Robert Laurie Hilton
Airman First Class
United States Air Force
Baltimore, Maryland
January 13, 1936 to March 14, 1966
ROBERT L HILTON is on the Wall at Panel 6E, Line 7

Robert L Hilton
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10 Feb 2001


I don't know how to put into words how much I love you and how much I miss you. All my life I dreamt what it would have been like if you were here with us and how I would have turned out. I hope you are proud of me. I try to be a good person. I hope you approve.

I want you to know that I will never give up trying to find you and bring you home with us where you belong. If anyone reads this that knows my Dad please contact me. I would love to hear from you and get to know you and hopefully more about him.

A memorial from his daughter,
Cheryl Hilton
Glen Burnie, Maryland

05 Dec 2005

Uncle Bobby, I never knew you but I have heard about you from my Dad, your brother Walter. He was proud of you and loved you very much. I pray that you are with our Heavenly Father.

Your niece

Carmen Hilton (Uemura)
113 South Staffire Drive, Schumburg, Illinois 60193


Notes from The Virtual Wall

The HU-16 ALBATROSS was developed in the late '40s as an amphibious aircraft for over-water reconnaissance, transport, and search-and-rescue. Although the Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard all operated the HU-16, only the Air Force used it in Vietnam, with aircraft and crews assigned on temporary duty from the 33rd Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron. The HU-16s usually were based at Danang Air Base in northern South Vietnam, and conducted SAR missions off the North Vietnamese coast from an orbit point ("CROWN BRAVO") well north of the Demilitarized Zone. From that location HU-16 crews could respond quickly to SAR requirements offshore southern North Vietnam. The Navy provided SAR support with helicopter-equipped destroyers - the "South SAR" off Cap Mui Ron and the "North SAR" further north off Haiphong - but each SAR unit provided back-up for the others, and the carriers on Yankee Station had additional helicopters if needed.

On 14 March 1966, CROWN BRAVO was manned by HU-1B tail number 51-0071 crewed by

  • Captain David P. Westenbarger, pilot;
  • Lt Walter Hall, co-pilot;
  • Captain Donald Price, navigator;
  • SSgt Clyde Jackson, flight engineer;
  • A1c Robert L. Hilton, radio operator; and
  • A1c James E. Pleiman, pararescueman,
when an F-4C (tail number 64-0740) of the 480th Tac Fighter Squadron was hit by AAA fire while conducting an armed reconnaissance mission south of Than Hoa. The F-4C crew, Major James M. Peerson and Captain Lynwood C. Bryant, managed to get over water before ejecting in the vicinity of a small island chain just offshore North Vietnam, almost equidistant from Than Hoa to the north and Vinh to the south. When the HU-16 and Navy SAR forces were activated Peerson and Bryant were about a mile offshore.

The UH-16 was first on station, supported by fixed-wing aircraft. When Westenbarger landed, the Albatross drew artillery and mortar fire from emplacements ashore as well as small-arms fire from sampans headed out to capture the downed F-4 crewmen. As the UH-16 crew, with A1c Pleiman in the water, attempted to assist Major Peerson aboard, the HU-16 was hit by an artillery shell and exploded in flames, leaving eight men in the water. A Navy SH-3 helicopter from HS-4 was able to pick up Major Peerson before being forced from the area with combat damage. A second SH-3 (also HS-4), operating under cover of supporting fixed-wing aircraft, picked up Bryant, Westenbarger, Hall, and Jackson, and a Navy UH-2 from HC-2 later picked up Captain Price. The rescued HU-16 crewmen stated that A1c Hilton was killed before the Albatross was abandoned and that A1c Pleiman was floating face-down in the water afterwards. Neither Hilton nor Pleiman were recovered.

Both Hilton and Pleiman were classed as Killed in Action/Body not Recovered. On 15 Dec 1988 the Vietnamese turned over remains which, on 13 Apr 1989, were publicly identified as those of A1c James E. Pleiman. A1c Robert L. Hilton has not come home.

Additional information is available on-line from two narrative descriptions of the event:

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