Name: Dean Smith, Jr. 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Junior Grade/US Naval Reserve 
Unit: Fighter Squadron 124 
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) 

Date of Birth: 14 June 1941 (Savannah, GA)
Home of Record: Savannah, GA
Date of Loss: 15 March 1967 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 192158N 1955200E (WG910414)
Click coordinates to view (4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F8C  “Crusader”
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The Vought F8 Crusader saw action early in the US involvement in Southeast Asia as it participated in the first Gulf of Tonkin reprisal missions in August 1964. It continued to participate in the subsequent attacks against North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. The Crusader was used almost exclusively by Navy and Marine air wings. The F8 represented approximately one-half of the carrier-based fighter aircraft in the Gulf of Tonkin during the first four years of the air war, and were accredited with nearly 53% of MiG kills in Vietnam.

The combat attrition rate of the Crusader was comparable to similar fighters. Between 1964 and 1972, 83 Crusaders were lost or destroyed by enemy fire. Another 109 required major rebuilding. 145 pilots were recovered, while 57 were not. 23 of these pilots were captured and released. The remaining 43 remained POW/MIA at the end of the war.

On 15 March 1967, Lt. JG Dean Smith was the pilot of the number two aircraft in a flight of two that launched from the deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard on an armed coastal reconnaissance mission over the densely populated and heavily defended coastline of North Vietnam. Both aircraft were armed with Sidewinder missiles on fuselage racks.

At a point due west Hon Me Island, roughly 5 miles due east of the coastline, 6 miles northeast of the coastal city of Nghia Hung, 29 miles south-southeast of Thanh Hoa and 49 miles north-northeast of Vinh, Nghe An Province, North Vietnam, the flight leader began a right turn. At a 45-degree bank and at an altitude of 1500 feet, he noticed his wingman losing altitude. He radioed, "Watch your altitude," but received no response from Lt. JG Smith.

Shortly thereafter Dean Smith's Crusader impacted the water and disintegrated. The flight leader observed no attempt at ejection. A search and rescue (SAR) operation was immediately initiated, but all efforts to locate the downed pilot produced negative results. Although the area was covered by known anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries located on the on the offshore islands as well as on the North Vietnamese coastline, none was observed firing at the flight.

The US Navy believed that Lt. JG Smith died when his aircraft inadvertently impacted the water. At the time the formal search operation was terminated, Dean Smith was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered and with the notation that there was probably little to no chance of recovery.

While Dean Smith's fate is not in doubt, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country of at all possible. Above all else, he has the right not to 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Fighter pilots in Vietnam were call 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.