Robert Joseph Di Tommaso

Lieutenant Colonel
United States Air Force
07 August 1941 - 21 March 1979
Buffalo, New York
Panel 09E Line 086



Robert J Di Tommaso

Purple Heart, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Robert Joseph Di Tommaso

24 May 2000

I would like to dedicate this site to the memory of Robert's mother...
Mafalda Di Tommaso, who spent the last 25 years of her life searching for her son.

She was a great lady!

I first learned about Robert Di Tommaso in the early 1980's, when I had the pleasure of meeting his mother, Malfada, on several occasions. She was a good friend of my ex-husband, Eugene, who worked with some Viet Nam Vets in Buffalo, NY. She was a great lady, and was totally dedicated to finding her Bobby. In a 1988 interview for the Buffalo News, she stated,

"You gotta keep on the go all the time and it costs a lot of money."

She was explaining her continuing efforts to find and bring Bobby home. She supported most of these efforts with her social security checks. She was 75 at the time, and recently home from her trip to Hawaii in which she was to welcome Bobby home. He wasn't there, nor were his remains, or any new information. Malfada Di Tommaso died March 20, 1991, never knowing what happened to her beloved son.

Please visit my
full memorial to Bobby Di Tommaso

Janet Halecki

31 Oct 03

I, too, wore Bobby's MIA bracelet back in the 70's and 80's. I have the original copy of the picture shown on this memorial page. His mother sent it to me with one of her letters. I was just a teenager then, still in high school, but still have her notes and cards that always ended with the same phrase, "Pray for Peace". I have three sons now, all in their 20's, and I find myself still thinking of Bobby.

This morning as I got ready for work and was gathering my watch and rings from my jewelry box his bracelet caught my eye and I picked it up and put it on.

Don't ever forget.

Sue Peterson

05 Aug 2007

I don't know what inspired me to search the internet today for Robert Di Tomasso ... I have thought about him for over 30 years, remembering the POW Bracelet I purchased for $10.00. I wore it religiously until it snapped in two pieces where it laid for countless years.

My brother was the age for the Draft and I recall being afraid and sad that his number would be called. Purchasing the bracelet was my way of being a part of things in the early '70's. I don't know what became of my bracelet - but more importantly the man who it was dedicated to. I am shocked but happy to have found this page in his honor. I never knew anything about him or his family but NEVER forgot his name. I wish I could obtain another bracelet to wear in his honor until he is returned home.

I will write to my congressman today in honor of Robert Di Tomasso and his commrades who have yet returned to our soil. Thank you, Janet, for keeping his story and spirit alive.

Cynthia San Julian

05 Nov 2007

I have kept Bob's bracelet in my jewelry box all these years too. I wore it so long that it finally broke into two halves from the bending needed to remove it and put it back on again. I then taped it on the underside so I could still wear it.

I was 21 years old when I got the bracelet in 1969 and have lived in the Buffalo area all my life. Bobby was only 24 at that time and was a local boy so it hit home for me.

Now we are in another unpopular war, and my son is 21 yrs. I am glad there is no draft, but fear for the boys and men fighting so far away.

Deborah (Winegarden) Leonard

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 29 July 1966 an RC-47D intelligence collection aircraft (tail number 43-48388) crewed by
  • Major Galileo F. Bossio, pilot, 8th Cbt Spt Grp (Ubon RTAFB);
  • Captain Robert E. Hoskinson, copilot, 467th Cbt Spt Grp (Clark AB, RP);
  • Captain Bernard Conklin, copilot, 3486th Air Base Wing TDY to 388th CSG;
  • 1Lt Vincent A. Chiarello, Intel Officer, 33rd Cbt Spt Grp (Pleiku, SVN);
  • 1Lt Robert J. Di Tommaso, Intel Officer, 388th Cbt Spt Grp (Korat RTAFB);
  • SSgt James S. Hall, Radio Operator, 630th Cbt Spt Grp (Udorn RTAFB);
  • TSgt John M. Mamiya, Crew Chief, 6486th CA Maint Sqd (Hickam AFB); and
  • TSgt Herbert E. Smith, Crew Chief, 630th CA Maint Sqd (Udorn RTAFB).
was conducting reconnaissance operations along the Lao/North Vietnamese border area in the vicinity of Sam Neua, Laos. The unarmed transport, callsign DOGPATCH 02, was taken under attack by North Vietnamese fighters. Radio contact was lost, and it was assumed that the aircraft and crew had been downed in North Vietnam. Visual reconnaissance in the area failed to locate either the crash site or any sign of the crew. All eight men were classed as Missing in Action.

There are a number of uncertainties regarding this flight:

  • Unit assignments for the eight men aboard are unclear.

    The POW Network indicates several were assigned to the "388th Combat Support Group, Udorn Airbase, Thailand", but the 388th CSG was a component of the 388th Tac Ftr Wing at Korat RTAFB, while on 29 July 1966 the 630th Combat Support Group was at Udorn RTAFB. The Task Force Omega biographies note the mixed nature of the crew, stating that the crewmen
    "were extremely well trained and experienced in their respective fields, and were brought together from different units for this mission."
    The unit assignments shown above are taken from the DoD's Central Identification Laboratory database and are considered authoritative.

  • The flight's point of departure also is uncertain.

    The POW Network biographies indicate the aircraft departed from Udorn, but there are eye-witnesses to its departure from Nakon Phanom RTAFB (NKP). Hobson (Vietnam Air Losses) states the aircraft, if not the crew, was assigned to the 606th Air Commando Squadron at NKP.

  • The mission objective is unclear.
    • Task Force Omega says it was an "RC-47D Airborne Command and Control aircraft on a classified operational mission".
    • The POW Network notes the "Primary objective of the C-47 in Laos at that point in the war was visual reconnaissance. ... This particular plane, however, was working in support of the CIA's secret indigenous army ..."
    • Keith Rohring, who arrived in NKP on 30 July 66, says the "C-47 was 'bristling' with electronics - [its] mission was essentially to fly near the Ho Chi Minh Trail at precise dates and times to pick up Hmong tribes people's broadcasts of who was on the trail, when and how many. . . "
The CIA did indeed recruit Hmong tribesmen to monitor the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and did equip them with short-range radios to report on their observations. Given the mixed crew and the apparent "close-hold" nature of the mission, it appears likely that Rohring's explanation is correct.

In any case, none of the eight returned with the POWs in February 1973, and over time the Secretary of the Air Force approved Presumptive Findings of Death for all eight - Di Tommaso on 21 March 1979.

In 1988, the remains of five of the eight crewmen were repatriated and identified; Hoskinson, Bossio, and Di Tommaso, however, have not come home.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wears his MIA bracelet,
Janet Halecki

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 24 May 2000
Last updated 03/15/2008