BOWLING, ROY HOWARD "HAP"

Remains Returned 18 March 1977; Identified 31 March 1977
Name: Roy Howard "Hap" Bowling
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 163
USS Oriskany (CVA-34) 

Date of Birth: 16 December 1929 (Cuba)
Home of Record: San Bernardino, CA
Date of Loss: 17 Noveember 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 180555N 1054400E (XJ 509 042) 
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Prisoner Of War
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: Jesse J. Taylor (remains returned)

REMARKS:  SRV RET REMS TO PCOM 770318

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 that 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 17 November 1965, then Lt. Cmdr. Roy H. "Hap" Bowling, pilot of an A4E Skyhawk (serial #151083); and Lt. Cmdr. Jesse J. Taylor, pilot; launched their respective aircraft from the deck of the USS Oriskany as part of a flight of aircraft participating in a mid-morning strike mission against the Hai Duong Bridge located approximately half way between the major cities of Hanoi and Haiphong, Hai Hung Province, North Vietnam. Lt. Cmdr. Bowling was also Attack Squadron 163's Operations Officer.

At 1000 hours, Lt. Cmdr. Bowling completed a low level attack pass on the bridge. As he pulled off target, his aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. His wingman, who had rolled in on his own attack run right behind Hap Bowling, observed the starboard horizontal stabilizer fly off the damaged Skyhawk. The aircraft rolled to the right, nose low and flew into the ground. Prior to impact, a third pilot saw Lt. Cmdr. Bowling's parachute deploy at an altitude of 100 feet and a fourth pilot reported seeing him hanging limp in his harness without his helmet.

Roughly one minute later two Search and Rescue (SAR) A1H pilots, one being Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Taylor, who had been orbiting just east of the coastline as part of the stay-by rescue force, made a low pass over the area where Lt. Cmdr. Bowling landed. As they dodged intense AAA fire, they observed Hap Bowling's collapsed parachute in an open, flat and heavily populated rice field approximately 11 miles southeast of the Hai Duong Bridge, 40 miles southeast of Hanoi, 14 miles west-southwest of Haiphong and 9 miles west of Hai Phong Kien An MiG base. The entire area was criss-crossed with numerous rivers, streams and waterways. One pilot stated he saw an "inert form" lying under the parachute. Further, the pilots reported that within 3 minutes the parachute and pilot disappeared from view.

Both A1H aircraft sustained battle damage from the AAA fire. One pilot, Eric Shade, was able to return safely to the USS Oriskany. The second rescue aircraft, piloted by Jesse Taylor, succeeded in crossing the coastline before crashing into marshy shoals less then a mile east of the coast line and 1 mile south of the mouth of a river that emptied into the Gulf of Tonkin. Other pilots believed Lt. Cmdr. Taylor was unable to exit his aircraft before it impacted the shoals. This crash site was located approximately 60 miles southeast of Hanoi, 29 miles southeast of the Hai Duong bridge, 16 miles south and slightly southwest of Haiphong and 13 miles south and slightly southeast of the Hai Phong Kien An MiG base.

Rescue efforts continued until it became clear that neither downed pilot could be recovered. At the time formal SAR efforts were terminated, Roy "Hap" Bowling was listed Missing in Action while Jesse Taylor, Jr., was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

On 21 December 1975, the North Vietnamese unexpectedly turned over the remains of Jesse Taylor, in what was reported to be "a gesture of good will." The United States accepted this gesture without question or comment. These remains were positively identified as Lt. Cmdr. Taylor 16 days later and returned to his family for burial.

In March 1977, Cora Weiss lead a delegation from the infamous "Peace Committee" to North Vietnam. On 18 March, while in Hanoi, the Vietnamese presented the committee with several sets of American remains, including those of Lt. Cmdr. Bowling, to be returned to the United States in another gesture of good will. The Peace Committee escorted these remains out of Southeast Asia. 13 days after being presented to the Peace Committee, these remains were also positively identified and returned to his family for burial.

While the fates of Roy Bowling and Jesse Taylor are resolved, and each man's remains have been returned to his family, friends and country he gave his life for. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, 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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly under 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.