Name:  James Edward "Jim" Dooley
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander/US Naval Reserve 
Unit:  Attack Squadron 163, 
USS Oriskany (CVA-34)

Date of Birth: 14 November 1942 (Middlebury, VT)
Home of Record: Manchester Center, VT
Date of Loss: 22 October 1967 
Country of Loss:  North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates:  205100N 1064000E (XH860893)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing In Action
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground:  A4E "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)


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 22 October 1967, then Lt. JG James E. Dooley was the pilot of an A4E Skyhawk (serial #150116) that launched from the deck of the USS Oriskany on a strike mission over Haiphong, North Vietnam. At 1235 hours, other pilots in the flight believe that Lt. JG Dooley's aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire as he pulled off the target. They observed the crippled Skyhawk flying straight, level and streaming fuel while heading eastward toward open water at approximately 6,000 feet. The aircraft then began a gradual descent toward the water and crashed into the sea 1 mile of shore, 11 miles southeast of Haiphong and 2000 meters south of Do Son on the south side of a small peninsula that jets out into the Gulf of Tonkin that forms the southern boundary of Haiphong Harbor, Haiphong Province, North Vietnam. Search and rescue (SAR) operations were immediately initiated, but by the time rescue aircraft arrived in the area of loss, no trace of the aircraft or its pilot could be found. At the time SAR efforts were terminated, Jim Dooley was listed Missing in Action.

Since Operation Homecoming in 1973, information pertaining to Jim Dooley safely ejecting from his Skyhawk only to be captured and incarcerated in Hanoi's infamous prison camp system has surfaced. During their debriefings, returned POWs were always asked for any information they had about other Americans they knew of in the camps who were not repatriated. At least one returnee reported seeing Jim Dooley's name scratched into a wall in a camp known to the POWs as the "Plantation Gardens." Another returnee when shown precapture photos of missing men, stated that Jim Dooley's face looked similar as an individual he saw in March or April 1968 at the "Zoo." This man was taken out of the Zoo in December 1969 along with another American prisoner identified only as "Lt. Jay." Their destination was unknown.

In January 1987, a Vietnamese refugee in Thailand came forward with first-hand live sighting information. This report was later correlated to Jim Dooley. The source, who lived south of Haiphong during the war, one day "heard an explosion and saw a single person descending under a fully deployed tri-color parachute. The pilot landed on the beach approximately 50 meters east of the Do Son Airfield and 200 or 300 meters south of Nui Doc., and he attempted to evade by swimming east out into the water. He swam approximately 200 meters off shore when the PAVN 50th Regiment elements, which were posted on Nui Doc, began firing a 85mm DKZ recoilless rifle ahead of the swimmer to limit his movement. Then the public security service forces and the Duyen Hai local forces began swimming out to the man to capture him. The pilot began firing at them and was attempting to talk on a small, hand held radio simultaneously, but was unable to do so due to the waves caused by the recoilless rifle fire. When several of the pursuers came within approximately 10 meters of the man, they dove under the water and came up under the man to safely capture him. No one was wounded or injured during this capture. The man was escorted to land and was loaded into a sidecar which transported him across the Do Son Airfield. On the west side of the airfield, the man was moved into a Chinese auto which drove away on Route 14 (numbered 'Route 5' on available US maps of the area) in the direction of Haiphong." According to the source: "The pilot appeared to be 24-25 years of age, had short, light brow/orange/blond hair, was approximately 1.8 meters tall, approximately 70 kilograms in weight, was in good physical condition, did not wear eyeglasses, had on a one piece uniform that had a long zipper in the front and was the color of rice plant leaves. When the man attempted to evade and run into the water, he was carrying a helmet, the small radio and a pistol. The helmet was lost in the water, but the radio and pistol were confiscated by the capturing troops. Once the capturing forces had the man on the beach, they bound his arms behind his back at the elbows, but left his feet and legs free. He was blindfolded before he was loaded into the sidecar." The source also recalled "seeing a helicopter and five or six jet aircraft circling and apparently searching for the man in the general area. After the pilot was led away by the security service element, the source heard nothing more about him."

Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 20,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of them document LIVE American POWs remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

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