McCORMICK, JOHN VERN

Remains returned 6 April 1988; Identified 21 July 1988


Name: John Vern McCormick 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant/US Navy 
Unit: Attack Squadron 144 
USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) 

Date of Birth: 12 December 1939 (Saginaw, Michigan) 
Home of Record: Burt, Michigan
Date of Loss: 01 December 1965 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 205757N 1062257E (XJ437188)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A-4C "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.

The North Vietnamese railroad system consisted of nine segments, the most important parts of which were north of the 20th parallel. Almost 80% of the major targets were in this area laced together by the rail system. The most important contribution of the system was to move the main fighting weapons from China to redistribution centers at Kep, Hanoi, Haiphong, Nam Dinh and Thanh Hoa. These supplies were further distributed by trucks and boats to designated collection points where porters carried the supplies on their final leg into the acknowledged war zone.

On 1 December 1965, then Lt. JG John V. McCormick, pilot, of  a A4E (Serial # 149560, Tail # NF 547) Skyhawk that launched from the deck of the USS Ticonderoga in a section of 4 aircraft that was conducting a strike mission against the Hai Duong Highway and Railroad Bridge. The bridge was over the Song Thai Binh River and located approximately 1 mile east of the Hai Duong City, 21 miles west-northwest of Haiphong and 29 miles east-southeast of Hanoi, Hai Duong Province, North Vietnam. Highway 5 was the primary road that connected Hanoi and Haiphong and the single-track railroad line that ran along side Highway 5 increased the strategic importance of the Hai Duong Bridge.

After arriving in the target area, the section leader established radio contact with the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC) for instructions. The ABCCC acknowledged the transmission and handed the flight over to the onsite Forward Air Controller (FAC) directing air operations in this sector. In turn, the FAC gave them final instructions and cleared the Navy aircraft in to attack the bridge.

As Lt. JG McCormick dove on the heavily defended target, his aircraft was struck by suspected 57mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire from entrenched batteries located at both ends of the bridge and along the riverbanks. Other pilots watched in horror as the crippled Skyhawk crashed in a clear area covered in rice fields approximately ½ mile west of the target. The crash site was located between the Song Rang and Song Thai Binh Rivers, roughly 6 kilometers northwest of Hai Duong City. Other pilots in the area stated in their after action reports that "the aircraft disintegrated in the air and the pilot was killed instantly." Further, the other aircrews saw no parachute and heard no emergency beeper signals. Because the loss location was deep within enemy-held territory that was densely populated, no search and rescue (SAR) operation was initiated. Shortly after the conclusion of the mission, John McCormick was reported as Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

In the years since the end of the Vietnam War, Lt. JG McCormick's name and related information regarding the loss incident have been passed to the Vietnamese in the ongoing negotiation process. On 6 April 1988, the US negotiation team in Hanoi was given the repatriated skeletal remains of several suspected American servicemen. The tentative identifications associated with these remains did not list John McCormick as one whose remains were being returned to US control. The remains were transported to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination.

On 29 June 1988, the Naval Personnel Command was notified by the CIL-HI that a positive identification had been made on one of the sets of remains and that it correlated to Lt. JG McCormick. Shortly afterward, the remains were returned to John McCormick's family for burial. For the family and friends of John McCormick, they have the peace of mind of knowing where their loved one lies. However, 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.