CONSOLVO, JOHN WADSWORTH, JR. “JACK

Name: John Wadsworth “Jack” Consolvo, Jr.  
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Marine Corps
Unit: Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212,
Marine Air Group 15 DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam
Date of Birth: 08 January 1944 (Long Beach, CA)
Home of Record: Ft. Belvoir, VA
Date of Loss: 07 May 1972
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 164800N 1065700E (YD010555) official;
(YD001556) actual
(XD983892) target location

Click coordinates to view maps
Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4J “Phantom II”
Other Personnel In Incident: James J. Castonguay (rescued)

REMARKS: 

SYNOPSIS: The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 - 2300 miles depending on stores and mission type. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

On 7 May 1972, Capt. John W. “Jack” Consolvo, Jr., pilot; and COW3 James J. “Jim” Castonguay, Radar Intercept Officer; comprised the crew of the lead F4J aircraft (serial #155576), call sign “Bootleg 5 - 01” in a flight of 2 that was conducting an afternoon strike mission. In addition to their 20mm centerline cannons, both strike aircraft were armed with 12 MK-82 500-pound bombs. Other aircraft participating in this day’s mission included King 26, the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC); and Seafox 01, the Forward Air Controller (FAC) that was referred to as a “fast FAC” because it was also an F4.

Targets included surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) sites as well as enemy convoys and other lucrative targets of opportunity found in their sector. The target area was described as the DMZ, Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam, which bordered the DMZ to the south; and Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam, which bordered it to the north.

Bootleg 5 flight departed DaNang Airbase shortly after 1400 hours and rendezvoused with Seafox 01 over the South China Sea just east of Quang Tri City, South Vietnam. After receiving current weather and mission data from King 26, the flight proceeded inland to the target area located 9 to 10 miles north of the DMZ in a forested high threat area that was laced with primary and secondary roads and trails running in different directions that were protected by both AAA and SAM sites. Further, it was infested with large concentrations of NVA troops who used this sector to stage and then transport men and material into the active war zone.

At approximately 1415 hours, Seafox 01 located, identified and marked with smoke a convoy of trucks transporting SA-7 missiles on flatbed trailers traveling along Highway 101, just west of the major road junction with Highways 1035 and 1011. It was also located approximately 4 miles north of the DMZ, 11 miles due west of Vinh Linh, North Vietnam and 114 miles northwest of DaNang, South Vietnam.

The FAC directed Capt. Consolvo to make his approach to the target from east to west because of the relatively safe bailout area immediately to the west. On his first pass on the target, Jack Consolvo did not drop any ordnance because he felt he was not properly aligned with it. His wingman followed in trail and dropped 6 MK-82 bombs.

Capt. Consolvo came around for his second pass and while he was pulling off target; his wingman realized Lead had been hit by the intense and accurate ground fire. Jack Consolvo acknowledged that fact and reported he had a fire warning light on the left engine. Bootleg 5 – 02 aborted its second attack run to follow Lead out of the target area. At the same time, they notified King 26 and Seafox 01 of the situation as well as to alert search and rescue (SAR) stand by in case their services were needed.

Bootleg 5 – 02 kept Lead in sight both visually and on radar as the flight turned due south and reached an altitude of 15,000 feet. The FAC pulled up in trail behind Capt. Consolvo and told him to shut down his left engine because it was on fire. Lead acknowledged Seafox 01. As he shut the engine down, the FAC told them to eject because they were still on fire. At the same time Capt. Consolvo yelled, “Get out! Get out!” as his controls froze and he lost control of the aircraft.

According to CWO3 Castonguay’s debriefing statement, “I attempted to reach the command ejection handle, but was unable to do so. I was able to pull the face curtain to initiate ejection at approximately 13,000 feet.” He went on to say that he “lost visual contact with the aircraft for quite a while then observed the aircraft impact (the ground), but did not see another chute.” When asked if he thought his pilot could have ejected, he replied, “… (He) felt certain that Capt. Consolvo ejected from the aircraft".

Bootleg 05 – 02 also saw the Phantom impact the ground, but did not see either crewmen eject from the crippled jet. He established radio contact with the ABCCC advising them of the situation and reporting the coordinates were Lead crashed into the jungle on the south side of Nui Ba Tum mountain less than a mile south of Highway QL9, 15 miles south of the DMZ, 20 miles west of Quang Tri City and 100 miles northwest of DaNang.

King 26 immediately initiated the SAR operation and directed Capt. Consolvo’s wingman to orbit in a holding pattern out to sea in case his assistance was required. Ten minutes later King 26 told Bootleg 05 -02 to return to base as the rescue mission was underway and their services were not needed.

Voice contact was established with CWO3 Castonguay who reported he was alright. As the Jolly Green rescue helicopters orbited at a distance, the A1E Skyraiders made repeated attack passes on previously established enemy positions in and around the area of loss. Due to the intense enemy presence, SAR was unable to rescue the RIO on the afternoon of the shootdown. At first light the next morning the rescue mission resumed and by mid afternoon they were successful in recovering Jim Castonguay. At the same time, efforts were made to locate Capt. Consolvo, but all attempts proved unsuccessful. At the time the formal search operation was terminated, Jack Consolvo was declared Missing in Action.

It was well known by the spring of 1972 that the war was drawing to a close, and that the North Vietnamese were offering huge bonuses to anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) gunners who could shoot down American aircraft and capture the aircrews alive. At this stage in the war our enemy knew the more men they could capture, the better their chances were at the negotiating table to secure peace on their terms. Everyone knew the prisoners were worth much more alive than dead to both sides.

In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing

Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 2 North Vietnamese radio messages were intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: “One AAA unit of Battalion 89 of the 274th SAM Regiment (vic. DMZ) had shot down an F-4 aircraft and one parachute was sighted. Unidentified AAA element in the area of T4 (vic. Central DMZ, between Dong Hoi and the DMZ) was burned ….. by AAA and two parachutes were sighted in a southeasterly direction.”

If Jack Consolvo died as a result of his loss, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, he most certainly could have been captured by enemy forces known to be operating throughout the region in which he vanished and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is every reason to belief the North Vietnamese could return him or his remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

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

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John W. Consolvo, Jr. graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1966.
He was on his second tour of duty at the time he became Missing in Action.