Name: Henry Hooker Strong, Jr. 
Rank/Branch: Captain/US Navy 
Unit: Attack Squadron 212, Carrier Air Wing 21, 
USS Hancock (CVA-19) 

Date of Birth: 27 February 1933 (Philadelphia, PA)
Home of Record: North Wales, PA
Date of Loss: 25 May 1972 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 183700N 1054200E (WF733607)
Click coordinates to view(4) maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4F "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was the US Navy's single-seat light attack jet. 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.

On 25 May 1972, then Cmdr. Henry H. Strong, Jr. was the pilot of the lead aircraft (tail #NP-301, serial #155045) in a section of A4F Skyhawks that launched from the deck of the USS Hancock in a much greater package of aircraft conducting an evening combat strike mission against communist targets located in the densely populated and heavily defended region just southwest of Vinh, North Vietnam.

The entire sector was covered in rice fields laced with rivers, canals and waterways of all sizes. Numerous hamlets and villages also doted the region and were connected by roads and trails that ran between them. Highway 1A, the primary road running north/south from Hanoi through the major cities of Thanh Hoa, Vinh and Dong Hoi before crossing the demilitarized zone (DMZ) into South Vietnam. A single-track railroad line paralleled Highway 1A north of Vinh, then the primary track branched off toward the southwest while a spur continued to dock and storage facilities located on the north bank of the Song Ca River.

After arriving in the target area, Cmdr. Strong established contact with the airborne battlefield command and control center (ABCCC) controlling all air operations in that region. Shortly thereafter Henry Strong was given permission to commence their attack on target.

At 1830 hours, Cmdr. Strong visually acquired the target and proceeded to lead the flight into position for an attack pass. Other pilots and aircrews heard Cmdr. Strong transmit "Rolling in." After the attack commenced, the Skyhawks came under heavy enemy anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire. Other pilots operating in the same sector observed an "unidentified aircraft roll inverted and go nose down at an altitude and velocity that could have precluded the pilot from surviving."

While the aircraft appeared to have no chance of recovery and little chance for Cmdr. Strong's survival, none of the other aircrews saw his aircraft impact the ground. Likewise, they saw no ejection from the crippled aircraft, saw no parachute and heard no emergency radio beeper emanating from the area of loss. Upon egress from the target area, the other aircrews reported in to the mission control center. At that time it was discovered that Henry Strong's Skyhawk was the only aircraft that was missing. Because the loss location was deep in enemy-held territory, no search and rescue (SAR) operation was possible.

A Board of Inquiry was convened onboard the USS Hancock shortly thereafter to examine all known facts and circumstances surrounding the loss of Cmdr. Strong. Based on all information presented, the board determined there was a slight chance Harry Strong could have ejected from the crippled aircraft without being seen by other aircrews, but he would have had no chance of escaping detection by the North Vietnamese once on the ground. Because of this small chance for survival, the Board of Inquiry declared Henry Strong to be Missing in Action.

Cmdr. Strong's last known position was in a small area bordered by Route 1120 just to the north and the Song Ca River roughly the same distance to the south. It was also less than a mile south of a single-track railroad spur leading to the river, approximately 1 mile east of Highway 1A, 2 miles south-southeast of the city of Vinh and 8 miles west of the coastline.

In 1992, a National Security Agency (NSA) correlation study of all communist radio intercepts pertaining to missing Americans, which was presented to the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs in a classified format, was finally declassified and made public. According to this document, 1 North Vietnamese radio message was intercepted and correlated to this incident. The NSA synopsis states: "Note; loss attributed to AAA. Battalion 42 of the 263 SAM Regiment. One A-4 aircraft was shot down …. The pilot of the A-4 was …… dead."

If Henry Strong died in his loss incident, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, he most certainly would have immediately been captured and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different. Either way, there is no doubt that the Vietnamese could return him or his 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 in Southeast Asia have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots 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.

Commander Henry H. Strong, Jr. was the Commanding Officer of Attack Squadron 212, aboard the USS Hancock.