CDR Jack Feldhaus, USN

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Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder

 

This page is excerpted from a thesis written by Peter Fey, LCDR, USN BA, University of Colorado, Boulder, DO 1995.

 

In an effort to convince the North Vietnamese government to abandon its support of the insurgency in South Vietnam, President Johnson began a new bombing campaign in March 1965, known as Operation Rolling Thunder.

 

Lasting from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, Rolling Thunder was the longest bombing campaign in United States history. It involved tactical aviation assets from the 7th Air Force in Thailand and South Vietnam, as well as aircraft from 7th Fleet and Marine Corps assets.

 

The campaign was marred by disputes between senior military leaders and the civilian administration from the outset. Military leaders argued for decisive strikes in order to isolate North Vietnam and to destroy their production capabilities and transportation systems.

 

President Johnson and Secretary McNamara sought the graduated use of force, choosing a cycle of bombing halts followed by escalation in an effort to persuade the North Vietnamese to negotiate for peace with the United States and South Vietnam.

 

During the three years of Rolling Thunder, Johnson and McNamara instituted seven bombing halts.

 

The three basic objectives of Operation Rolling Thunder under the Johnson administration were:

  1. Strategically deter North Vietnam from supporting the insurgency in South Vietnam;
  2. Raise the morale of military and political elites in South Vietnam;
  3. Interdict North Vietnam’s support of the communist insurgency in the South.

Johnson and his staff continually sought a middle ground that would demonstrate American resolve without raising the ire of the international community. Ironically, by seeking this middle ground, the administration guaranteed that Rolling Thunder would fail to meet any of its objectives.

 

Rolling Thunder went through five phases.  

 

During Phase I, from March to June 1965, a variety of targets were struck in an attempt to persuade North Vietnam to negotiate for peace. The air strikes served little purpose, other than to harden the resolve of North Vietnam and to solidify the sanctity of their cause. Most importantly, it led to the creation of the world’s most complex and lethal air defense networks.

 

Phase II from July 1965 to January 1966 was primarily an interdiction campaign aimed at roads, bridges, boats, and railroads. These attacks destroyed an estimated 4,600 trucks, 4,700 boats, and 800 railroad cars. At the urging of Admiral U. S. Grant Sharp, CINCPAC, the focus of Rolling Thunder shifted from interdiction to petroleum products.

 

Admiral Sharp realized that the interdiction campaign was not achieving the desired results and believed that by focusing the campaign on energy resources, North Vietnam might be forced to negotiate for peace.

 

Phase III from January to October 1966, focused on North Vietnam’s petroleum, oil, and lubricant (POL) resources. Before this phase began, North Vietnam required only 32,000 tons of oil a year to supply their needs. By the time Rolling Thunder began to target POL resources, North Vietnam had 60,000 tons of POL stocks in reserve.

While the attacks destroyed an estimated 70 percent of the North Vietnamese supply, the North dispersed the remaining stock in fifty-five gallon barrels throughout the country. This proved more than adequate to supply the infantry and guerrilla forces fighting in South Vietnam and did little to affect the war in South Vietnam.

 

Phase IV from October 1966 to May 1967, concentrated the campaign’s efforts on the industry and power-generating capabilities of North Vietnam. For the first time, targets in Hanoi were struck, but as with Phase III the new tactics failed to have much impact on a non-industrialized country. Because North Vietnam’s ports still remained off limits, the strikes did not impede North Vietnamese ability to receive and distribute supplies destined for South Vietnam.


 Phase V, the final phase, from May 1967 to October 1968, concentrated on isolating Hanoi from Haiphong, and both cities from the remainder of the country, as well as the destruction of remaining industrial infrastructure. United States aircraft averaged over 13,000 sorties a month and destroyed over 5,600 trucks, 2,500 rail cars, and 11,500 boats during this final phase of Rolling Thunder.

 

As during earlier phases, the North Vietnamese air defense network grew. By 1967, pilots confronted the most comprehensive air defense network in the world. North Vietnam fired over 25,000 tons of AAA ammunition from 10,000 anti-aircraft guns and hundreds of missiles from over twenty-five SAM battalions during any given month of 1967.

 

USS Oriskany 1965 WESTPAC

The Information below has been derived from multiple sources. Rene Francillon’s Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club and Chris Hobson’s Vietnam Air Losses serve as primary sources of this data. Further amplifying information maybe found in the Center For Naval Analysis’ List of Aircraft Lost in Southeast Asia and various unit histories. Data for each loss is given in the following format: Date; type of aircraft with BuNo, side number and squadron; pilot if known and their status.

 

  • Homeport departure/return: Alameda, 5 April 1965-16 December 1965
  • In-chop / out-chop: 27 April 1965-6 December 1965
  • Line Periods: 8-31 May; 11 June-18 July; 10 August-10 September; 30 September-18 October; 29 October-25 November
  • Total: 141 days on the line

Squadrons:

Squadron                         Aircraft            Call Sign

VMF(AW)-212           F-8E                 Sea Grape

VF-162                                F-8E                 Super Heat

VA-163                                A-4E                   Old Salt

VA-164                                A-4E                            Magic Stone

VA-152                                A-1H/J                Locket

VAH-4 Det G                    A-3B                  Holly Green

VFP-63 Det G                  RF-8A               Cork Tip

VAW-11 Det G                 E-1B                   Over Pass

HU-1 Det 1 Unit G UH-2A

 

Combat Losses (13)

 

26 August 1965: A-1H (139720, AH592) of VA-152; LT(jg) Edward A/ Davis, POW.

A flight of A-1s was on a night armed reconnaissance mission, looking for trucks along coastal roads in the southern portion of North Vietnam. Near Xuan Noa, fifteen miles from the DMZ, the flight lead spotted what looked like a truck park and initiated a dive bombing attack. LT(jg) Davis’ aircraft was hit in the fuselage by AAA and he bailed out. His wingman saw no chute or post crash signal and reported that it was unlikely that Davis had survived. LT(jg) Davis was reported KIA, though he had survived and was captured. Davis was repatriated in 1973. 

   

   Edward A. Davis, 67, a Roxborough native and retired Navy captain who spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, died of cancer November 7 at Essa Flory Hospice Center in Lancaster

   In 1965, Lt. Davis was piloting a Navy A-1 Skyraider on his 57th mission when it was shot down over North Vietnam.  He was captured and marched barefoot to a prison complex in Hanoi known as the "Hanoi Hilton".  He was interrogated and tortured by his captors,  who called him "Dau", which means pain. 

   His family, who had been notified that he was missing in action, discovered that he was a prisoner of war in 1967 when a television news clip showed a parade of captured fliers in Hanoi

   He was among 590 American prisoners of war released in 1973.  He flew back to the United States, bringing with him a small yellow-and-white puppy he rescued from the prison yard.  He received two Purple Hearts, five Bronze Stars and three Silver Stars.   

   In 1988 he told a reporter, "I came back kind of a young Rip van Winkle and spent the first year trying to figure out who my contemporaries were and how I fit in". 

   Ten years later, he told another reporter: "We were and still are supported as if we came home yesterday.  I've always been humbled by that.  ...We were not abandoned". 

   After his return to the United States, he earned a master's degree in international relations at the University of Virginia and was executive officer of the school's Navy ROTC.  He then served as the Navy's director of advertising in Washington and commanded the Navy Recruitment District for Eastern and Central Pennsylvania in Harrisburg and moved to Lancaster County.  He retired in 1987.  

   Captain Davis grew up in Roxborough.  He graduated from St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, where his quad rowing team won a national championship.  He also competed for the Vesper Rowing Club.  He attended Villanova University for a year before transferring to the Naval Academy

   He was a popular motivational speaker, his sister Lynda Paz y Mino said.

    He told history classes at St. Joe's about his Vietnam experiences, said Al Zimmerman, the school's alumni-relations director.  "He was compelling," Zimmerman said.  "He spoke about how optimism and faith had kept him going." 

   Capt. Davis is survived by his wife of six years, Karen Wheeler Davis; his daughters, Jennifer Meyer and Amanda; his step-children, Mark Roda, Tim Roda, Tara McNaughton and Kimberly Moorhead; three brothers; two sisters; eight grandchildren; and his former wife, Elaine Bender Davis. 

   Friends may call from 5 to 7:30pm tomorrow at the Snyder Funeral Home, 3110 Lititz Pike, Lancaster.  A Funeral Mass will be said at 10 am Saturday at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 558 W. Walnut Street, Lancaster.   

   Burial will be in the spring in Arlington National Cemetery. 

29 August 1965: A-1H (134619, AH 586) of VA-152; LT Taylor, KIA.

LT Taylor was shot down by intensive AAA while providing a CAP for a downed F-105 pilot near Son La in Route Package V.

29 August 1965: RF-8A (146828, PP 919) of VFP-63; LT McWhorter, KIA .

Shot down on the same day as LT Taylor, LT McWhorter was killed while flying North of Vinh. At about 8,000 feet, he and his wingman encountered heavy AAA. After taking evasive action, his wingman reported McWhorter’s aircraft flying wings level, but without the canopy and ejection seat. Damage in the vicinity of the cockpit area indicated that AAA may have fired the seat and probably killed the pilot. The landing gear came down as a result of damage to the hydraulic systems, and the aircraft entered a gentle glide until it hit the ground. LT McWhorter’s remains were returned in February 1987.


6 September 1965: A-4E (152042, AH475) of VA-164; LT Burton, recovered.

LT Burton’s Skyhawk was hit by 37mm AAA while on a strike against the Hai Yen naval base near Thanh Hoa. Burton climbed immediately so as to reach the relative safety of the sea before the engine failed. Ninety seconds later, with fuel streaming and his aircraft on fire, his hydraulics failed, causing him to lose control of the aircraft . He ejected less than one mile from shore and was picked up by an Air Force HU-16 amphibian.

8 September 1965: RF-8A (146825, PP 918) of VFP-63; LT(jg) Rudolph, KIA.

The Oriskany lost its second photo reconnaissance Crusader of the cruise, when LT(jg) Rudolph was hit by AAA while looking for SAM sites near Thanh Hoa. Soon after crossing the coast he and his wingman were targeted. His wingman watched him roll inverted and the canopy fall away, but lost sight due to his own evasive maneuvering. He was unable to see if Rudolph ejected prior to the aircraft impacting 15 miles Northeast of Thanh Hoa. Though SAR efforts were launched, they were unsuccessful.  LT(jg) Rudolph’s remains were returned in December 1988.

9 September 1965: A-4E (151134, AH352) of VA-163; CDR Stockdale, POW.

CDR Stockdale was the carrier air wing commander of CVW-16 and was shot down on his 175th mission. He was leading a strike against the Thanh Hoa Bridge, but weather obscured the target. Stockdale then ordered his aircraft after secondary targets. He and CDR Wynn Foster, the XO of VA-163 decided to bomb railroad sidings fifteen miles South of Thanh Hoa. After making one pass, he pulled up to make a second. During his pull up, he was hit by 37mm fire. With the aircraft diving at great speed in close proximity to the ground, he had little choice but to eject. He landed in the village of Tin Gia and was immediately captured. CDR Stockdale became the senior American POW and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for leading the American POW resistance.


5 October 1965: F-8E (150848, AH 227) of VF-162; LT(jg) Adams, recovered. 

CDR Bellinger and his wingman, LT(jg) Adams were part of a BARCAP during a strike on a bridge at Kep. While crossing the coast at 30,000 feet, east of Haiphong, CDR Bellinger saw two SAMs streaking towards them. Although he radioed a warning, Adams never heard it and was unable to take evasive action. One of the missiles exploded just behind Adams’ aircraft causing damage to the tail surfaces and a fire in the fuselage. LT(jg) Adams then flew his damaged aircraft forty miles back out to sea. His aircraft eventually exploded and he ejected through the inferno to be picked up by a helicopter and flown to the USS Galveston for medical attention.

31 October 1965: A-4E (151173, AH 466) of VA-164; LCDR Powers, KIA.

The ever increasing SAM threat caused the Air Force and Navy to cooperate in an effort to find a solution. The Oriskany detached a number of A-4s to Korat to fly as pathfinders for F-105 Wild Weasels. LCDR Powers led eight F-105s on a strike again st a SAM sight near Kep as part of a larger strike package involving 65 Air Force and Navy airplanes.  While bombing the SAM site, his aircraft was hit by AAA and burst into flames at 1 50 feet. He climbed and banked suddenly, ejecting at less than 200 feet. Although he was seen waving to his wingman, and his SAR beeper was briefly heard, attempts to contact him via radio were unsuccessful. His remains were returned by the North Vietnamese in November 1987. LCDR Powers was awarded the Navy Cross for this mission.

5 November 1965: F-8E (150665, WD 106) of VMF(AW)-212; Capt Chapman, POW.

VMF(AW)-212 the only USMC squadron on the Oriskany lost its first pilot while striking a bridge at Hai Duoung, 30 miles east of Hanoi. Suffering a direct hit by 37mm AAA during his dive on the target, Capt Chapman’s aircraft exploded. Although he was able to eject, he was immediately captured, becoming the first USMC POW in North Vietnam. He was repatriated in February 1973.


7 November 1965: A-4E (150071, AH 343) of VA-163; LCDR Wack, recovered.

A flight of Oriskany A-4s was attacking a SAM site 10 miles southwest of Nam Dinh. LCDR Wack assumed lead after the original strike leaders aircraft developed problems. LCDR Wack was hit by AAA during his roll-in on target. He successfully continued his bombing run and eventually managed to fly twelve miles out to se a before ejecting. LCDR Wack was picked up by an Air Force HU-16 amphibian. LCDR Wack was awarded the Silver Star for this mission.

9 November 1965: A-1H (137566, AH 590) of VA-152; LCDR Merchant, recovered.

A section of Oriskany A-1s were on a night armed-reconnaissance mission when they found trucks thirty-five miles southeast of Vinh. During the attack LCDR Merchant was hit by AAA that damaged his engine. He was ab le to jettison his ordnance and fly the aircraft towards the sea. After his engine failed, he was able to glide the remainder of the distance and ditch his aircraft in the dark just off the coast. He was rescued by a Navy helicopter as North Vietnamese boats were approaching to capture him.

13 November 1965: A-4E (151067, AH 340) of VA-163; CDR Jenkins, POW.

CDR Jenkins, the CO of VA-163, and his wingman were searching for supplies on a river near Dong Hoi. As the river appeared not navigable, they decided to bomb a road junction south of Dong Hoi. While enroute to their new target, they flew over the village of Xuan Noa and spotted signs of recent vehicle activity. While flying low in an attempt to inspect the area, CDR Jenkins was shot down by 37-millimeter AAA. He immediately lost control and electrical power and ejected just short of the coast. Though SAR efforts were attempted, he was captured almost immediately. CDR Jenkins was repatriated in February 1973.


17 November 1965: F-8E (150675, WD 103) of VMF(AW)-212; Capt Chaimson, recovered. A-4E (151083, AH 350) of VA-163; LCDR Bowling, KIA. A-1H (135244, AH 588) of VA-152; LCDR Taylor, KIA.

On 17 November, the Oriskany along with other carrier air wings went back to the Hai Duong Bridge east of Hanoi with disastrous results. Within thirty minutes, CVW-16 had lost three planes of the four Navy planes lost at the Bridge. Capt Chaimson’s F-8 was the first aircraft lost on the raid. Hit by 37mm AAA during his bomb run, his electrical system failed and he was unable to release his bombs. Even though he deployed his emergency back-up generator, it failed to work. As he flew back alone, he attempted to land on the USS Bon Homme Richard but ran out of fuel before he was able to. Capt Chaimson was recovered by a Navy helicopter.

LCDR Bowling was the second aircraft lost by the Oriskany on this mission. The Operations Officer of VA-163, he had just dropped a load of snakeye bombs on the bridge and was flying a low-level high-speed egress when his aircraft was hit by AAA. The horizontal tailplane departed his aircraft and he rolled to the right and impacted the ground. Amazingly enough, LCDR Bowling manage d to eject, but likely did not survive the ejection.

Twenty-five minutes later, a section of A-1s from the Oriskany arrived to perform RESCAP for LCDR Bowling. One of these A-1s piloted by LCDR Taylor, the CVW-16 Operations Officer was struck by AAA while making a low-level search for LCDR Bowling. LCDR Taylor attempted to fly back to sea, but crashed in coastal marshes southwest of Haiphong. LCDR Taylo r’s remains were returned by North Vietnam in December, 1975. LCDR Bowling’s remains were returned to a Presidential commission that was visiting Hanoi in March 1977.

Operational Losses (7)

20 May 1965: A-3B (138947) of VAH-4); all four crewmembers recovered.

The Oriskany lost her first aircraft of the 1965 cruise on 25 May 1965 when this A-3 crashed after suffering structural failure on the catapult shot. The A-3 was launching as a tanker in support of strike operations.

 

30 June 1965: A-1ll (139708) of VA-152; pilot recovered.

The engine failed on this pilot’s A-1 as he was being catapulted off the ship for a strike mission.

18 July 1965: A-4E (151089) of VA-163; LT Avore, KIA.

As LT Avore’s Skyhawk was catapulted off the Oriskany for a mission over South Vietnam, his engine failed and he was forced to ditch the aircraft. The aircraft sank within seconds and he was unable to escape. This accident occurred on the last day of the line period for the Oriskany.

21 July 1965: A-1ll (139636) of VA-152; pilot recovered.

During a post maintenance check flight, the engine failed and the pilot was forced to abandon the aircraft.

10 August 1965: A-1J (142012) of VA-152; LT(jg) Mailhes, KIA.

LT(jg) Mailhes failed to return from a night RESCAP mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. The cause of his loss was never discovered.

17 October 1965: F-8E (149198) of VMF(AW)-212; pilot recovered.

This was the first of four aircraft lost by VMF(AW)-212 during the 1965 cruise. The pilot struck the ramp while attempting to land following a BARCAP mission at night and in bad weather.

17 November 1965: F-8E (150875) of VMF(AW)-212; 1Lt Peil recovered.

In addition to the terrible losses incurred by CVW-16 on their llai Duong raid, the air wing lost one more aircraft while returning from the raid. On final approach to the carrier, Lt Peil’s F-8 struck the ramp and was destroyed. Lt Peil luckily survived the accident.


USS Orriskany 1966 WESTPAC

The Information in this appendix has been derived from multiple sources. Rene Francillon’s Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club, and Chris Hobson’s Vietnam Air Losses serve as primary sources of this data. Further amplifying information maybe found in the Center For Naval Analysis’ List of Aircraft Lost in Southeast Asia and various unit histories. Data for each loss is given in the following format: Date; type of aircraft with BuNo, side number and squadron; pilot if known and their status.

  • Homeport departure/return: Alameda, 26 May 1966-16 November 1966
  • In-chop / out-chop: 11 June 1966-8 November 1966
  • Line Periods: 30 June; 8-27 July; 6 August-7 September; 24 September-26 October Total: 87 days on the line

Squadrons:

Squadron                          Aircraft              Call Sign

VF-111                                 F-8E                    Old Nick

VF-162                                 F-8E                 Super Heat

VA-163                                A-4E                   Old Salt

VA-164                                A-4E                            Magic Stone

VA-152                                A-1H/J               Locket

VAH-4 Det G                     A-3B                  Holly Green

VFP-63 Det G                   RF-8A               Cork Tip

VAW-11 Det G                 E-1B                Over Pass

HU-1 Det 1 Unit G UH-2A

Combat Losses (16)

 

12 July 1966: F-8E (15092, AH 203) of VF-162; LT(jg) Adams, recovered.

During a strike on Dong Nham twenty miles northeast of Haiphong, LT(jg) Adams part of a TARCAP for the POL strike. SAM warnings forced the strike force to dive into small arms range and his aircraft was hit in the tailpipe by small arms fire. The fire spread quickly through the entire aircraft and he was forced to eject. He was picked up by a Navy helicopter escorted by four A-1s after spending forty-five minutes on the ground. LT(jg) Adams had been shot down by a SAM during the 1965 cruise and thus became the first aviator to survive being shot down twice. As a result he was reassigned to stateside duty.


14 July 1966: F-8E (150908, AH 202) of VF-162; CDR Bellinger, recovered.

CDR Bellinger, the commanding officer of VF-162 was shot down by a MiG-17 while escorting a strike against storage facilities at Nam Dinh. His flight of three F-8s was engaged by two MiG-17s twenty-five miles South of Hanoi. His Crusader was hit by cannon fire which badly damaged the starboard wing. When his hydraulics failed, he decided to divert to Da Nang rather than attempt landing aboard the Oriskany. Due to the lack of hydraulics, he was unable to in-flight refuel when his refueling probe would not extend. He was forced to eject when he ran out of fuel sixteen miles from Da Nang and was rescued by an Air Force helicopter. Zalin Grant’s book Over the Beach gives a detailed account of this mission.

19 July 1966: F-8E (150919, AH 210) of VF-162; LT Dennison, KIA.

LT Denison was flying as part of the CAP assigned to protect strikers attacking the Co Trai Bridge when he was hit by an SA-2. The bridge was one of the main crossings South of Hanoi and was heavily defended with AAA and SAMs. Over thirteen missiles were fired during the raid. His aircraft was hit at 12,000 feet and was immediately destroyed. The wreckage came down near Hoang Xa, eighteen miles south of Hanoi. This mission and LT Dennison’s loss are described in great detail in Zalin Grant’s book, Over the Beach.

23 July 1966: A-4E (152100, AH 301) of VA-163; CDR Foster, recovered.

CDR Foster, the CO of VA-163 was leading a strike against a POL storage site seven miles North of Vinh, when his aircraft was hit in the cockpit by a 37-millimeter shell. Shrapnel from the shell destroyed the cockpit and severed his right arm just below the shoulder. Bleeding profusely and on the verge of losing consciousness, CDR Foster managed to fly his crippled aircraft out to sea and eject over the SAR destroyer, USS Reeves. He was picked up by a boat from the destroyer, which fortunately had a doctor on board. He was evacuated from there to the USS Oriskany and eventually stateside. A full accounting of his remarkable story can be read in his personal narrative, Captain Hook.

28 July 1966: A-4E (152077, AH 407) of VA-164; ENS McSwain, POW.

ENS McSwain was on an Iron Hand mission to destroy a SAM site reported at the mouth of the Song Ca River near Vinh. After firing his Shrike missiles at the site, McSwain began climbing to regain altitude. After reaching 12,000 feet, his airspeed had diminished to less than 200 knots, when a SA-2 exploded near his aircraft. The aircraft fell out of control, possibly as a result of its stalling. ENS McSwain was released from captivity in March 1973.

7 August 1966: A-1H (139701, AH 501) of VA-152; LT Fryer, KIA.

LT Fryer was hit in the port wing by small arms fire while strafing trucks on an armed-reconnaissance mission thirty-five miles north of Vinh. Although he was able to reach the coast, LT Fryer did not survive when he ditched his aircraft a few miles off the coast.

11 August 1966: F-8E (150880, AH 112) of VF-111; LT(jg) Balisteri, recovered.

LT(jg) Balisteri was on an armed-reconnaissance flight over coastal islands in the vicinity of Haiphong when his F-8 was hit by ground fire ten miles south of Hon Gay. The aircraft immediately caught fire and Balisteri ejected as the aircraft rolled out of control. He was picked up by a Navy helicopter.

13 August 1966: F-8E (150866, AH 113) of VF-111; LCDR Levy, recovered.

LCDR Levy was also shot down in the same area as LT(jg) Balisteri, while on an armed reconnaissance mission. He was pulling up from his second attack using Zuni rockets against a barge, when hit by AAA. With no hydraulics, the nose of his aircraft pitched up and he was forced to eject. He was rescued five miles east of Dao Bat Ba by a Navy helicopter.

18 August 1966: F-8E (150300, AH 211) of VF-162; LCDR Verich, recovered.

LCDR Verich was hit while on an armed reconnaissance mission fifteen miles northwest of Vinh. He was pulling up from his third bombing run on a bridge and barges on a river, when he was hit by small arms fire. Though he began losing control of his aircraft, he was able to fly towards the coast. His aircraft became uncontrollable forcing him to eject five miles offshore. He was rescued by a Navy helicopter.

28 August 1966: A-1H (135231, AH 506) of VA-152; CDR Smith, recovered.

CDR Smith, the commanding officer of VA-152 was hit by AAA while flying along the coastline near Van Yen, 25 miles south of Thanh Hoa. His A-1 was hit in the fuselage and began to burn rapidly. He was able to bailout just offshore and was recovered by a Navy helicopter.

31 August 1966: RF-8G (146874, AH 602) of VFP-63; LCDR Tucker, recovered.

The officer-in-charge of VFP-63’s detachment was shot down while attempting to photograph a foreign oil tanker and other ships in Haiphong harbor. As he approached Quang Yen, five miles northeast of Haiphong, his aircraft was hit by 37-millimeter ground fire. LCDR Tucker lost all his flight controls with the exception of his rudder and was forced to eject only 1,500 feet over Haiphong harbor. He landed in a shipping channel less than 150-yards from the shore and several junks began attempts to capture him. An SH-3 off the USS Kearsarge arrived within minutes to attempt a rescue. It was piloted by the commanding officer of HS-6, CDR Vermilya, and was escorted by LCDR Tucker’s wingman, LCDR Teague. While Teague strafed junks in the area, the helicopter flew at less than fifty feet and under constant fire from vessels and shore batteries. The rescue attempt was successful and LCDR Tucker was recovered in one of the most dangerous rescue missions of the war.

5 September 1966: F-8E (150896, AH 106) of VF-111; Capt Abbott (USAF), POW.

Capt Abbott’s section of F-8s was attacked by two MiG-17s near Ninh Binh. Although both Crusaders were damaged, Capt Abbott’s aircraft was destroyed, forcing him to eject. Capt Abbott was an Air Force pilot on exchange duty with VF-111. His right leg was broken during the ejection and although it was operated on by the North Vietnamese, it took over two years to heal. He was repatriated in March 1973.

6 October 1966: F-8E (150924, AH 201) of VF-162; LT Leach, recovered.

LT Leach was the wingman for a RF-8 Crusader while on a reconnaissance mission over Hon Gay harbor. Midway through the mission, his low fuel light came on, as a result of a fuel leak. Both aircraft immediately flew towards the sea, but LT Leach was forced to eject after running out of fuel seventy miles South of Hon Gay. He was recovered by a Navy helicopter.


8 October 1966: A-1H (137629, AH 510) of VA-152; LT Feldhaus, MIA.

This is my brother, Jack Feldhaus.  Jack was leading a two plane response to a bepper signal thought to be from a downed pilot.  Such a signal was frequently used by the North Vietnamese to attract US aircraft into areas heavily fortified with AAA.  

 

Arriving on the scene, the beeper signals stopped and there were no reports of a downed aircraft.  Jack decided to use the time they had left in the air to do an armed reconnaissance mission twenty-five miles southwest of Than Hoa.  After bombing a truck park, Jack told his wingman that he was going down through low clouds to look for another truck park.  After breaking out of the clouds at about 5,000 feet he reported to his wingman that he was experiencing heavy AAA fire. Shortly thereafter he reported that he had been hit and was getting out of the aircraft. 

 

The A1-H did not have an ejection seat, so he would have had to slide back the canopy and climb out of the cockpit to bail out of the aircraft.  When the wingman broke out of the clouds he saw a fireball where a plane had impacted and never saw nor heard anything else from Jack.  

 

The wingman, Fred Guenzel, took a hit in his wing while searching for signs of Jack and was forced to return to the Oriskany.  Other aircraft continued the search but to no avail.  He was classified as MIA and in 1975 was reclassified as KIA.  His crash site was later found and his remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery in 2001.

12 October 1966: A-4E (152075, AH 411) of VA-164; LT Elkins, MIA.

LT Elkins was on a night road reconnaissance mission when his section was engaged by a SAM site near Tho Trang, 45 miles southwest of Thanh Hoa. LT Elkins saw the missile launch and began evasive maneuvering. He was either hit by an SA-2, or struck the ground while trying to outmaneuver the SAM. In 1973, his wife published his diary under the title “The Heart of a Man.” It provides an exceptional account of life aboard the Oriskany and of the air war over North Vietnam. In 1990, LT Elkins’ remains were returned by the North Vietnamese.


14 October 1966: A-1H (139731, AH 511) of VA-152; ENS Thomas, KIA.

ENS Thomas was on a night road reconnaissance mission 25 miles southwest of Thanh Hoa, when his section spotted trucks on a road. ENS Thomas dove to attack the target with rockets. However he failed to pull out of the dive and was killed when his aircraft struck the ground.

 

Operational Losses (9)

 

29 July 1966: A-4E (152095) of VA-164; LT(jg) Ewoldt, KIA.

LT(jg) Ewoldt was killed in between line periods in a tragic accident. He was killed after flying into the water while attempting in-flight refueling in marginal weather.

23 August 1966: F-8E (150907) of VF-111; LT(jg) Meadows, recovered.

23 August began a string of five accidents in four days involving the USS Oriskany.  LT(jg) Meadows was on a BARCAP mission when his engine failed, forcing him to eject. He was recovered by a Navy helicopter.

25 August 1966: A-4E (152084) of VA-164; LT(jg) Bullard, KIA.

LT(jg) Bullard was killed when his aircraft flew into water following a night catapult shot. He was launching on a night armed reconnaissance mission when the accident occurred.

25 August 1966: A-1H (135236) of VA-152; pilot unknown, recovered.

On the same night LT(jg) Bullard was killed, a faulty catapult shot resulted in the loss of this aircraft. The pilot was recovered after ditching.

26 August 1966: A-4E (152093) of VA-164; pilot unknown, recovered.

While on an armed reconnaissance mission, an electrical failure over North Vietnam forced the pilot to eject in Gulf of Tonkin.

27 August 1966: A-4E (150079) of VA-163; pilot unknown, recovered.

In a repeat of the day before, a Skyhawk on an armed-reconnaissance mission suffered an electrical failure over North Vietnam, forcing the pilot to eject in Gulf of Tonkin.

16 September 1966: UH-2B (152196) of HC-1; three crewmembers recovered.

23 October 1966: A-4E (150072) of VA-163; mid-air collision during armed reconnaissance mission, the pilot who is unknown, ejected and was recovered.

26 October 1966: Fire broke out on the hangar deck of the ship. Six A-1s and seven A-4s were on the flight deck having been readied for a night strike, but bad weather had postponed the launch. The ordnance on the aircraft had to be downloaded and stored until morning. The ordnance included magnesium parachute flares. As the flares were being stowed in a temporary storage compartment, one of the flares ignited due to mishandling. Flames and toxic fumes spread rapidly throughout the ship. A total of 36 officers and 8 sailors were killed in the fire, including 24 aviators of CVW-16. Three A-4s were damaged and one A-4E (151075) and two UH-2s (149774/150183) were destroyed.

Ships company casualties as a result of the hangar bay fire:

LT(jg) Dewey Alexander            Administration Department

LT(jg) Ramon Copple              Supply Department

CDR Richard Donahue                      Medical Department

JOSN Robert Dyke                    Administration Department

LCDR Omar Ford                                 Operations Department

LT Frank Gardner                                 Gunnery Department

LCDR William Garrity                               Chaplain

SN James Gray                                        Deck Department

AA Greg Hart                                Administration Department

LT(jg)James Hudis                                  Air Department

CDR Harry Juntilla                     Operations Department

LT(jg) James Kelly Jr.                           Security Division

SN James Lee                                Administration Department

LCDR Walter Merrick                  Chaplain

BM3 Donald Shanks                            Deck Department

BM3 Alvin Shifflet Jr.                             Deck Department

LT(jg) Frank Tunick                             Supply Department

FN William Wallig                      Administration Department

Air Wing Sixteen casualties as a result of the hangar bay fire:

LT(jg) Cody Balisteri                                  VF-162

LT Joselyn Blakely Jr.                              HC-1

ENS Charles Boggs                                  VF-162

LT(jg) James Brewer                                 VA-164

CDR Rodney Carter                 Commander CVW-16

LT(jg) William Clements                           VAW-11

CDR George Farris                                     VAH-4

LT John Francis                                           VAW-11

LT Julian Hamond                                      VA-164

LT Lloyd Hyde                                        CVW-16 Flight Surgeon

LT(jg) William Johnson                            VA-164

ENS Daniel Kern                                         HC-1

LCDR Norman Levy                                 VF-111

AZAN David Liste                                        VA-152

LT(jg) William McWilliams                       VF-162

LT Clarence Miller                                       VA-163

LCDR Clement Morisette                        VA-163

CDR John Nussbaumer                         VA-152

LT(jg) Gerald Siebe                                    HC-1

LCDR James Smith                                    VAH-4

LT(jg) Thomas Sptitzer                            VA-163

LCDR Daniel Strong                                  VA-164

ENS Ronald Tardio                                    VA-163

CDR Clyde Welch                                       VA-164

LT(jg) James Welsh                                   HC-1