Gerald Francis Ayres

United States Air Force
23 February 1939 - 18 June 1972
New Castle, Delaware
Panel 01W Line 044



USAF Navigator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Gerald Francis Ayres

14 Nov 2001

I have worn Maj Gerald Ayers POW/MIA bracelet for many years now. My husband was in the Air Force and got the bracelet at work one day for me. He picked yours out because it showed you were from Delaware and we used to be stationed there. Your bracelet says your date of missing is four months to the date before the birth of our oldest daughter. I wonder about you and what your family was like and how they are doing. I am lucky - and so grateful - my husband served 20 years and retired from the Air Force and we still have him with us - we never had to go through what your family did. My bracelet broke about 2 years ago. It broke my heart when it did - Maybe someday I can learn how to get a new one of yours. I need for anyone who knows you to know - that someone they don't know thinks of you often. You will never be forgotten by me - even though I did not know you. I am one person who is grateful for all you did and all sacrificed to try to make this world a better, safer one.

We have been to the wall in Washington and made and got a pencil rubbing of your name. I have also visited the traveling wall daily when it was here to pay you respects you deserve.

01 June 2002

I just wanted to send an update to the memorial I made earlier. A very kind person contacted me after reading the memorial I had written and today I received a new bracelet in the mail for Gerald. This person's family knew him and they had an extra bracelet that they were able to send to me. I am very grateful to now have a new bracelet with his name on it. THANK YOU for helping me.

E-Mail may be forwarded via the
20 Oct 2006

I served with Jerry Ayres (both Navigators) at the 44th Airlift Squadron at Travis AFB in 1967-69. Jerry was a real class act with a vibrant personality. He was the kind of guy that you like to hang around with because he always had interesting/controversial comments. I was very sorry to learn of his giving the ultimate sacrifice. Now, many years later I offer my prayers and condolences to his family. God bless Jerry - he was a good man.

Marty Godfrey
Captain, USAF

A Note from The Virtual Wall

The 16th Special Operations Squadron, based at Ubon, Thailand, flew the AC-130 SPECTRE gunship. On the night of 18 June 1972, an AC-130A Spectre gunship (tail number 55-0043, call sign "Spectre 11") launched on a night armed reconnaissance mission to attack NVA along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The crew consisted of 15 men:
  • Capt Paul F. Gilbert, pilot;
  • Capt. Robert A. Wilson, co-pilot;
  • Maj. Robert H. Harrison, navigator;
  • Major Gerald F. Ayres, sensor operator;
  • Capt. Mark G. Danielson, electronic warfare officer;
  • Capt. Gordon L. Bocher, fire control officer;
  • 2nd Lt. Robert V. Reid, low light sensor operator;
  • TSgt Richard M. Cole, flight engineer;
  • SSgt. Leon A. Hunt, aerial gunner;
  • TSgt Richard E. Nyhof, aerial gunner;
  • SSgt. Larry J. Newman, aerial gunner;
  • MSgt. Jacob E. Mercer, aerial gunner;
  • SSgt. Stanley L. Lehrke, aerial gunner;
  • SSgt Donald H. Klinke, illuminator operator; and
  • SSgt. William B. Patterson, illuminator operator.
According to witnesses in another aircraft and survivor debriefs, the AC-130 was hit by an SA-7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile. The AC-130 then broke up in flight and crashed. Although initial reports placed the crash location in Laos, subsequent SAR efforts (and later on-the-ground investigation) placed the location just over the border within South Vietnam, near the village of A Hua in Thua Thien Province.

At least three men were thrown clear of the aircraft as it broke up and parachuted safely to the ground. SAR efforts were begun at daybreak and Capt. Bocher, 2nd Lt. Reid and SSgt. Patterson were successfully picked up. The three men are reported to have stated, during debrief, that they saw at least one additional parachute.

Although the SAR efforts continued for six days, no trace of the rest of the crew was found. No ground search was possible due to the intense enemy presence in the region. When the formal search was terminated, the remaining 12 crewmen were declared Missing in Action.

At this point, matters become less certain. There were reports that some of the Spectre 11 crewmen had been captured, but in a 12 November 1993 letter Major General Thomas H. Needham, then Commander, Joint Task Force - Full Accounting, stated that

"4. In June 1993, a joint investigation team located two witnesses who produced dog tags relating to two individuals (Harrison, Wilson) involved in this incident, along with three flight helmets. The team photographed the dog tags and helmets which were retained by the witnesses. The team traveled to the crash site and conducted a survey. During the survey, the team recovered portions of a flight suit and survival vest. The team also observed the tail assembly from a C-130 aircraft.

"5. During August and September 1993, a joint team excavated the crash site and recovered teeth, bone fragments, and ID media (Ayers) from the site. The material evidence recovered from the site confirms a minimum of four individuals were aboard the aircraft at impact. Additionally, a data plate, 20mm cannon, 40mm Bofers gun, and a UHF radio control panel recovered from the site, confirms that the aircraft was an AC-130 aircraft. According to JTF-FA records, the REFNO 1879 aircraft is the only AC-130 which crashed within 40 kilometers of this site.

"6. Analysis of the reporting from on-scene SAR forces, survivor statements, and testimony from villagers who visited the crash site, indicate that only three of the fifteen crew members exited the aircraft before impact. JTF-FA files contain no evidence which suggests that any of the twelve remaining crewmembers survived the crash of the aircraft."

The US government holds that the remains recovered and other evidence is sufficient evidence that the twelve men died in the crash. Three of the crewmen were identified individually from the recovered remains - Major Gerald F. Ayers, Captain Mark Danielson, and SMSgt Jacob Mercer. On 17 November 1994, a group burial of the co-mingled remains of the AC-130A Spectre gunship crew was held at Arlington National Cemetery.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wears his MIA bracelet,
E-Mail may be forwarded via the

Top of Page

Virtual Wall icon

Back to
To alpha index A
DE State Index . Panel 01W
16TH SOS Index

With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 14 Nov 2001
Last updated 11/05/2006