MAJ. RONNIE BROWN
was reported MIA on
February 3, 1966. He
remained in the status of
MIA for eight years. It was not until
May 30, 1974, that the Air Force
changed Maj. Brown’s status from
Missing to Presumed Killed in Action
(KIA), but his remains were still not
found or repatriated.
The tortuous uncertainty for the
Brown family remained without clo-sure
for another 26 years until 2000
when joint U.S. and Vietnamese
POW/MIA Accounting Command
teams were finally able to investigate
possible crash sites of U.S. aircraft in
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. One
of those sites was the remote area sus-pected
of holding the missing plane.
That specific site was never revealed to
the Brown family by the Air Force, nor
were the circumstances surrounding
Maj. Brown’s final flight.
In time, the site, which was proba-bly
in the A Shau Valley but was never
revealed, produced wreckage consistent
with that of a C-123 aircraft. Later
the aircraft’s tail number 55-4537
was recovered and established as Maj.
Brown’s plane. Consequently, on May
19, 2003, the remains of the crew of Provider 55-4537 were
recovered and arrived at the forensic anthropology laboratory at
Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base.
It was not until Jan. 23, 2009, that Maj. Ronnie Brown was
On Aug. 28, 2009, 52 years after he disappeared, his
remains were released to his family and interred with honors in
Arlington National Cemetery along with his crew of Provider
55-4537. They are interred together.
In Vietnam, American pilots and air crews were constantly
called upon to fly under the most dangerous situations imaginable
— sometimes around the clock. At terrible risk and through sheer
as a second
courage, they flew low-level reconnaissance bringing reinforce-ments
in, casualties out, attack, strafing, bombing and supply
runs, always under the threat of enemy fire. They risked their
lives so that allied forces on the ground below could live.
A total 2,197 fixed-wing aircraft were lost in the war.
As of Dec. 21, 2018, according to the Defense POW/MIA
Accounting Agency, there are still 1,592 U.S. military and civil-ian
personnel unaccounted for in the Vietnam War, many of
them pilots and air crew.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Wilbur R. “Ronnie” Brown, an American
patriot who gave his life so that others could live, can be found
on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at Panel 4E, Line 134.
This is Part III of a multi-part series. For Part I: Lloyd “Whit” Whitfield, see the May 2019 issue of WBM. For Part II: Dayton “Wayne”
Lanier, see the July 2019 issue of WBM.
Writer Robert Rehder is a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War. His father was a WWII Merchant Marine deck officer who
sailed in three war theaters. His grandfather, enlisting at age 44, was a WWII Army finance officer who served in France. His brother was
an Army 82nd Airborne artillery lieutenant in Vietnam. The Rehders have two sons who are both United States Marines.
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