|Name:||Dennis Stanley Pike|
|Rank/Branch:||Lieutenant Commander/US Navy|
USS Kitty Hawk
|Date of Birth:||02 July 1940 (Globe, AZ)|
|Home of Record:||Bagdad, AZ|
|Date of Loss:||23 March 1972|
|Country of Loss:||Laos|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Missing in Action|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The A7 Corsair was the US Navy's single seat, light attack jet aircraft which featured advanced radar, navigation and weapons systems, and could carry a 15,000 pound bomb load. Nicknamed the Sluf, the A7E with its more powerful TF-41 turbofan engine, was the most advanced version of the Corsair to fly combat missions in Southeast Asia. Its state-of-the-art weapons delivery computers made the Sluf's pilots the best bombers in the fleet. The Corsair was also flown by Air Force and Marine air wings in Southeast Asia.
Dennis Pike attended Arizona State University where he served as the Cadet Colonel of the Air Force ROTC Detachment during his senior year. In May 1965 he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Because of a color deficiency, the Air Force would not allow him to fly. In November 1967, with the assistance of an Air Force Senior Master Sergeant and a Navy Admiral, Dennis Pike accepted an inter-service transfer to the US Navy. He promptly began flight training, and in April 1969, was awarded his pilot's wings.
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 war zone.
On 23 March 1972, Lt. Cmdr. Pike was the pilot of the lead aircraft in a flight of 4. After launching from their carrier, the flight split into sections of 2 aircraft each to conduct a night strike/interdiction mission. The target was a section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail running through Southern Laos.
After successfully completing their mission, both sections of aircraft were returning to the USS Kitty Hawk when the flight Leader reported engine vibrations and what he thought was a compressor stall. His wingman observed smoke swirling from Lt. Cmdr. Pike's exhaust. The wingman instructed Dennis Pike to turn east and set his power to 85%. To this, Lt. Cmdr. Pike replied: "Negative, too many vibrations. I'm going to have to leave it."
At 0208 hours, his wingman closed to within half a mile and observed a cloud of white smoke thought to be from Dennis Pike's ejection seat rocket and shiny particles resembling pieces of canopy glittering in the moonlight. The wingman observed an object tumbling through the air that appeared to be the ejection seat, but no parachute was sighted. At the time Dennis Pike ejected from his crippled aircraft, the Corsair was at an altitude of 4500 to 5000 feet above the ground; slightly nose low, and the left wing tilted 10 degrees down. The second section of aircraft in the flight did not witness their flight leader's ejection because they were too far away at the time.
The location was over rugged jungle covered mountains less than 10 miles south of Oscar Eight, 17 miles east of Ban Ralao, 18 miles south-southeast of Tavouac and 20 miles southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, Saravane Province, Laos. This location was also 21 miles southwest of the western edge of the A Shau Valley, South Vietnam.
Oscar Eight was the code name given to a sector of eastern Laos located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 25 miles northwest of the infamous A Shau Valley, Saravane Province, Laos. The area encompassed the junction of Highway 92, which was a primary north-south artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and Highway 922, which branched off and ran directly east where it crossed into South Vietnam at a strategic point near the northern edge of the A Shau Valley.
Burrowed deep in the hills of Oscar Eight and located just to the east of the road junction was North Vietnamese General Vo Bam's 559th Transportation Group's forward headquarters. It was also the Ho Chi Minh Trail's control center as well as containing the largest NVA storage facility outside of North Vietnam. Oscar Eight was defended by consecutive belts of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) guns of all sizes that were not only stationed on the ground, but also mounted on platforms in the trees. All of these AAA batteries were expertly camouflaged.
A visual search was immediately initiated by the rest of the flight for Lt. Cmdr. Pike while regular search and rescue (SAR) aircraft were inbound to the loss location. Aerial SAR efforts continued during daylight hours until 26 March. During this time no emergency beeper signals or voice contact could be established with the downed pilot. Further, the visual search failed to locate the aircraft wreckage or any sign of Lt. Cmdr. Pike. At the time the formal search was terminated, Dennis Pike was listed Missing in Action.
Dennis Pike is one of nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. Many of these men were known to be alive on the ground. The Laotians admitted holding "tens of tens" of American Prisoners of War, but these men were never negotiated for either by direct negotiation between our countries or through the Paris Peace Accords which ended the War in Vietnam since Laos was not a party to that agreement.
If Dennis Pike died as a result of loss, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, there is no doubt he successfully ejected his crippled aircraft over an area heavily populated by communist forces. If he survived, there is a good chance he would have been captured and 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 America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Fighter pilots in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly 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.
Dennis S. Pike graduated from Arizona State University in 1965. He was also an accomplished artist who designed his squadron's "Golden Dragon" that was painted on the side of their A7s.