FULLERTON, FRANK EUGENE

Name: Frank Eugene Fullerton 
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Navy 
Unit: Attack Squadron 93
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) 

Date of Birth: 02 January 1934 (Riverdale, GA)
Home of Record: Jonesboro, GA
Date of Loss: 27 July 1968 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 183200N 1054800E (WE970994)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 4
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4F "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:

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 27 July 1968, then Lt. Cmdr. Frank E. Fullerton was the pilot of an A4F Skyhawk (serial# 154182) that launched from the deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard as the flight leader in a flight of two on a night road reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. As the flight crossed the coastline, Lt. Cmdr. Fullerton placed his wingman in a one to two mile trail position and 2000 feet above himself. Three to four minutes after crossing the coastline the flight leader spotted a series of lights on the ground and assessed them to be trucks traveling south along a primary north-south road used by the North Vietnamese to transport men and material through the Mu Gia Pass and onto the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail.

When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the acknowledged war zone.

At 0400 hours, he radioed his wingman reporting multiple moving targets and stating that he was going to make a bomb run on them. The wingman saw two bombs detonate on the ground, then observed an orange-red fireball close to the bomb hits, which he believed was a secondary explosion. Further, the second explosion threw burning debris high into the air. After the wingman made his bomb run on the target, he made his first radio call to Lt. Cmdr. Fullerton in order to form-up on his flight leader. When no contact could be established, the wingman radioed the onsite command and control aircraft to assist him in making contact with Lt. Cmdr. Fullerton. The command aircraft was not able to make voice contact either. However, while it was orbiting some 12 miles north of the target area, its crew received an "IFF radio mode III squawk" that the crew believed was a signal from Lt. Cmdr. Fullerton. The radar return faded at 20 miles before a positive identification could be made. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, but none of the aircraft participating in the search could find any trace of the downed pilot. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, Frank Fullerton was listed Missing in Action.

The area of loss was located in the forested mountains approximately 4 miles northeast of a single-track railroad line that generally ran from the northwest to the southeast and curving through the mountains from Vinh to Dong Hoi. The primary road intersected the railroad line 4 miles northeast of the loss location as well as being approximately 17 miles south of the major hub city of Ha Kinh, 29 miles north-northeast of the Mu Gia Pass, 44 miles south of Vinh and 62 miles northwest of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam.

There is no way to know if Frank Fullerton crashed because he misjudged his bombing run altitude in relationship to the surrounding terrain or if his Skyhawk was downed because it was struck by enemy ground fire. If he died in the loss of his Skyhawk, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he managed to eject his aircraft, his fate like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.

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.