STARK, WILLIAM ROBERT
Name: William Robert Stark
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 96, USS ENTERPRISE (CVAN 65)
Date of Birth: 05/28/30 (Michigan City IN)
Home City of Record: Coranado CA
Date of Loss: 19 May 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 203952N 1054125E (WH718962)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Richard Rich, missing
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
NETWORK 02/97 with information provided by William R. Stark.
REMARKS: 730304 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: When nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on
December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with
her not only an imposing physical presence, but also an impressive component
of warplanes and the newest technology. By the end of her first week of
combat operations, the ENTERPRISE had set a record of 165 combat sorties in
a single day, surpassing the KITTY HAWK's 131. By the end of her first
combat cruise, her air wing had flown over 13,000 combat sorties. The record
had not been achieved without cost.
One of the aircraft launched from the decks of the ENTERPRISE was the F4
Phantom fighter/bomber. The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air
wings, served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and
interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was
extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending
on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and
handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of
state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and
computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of
the "hottest" planes around.
When the ENTERPRISE arrived in Vietnam on its second combat cruise, two of
its pilots were LTCDR William R. Stark and CDR Richard Rich. The two
comprised the crew of an F4B Phantom sent on a mission over North Vietnam
near the city of Hanoi on May 19, 1967. Rich served as the pilot of the
aircraft, while Stark was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO).
During the mission, Rich's wingman reported that enemy defenses, both
anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were extremely heavy.
He and CDR Rich were forced to fly their aircraft at very low altitudes in
order to avoid the numerous missiles. While over the target, the wingman
observed a missile detonate close behind CDR Rich's aircraft and he
subsequently lost sight of Rich's aircraft during the violent evasive
maneuvering. Visual contact was completely lost and repeated radio calls to
CDR Rich produced negative results. The wingman found no trace of Rich's
aircraft, there were no emergency radio signals, and the wingman saw no
parachutes. Search and rescue efforts were impossible due to the high threat
in the Hanoi area. Electronic surveillance of the area produced negative
In 1973, 591 Americans were released by the Vietnamese from Hanoi, including
William R. Stark. Stark had been advanced to the rank of Commander during
the years of his captivity. Richard Rich was among hundreds known or
suspected to be held captive that were not released. Since that time, the
Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of the fate of Richard Rich.
For 23 years, the Vietnamese have denied knowledge of the fate of Richard
Rich, even though his aircraft went down in a heavily populated area. There
is every reason to believe that Vietnamese could account for Rich, even if
he died when his aircraft went down. On November 11, 1976, the Department of
the Navy declared Richard Rich dead, based on no specific information he was
still alive. During the time he was maintained Missing in Action, Rich was
advanced to the rank of Captain.
Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese
"stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous
times. Could Rich be waiting, in a casket, for just such a moment?
Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S.
relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have
examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the
conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Could Rich
be among these?
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it
really who they say it is?" and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as
reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in
Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically
expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As
long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must
do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
WILLIAM R. STARK
Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: May 19, 1967
Released: March 14, 1973
I was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 28, 1930. Father was a police
officer - mother, a nurse. I attended public schools, graduating in 1948. I
played football, was active in public speaking, and belonged to the usual
organizations - Hi-Y, Boy Scouts, etc. I met my wife, Shirley, in a senior
journalism class, and I've been "going steady" with her ever since.
Enlisting in the Navy in June 1948, my first assignment was in Key West,
Shirley and I were married in Key West on 22 October 1949, and our only
child, Susie, was born there on 29 October 1951. On separation from the
service in June 1952, we enrolled at Valpariso University, Valpariso,
Indiana, where we spent one year, transferring to Stetson University,
Deland, Florida, where I completed a Business Administration major. Started
Stetson College of Law where I completed a year and a half before running
out of money, air speed and ideas all at the same time. So we came back into
the Navy through the OCS program, receiving a commission as Ensign on 1 July
1957. In 1964, after acquiring an MS in Management from the Naval Post
Graduate School, I was ordered to the Naval Academy where I taught Military
Law for two years.
Then it was back to the West Coast and training as a Radar Intercept Officer
before assignment to VF 96. I joined the squadron in the Philippines in
March 1967 and was shot down just south of Hanoi on 19 May 1967, so you can
see that my association with VF96 was short, but enjoyable.
My family lived in Coronado throughout the period of my captivity. Shirley
worked part time as a teller at the Bank of America; Susie graduated from
high school (9th in her class!) in 1969, then attended the University of
Cal. at Santa Barbara as a history major for three years before going with
TWA as a flight hostess. Hopeful of being able to continue in the Navy and
ultimately to acquire the law degree on which Shirley and I set our sights a
long time ago, we plan to spend the major portion of our remaining lives in
Let me conclude this with a thought or two concerning my feelings about
America and the American people.
I've been genuinely touched by the unaccountable kindnesses shown to me
since my return from almost six years in captivity. Our welcome has exceeded
my wildest "imaginings" of what it might be like; and I have great
difficulty in finding the words to express my gratitude. There have been
changes, certainly, in the dress, the morals, and the attitudes of people;
but I've been struck with the recurring thought that beneath that tie, and
under that long hair exists a pride in being an Americon that is more
apparent to me than when I went to Vietnam six years ago. I notice it
particularly in the young people with whom I've come in contact, and it has
afforded me with one of the most pleasant surprises that I've had - and
there have been many as you might well imagine!
In short, my confidence level in the young people of America is sky-high and
correspondingly, my outlook for America is also high - because the kids are
the future - and I'm delighted with the prospects.
After 40 missions over South Vietnam and 2 missions over Laos, William Stark
was shot down just south of Hanoi. During an uncontrolled ejection, William
Stark suffered compound fractures of the lower back, a broken arm and a
broken knee. During his 6 years in captivity, William Stark lived in 7
different camps/cell blocks.
Of this time, he says "some of it was painful, (dislocated shoulder) some of
it was boring, but all of it was instructive in getting 'a handle' on who
you are, as a person, and what are YOUR capabilities. As it turned out, I
found that I could 'endure and prevail' a lot better than I imagined I could
have BEFORE captivity."
Stark has received 2 Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit with Combat V, the
Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star with Combat V, DMSM, 2 Air Medals,
Navy Commendation with Combat V (2nd Award) and 2 Purple Hearts. William
Stark retired from the United States Navy as a Captain after 29 years of
service on November 1, 1981.
As he reflects now on his captivity, he says of lessons learned, "NEVER
allow others to establish your limits! You, as an individual will be very
pleasantly surprised to learn they are far HIGHER than you think they are."
After medically retiring from a city Police Department in California in
1993, he still volunteers as an police investigator and field operator.
William and Shirly's daughter, Susan, has made a career as a civil servant
with the Naval Air Station at North Island.
Use your Browser's BACK function to return to the PREVIOUS page