain, United States Marine Corps
Name: RONALD WAYNE FORRESTER
Date of Birth: 3/15/1947
Date of Casualty: 12/27/1972
Home of Record: ODESSA, TEXAS
Branch of Service: MARINE CORPS
Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
Casualty Province: NZ
The Grumman A6 Intruder is an all weather, low-altitude, carrier-based attack plane. The A6A primarily flew close air support, all-weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong by a single A6. Their missions were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.
Captain Ralph J. Chipman was the pilot of an Intruder assigned a mission over North Vietnam on December 27, 1972. His co-pilot on the flight was First Lieuenant Ronald W. Forrester. The aircraft did not return from the mission, and last contact was made with the crew over the target area.
A subsequent article in Quan Doi Nhan Dan,
a daily Vietnamese newspaper described an aircraft downed by the Vietnamese.
Apparently the pilot was reported to be dead, and possibly the co-pilot
as well. Although this article was thought to possibly relate to Chipman
and Forrester, it was not definite enough for proof of death. Both men
were classified Missing in Action.
U.S. Marine Captain Ronald Wayne Forrester, an Ector High School graduate, was officially listed as Missing in Action on December 27, 1972, during the Vietnam War — when his little girl was only 2 years old. She’s 36 now.
Co-pilot of an A-6A Intruder, Forrester arrived in Vietnam in September 1972. Every letter he sent home ended with “Give Karoni a kiss for me.”
“A lot of my life has been trying to find what happened to my dad and trying to know him through the people who did know him,” Gonzales, an Odessa High School graduate, said. “I know that he was smart and funny — he was a loving Christian man.”
He’s also MIA. According to the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial Web site, Forrester is the only military man from Ector County who has never been accounted for.
Chairwoman of the National League of Families Publicity Committee, Gonzales is flying today to Hue, Vietnam, to meet diplomats and examine a crash site excavation. The small delegation accompanying her is an effort to increase cooperation with foreign intelligence in hopes of finding answers for the 1,788 U.S. soldiers still missing.
The 16-day trip will include visits to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia through courtesy visas.
“I don’t know if this journey will bring closure, but we’re definitely on the path to closure,” Gonzales said. “I want his remains back and to have them buried in the National Cemetery.”
Jana Forrester Bland, the former wife of the missing Marine, said she personally experienced the grief and questions of knowing an MIA soldier when the co-pilot’s plane went down in North Vietnam.
“He was running a bombing run to take out a bridge, and we think he got hit by anti-aircraft fire,” she said. “The Vietnamese reported one pilot dead and one missing.”
Forrester and the pilot, U.S. Marine Captain Ralph Jim Chipman from Orem, Utah, were listed as MIA.
Their remains have never been recovered.
“All you have is hope for an answer when you’re a member of a family, and you don’t know if that member is still being tortured and held against their will, or if there’s remains that need to be buried where they need to be,” Bland said. “For many of us, the Vietnam War isn’t over until we have all those guys accounted for.”
Through her POW/MIA activity in the National League of Families, Gonzales has been involved with the U.S. Department of Defense in resolving unsolved cases and identifying missing remains.
Gonzales said more than 750 MIA remains have been identified since the war, and she hopes the trip to Vietnam will produce more through the excavated crash site there — even though it may not shed light on her father’s whereabouts.
“It’s the same type of aircraft that my dad
was flying, but it’s a little farther south of where he crashed,” she said.
“I feel it will change my life some way, but
I don’t know how,” she said. “I think it will help all MIA families.”