WORRELL, PAUL LAURANCE

Remains Returned 14 August 1985; Identified 07 October 1985
Name: Paul Laurance Worrell
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Junior Grade/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 172,
USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) 

Date of Birth: 18 April 1942
Home of Record: Philadelphia, PA
Date of Loss: 02 December 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 200500N 1061200E (XH254209) 
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: Bruce A. Nystrom (missing)

REMARKS:
POSS DEAD - IR 6918571875

SYNOPSIS:   The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was a single-seat light attack jet flown by both land-based and carrier squadrons, and was the US Navy's standard light attack aircraft at the outset of the war. It was the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings as well as the only one which required a ladder for the pilot to enter/exit the cockpit. The Skyhawk was used to fly a wide range of missions throughout Southeast Asia including close air support to American troops on the ground in South Vietnam. Flying from a carrier was dangerous and as many aircraft were lost in "operational incidents" as in combat.

On 23 December 1965, Cmdr. Bruce A. Nystrom assumed command of Attack Squadron 172 that deployed aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt on 21 June 1966.  On 2 December 1966, Cmdr. Nystrom launched as the pilot of the lead aircraft in a flight of two on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.  His wingman during this mission was then Ens. Paul L. Worrell.

Enemy anti-aircraft defenses along their briefed flight path had not been heavy during recent operations. The local weather conditions included a clear sky with no moon or horizon, and visibility of 5 miles in haze. The flight crossed the coastline of North Vietnam at approximately 2030 hours and immediately began searching for enemy surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites suspected to be operating south of Hanoi. When the flight entered the coastal area, a crewmember of an aircraft operating approximately 40 miles away heard transmissions between Cmdr. Nystrom and Ens. Worrell concerning missile evasion. Shortly after the transmissions were heard, a big bright light was observed which appeared to be coming from the ground. It was later suspected that this bright light was a SAM lifting off the ground. It was followed about 15 seconds later by a large orange flash or explosion in the air. The flight leader was then heard attempting to contact Paul Worrell, but no reply was heard. Shortly thereafter, Bruce Nystrom went off the air and was not heard from again.

The location of loss for both aircraft placed them approximately 8 miles due west of the North Vietnamese coastline, 4 miles southeast of Phai Diem, 34 miles northeast of Thanh Hoa, 52 miles south-southwest of Haiphong and 56 miles south-southeast of Hanoi. This area of the rich Red River delta is densely populated, well defended and crisscrossed with many rivers and waterways. Further, the Skyhawks' were lost between two north/south flowing rivers, and were downed less than 1 mile west of the eastern most river and 2 miles east of the western most river. Because of the location of loss, no search and rescue (SAR) operation was possible. Both Bruce Nystrom and Paul Worrell were immediately listed Missing in Action.

On 14 August 1985, the Vietnamese returned the remains of Paul Worrell without explanation. These remains were positively identified by the US Central Identification Laboratory-Hawaii (CIL-HI) on 7 October 1985. To date the Vietnamese claim no knowledge as to the fate of Cmdr. Nystrom.

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots in Vietnam were call upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.