GIERAK, GEORGE GREGORY JR.

Name: George Gregory Gierak, Jr.   
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant JG/US Navy 
Unit: Heavy Photographic Squadron 61 
USS Hancock (CVA-19) 

Date of Birth: 25 July 1940 
Home of Record: Springfield, NY
Date of Loss: 13 June 1966 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 181557N 1060659E (XF180198) 
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: RA3B :Skywarrior" 
Other Personnel In Incident: John T. Glanville and Bennie R. Lambton (missing) 

REMARKS:  HIT-N TRACE-FBIS SEZ DED-J

SYNOPSIS:  The Douglas RA3B was the reconnaissance version of the venerable A3 Skywarrior attack bomber. Operating from DaNang Airbase, South Vietnam and Don Muang Airbase, Thailand, the RA3s provided surveillance along the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail with their infrared and video real-time cameras. Working with attack aircraft from the carrier air groups, the Skywarrior "fingered" the truck traffic for the bombers during the night when they were moving and during the day when they were hiding. They also carried COIR (camouflage detection) film that could detect the difference between living and dead foliage thereby spotlighting camouflaged enemy truck parks. Other conversions of the Skywarrior, which was nicknamed the "whale" because of its size, included airborne jamming and refueling tanker.

On 13 June 1966, Lt. Cmdr. John Glanville, pilot; Lt. JG George Gierak, co-pilot; and Chief Bennie R. Lambton, photographic intelligenceman, launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19) to conduct a night low-level photo reconnaissance mission. Since the Skywarrior's mission deep in enemy held territory, it was provided with fighter escort as protection against enemy aircraft attack.

As the Skywarrior approached the North Vietnamese coastline, Lt. Cmdr. Glanville, radioed his intent to commence their photo run. He descended to necessary altitude and as the aircraft crossed the coastline, NVA anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries opened fire. The pilots of the escort aircraft observed the AAA tracer rounds directed toward the Skywarrior before seeing a bright orange flash near the mouth of the Gia Hoi River. The escort aircraft pilots immediately attempted to establish radio contact with the Skywarrior's crew, but all attempts met with negative results.

The location of loss was right at the shoreline that was marked by rocky outcroppings to the east of the mouth of the Gia Hoi River approximately 5 miles north-northwest of Tuan Thuong, 40 miles southeast of Vinh and 63 miles north-northwest of Dong Hoi, Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam. The location was also 4 miles northeast of Highway 1, the primary north/south road that ran nearly the full length of Vietnam that connected the major cities of Vinh and Dong Hoi.

The escort aircraft initiated a visual and electronic search and rescue (SAR) operation. Unfortunately, they saw no parachutes and heard no emergency beepers. Because the loss location was in a densely populated heavily defended region, no ground search was possible. Further, the crew's escape system in the Skywarrior does not include ejection seats. That makes high speed bailout extremely difficult and low-altitude bailout virtually impossible. At the time the SAR operation was terminated, Bennie Lambton, John Glanville and George Gierak were listed Missing in Action.

On 15 June 1966, US intelligence intercepted a Radio Peking broadcast that described the shootdown of a photo reconnaissance jet. The broadcast matched the general timeframe and location of the Skywarrior's disappearance. The report also stated that the crew was killed in the crash. On 17 June 1966, after carefully evaluating all the known facts and circumstances surrounding RA3B's loss, the squadron's Commanding Officer determined there was no chance the crew could have survived and changed each man's status from Missing in Action to Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

If Bennie Lambton, John Glanville and George Gierak died in the loss of their aircraft, each man has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if the crew was able to bail out of the crippled aircraft before it crashed, they most certainly would have been captured and their fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way there is no question the Vietnamese know what happened and could return them or their remains any time they had the desire to do so.

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.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly and fight 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.