Name: Kenneth Richard Buell
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 35, USS AMERICA
Date of Birth: 24 August 1934
Home City of Record: Kankakee IL
Date of Loss: 17 September 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 205620N 1062000E (XJ387158)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Verne G. Donnelly (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude, carrier-based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and electronic warfare platform. 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.
On September 17, 1972, Cdr. Verne G. Donnelly, pilot, and LtCdr. Kenneth R. Buell, co-pilot, launched from the USS America (CVA-66) on a combat mission over the vicinity of Hai Duong, North Vietnam. As the aircraft was about eight miles west of that city, it went down, and both crew men were declared Missing in Action.
Information from U.S. Navy public records are scanty, indicating only that Buell and Donnelly were Missing in Action on a combat mission. The Defense Intelligence Agency further defines this classification by adding an enemy knowledge category. Buell and Donnelly are category 4, which indicates that their time and location may have been unknown, or that there is no intelligence to support belief that the enemy knows their fates.
It seems improbable that Buell and Donnelly's aircraft went down unnoticed by the Vietnamese in this relatively populous area, but the Vietnamese consistently have denied any knowledge of the fates of either man.
When American involvement in the war ended, 591 Americans were released from prison camps in Southeast Asia, but Buell and Donnelly were not among them. Military experts expressed their dismay that "some hundreds" suspected to be prisoner were not released. Since that time, U.S. Government intelligence agencies have conducted "over 250,000 interviews" and analyzed "several million documents" relating to Americans missing in Indochina. Many government officials who have seen this classified data believe that hundreds of Americans remain alive in captivity today.
Whether Buell and Donnelly survived to be captured is not known. Whether they are among the hundreds said to be still alive is uncertain as well. What is certain, however, is that there can be no honorable end to the Vietnam war as long as even one American serviceman remains in enemy hands. It's time we brought our men home.
On February 5, 1991, the U.S. announced that remains had been returned by the Vietnamese which had been positively identified as being those of Verne G. Donnelly. After 25 years, Donnelly was finally home.
Fate of Kenneth Richard Buell still unknown.