|Name:||Richard Campbell Graves|
|Rank/Branch:||Ensign/US Naval Reserves|
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31)
|Date of Birth:||05 August 1944 (Richmond, VA)|
|Home of Record:||Sunderland, MA|
|Date of Loss:||25 May 1967|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam/Over Water|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Killed/Body Not Recovered|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: With its fantastic capability to carry a wide range of ordnance (8,000 pounds of external armament), great flight range (out to 3,000 miles), and the ability to absorb punishment, the single-seat Douglas A1 Skyraider became one of the premier performers in the close air support and attack mission role (nickname: Spad) and RESCAP mission role (nickname: Sandy). The Skyraider served the Air Force, Navy and Marines faithfully throughout the war in Southeast Asia.
On May 25, 1967, Ensign Richard C. Graves was a pilot of an A1H Spad that launched from the deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard as the number two aircraft in a flight section of two. The pilot of the lead aircraft was Lt. O'Rourke. Their mission was to conduct an armed coastal reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam to seek out and destroy enemy water-borne logistics traffic operating along the coastline.
After arriving in their area of operation, which was located between the major North Vietnamese cities of Thanh Hoa and Vinh, Lt. O'Rourke established radio contract with the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC). The flight was directed to check out an area between the coastline and a coral reef.
The lead aircraft started an attack run on a small cargo boat with Ensign Graves in trail immediately behind him. After the section leader completed his attack pass, Richard Graves made his run firing rockets on and around the enemy boat. He pulled off target in a normal manner and climbed for altitude. As the Skyraider approached a wings level climbing position, the left wing started to drop. Ensign Graves' aircraft continued to lose altitude with the left wing down until it made contact with the water. It exploded on impact and burst into flames. Lt. O'Rourke radioed the ABCCC reporting he saw no evidence that his wingman was able to eject his crippled aircraft and requesting an immediate search and rescue (SAR) effort be initiated.
Within minutes another Skyraider and a rescue helicopter were on-site. As the 3 aircrew's searched the water in the area of loss, they came under fire from three communist anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries located on the coast roughly 1 mile west of the crash scene. Because of the location of the AAA batteries in relation to the flight's target, the US Navy determined that Ensign Graves' aircraft was "probably hit by these batteries during the pullout from his rocket attack." At the time the SAR operation was terminated, Richard Graves was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.
The crash site was located less then 1 mile east of the shore in shallow water with the sea floor covered in mud and sand, approximately 15 miles north of Vinh and 63 miles south of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam. Villages and hamlets dotted the coastline between the water and a primary single-track railroad line that ran between Thanh Hoa and Vinh. The railroad line was located roughly 1 mile west of the coast and generally paralleled the shoreline. Highway 1, which also paralleled the shore and ran nearly the full length of North and South Vietnam, was located 1 mile west of the railroad line.
While the fate of Richard Graves is in little doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. Based on the circumstances and location of loss there is no doubt the Vietnamese know what happened and could possibly return his remains. Above all else, he has the right to not be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life. For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots 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.