WORCHESTER, JOHN BOWERS "SMILEY"

Name: John Bowers "Smiley" Worchester 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant Commander/US Navy 
Unit: Attack Squadron 195
USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) 

Date of Birth: 3 April 1941 (Big Rapids, MI)
Home of Record: Big Rapids, MI
Date of Loss: 19 October 1965 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 191900N 1052500E (WG437357)
Click coordinates to view maps

Status in 1973: Missing in Action 
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C "Skyhawk"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 

REMARKS:  RADIO CONTACT LOST

SYNOPSIS:  The single seat McDonnell A4C Skyhawk was a light attack jet flown by both Navy and Marine Corps pilots from land bases and aircraft carriers throughout Southeast Asia. The Skyhawk is the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings as well as the only type that required a ladder to enter/exit the cockpit - a feature not popular with maintenance men.

On the afternoon of 19 October 1965, then Lt. JG John B. "Smiley" Worchester was the pilot of an A4C Skyhawk that launched from the deck of the USS Bon Homme Richard as the number two aircraft in a section of two. The flight was conducting a late afternoon armed reconnaissance mission over central North Vietnam between the major cities of Thanh Hoa and Vinh, Nghe An Province, North Vietnam. The visibility along the entire route of flight was excellent.

At approximately 1700 hours, the Skyhawks were directed to attack the bridge over the Song Hieu river that flowed through the town of Nghia Hung in an attempt to cut the communist supply line in that region. Both aircraft made a run on the bridge with Lt. JG Worchester right behind the lead aircraft. Smiley Worchester expended part of his ordnance on the bridge, and as he pulled off target, he reported he was turning over checkpoint 1.

At approximately 1715 hours, his flight leader reported reaching checkpoint 2 and requested a radio check from Lt. JG Worchester. When no contact could be established, the flight leader radioed the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control (ABCCC) aircraft to request a search and rescue (SAR) mission be immediately initiated. He then began a visual search through the rolling hills along their flight path, but found no evidence of Lt. JG Worchester or his aircraft.

A nearby fighter aircraft reported an explosion in the area about 1715 hours, but was too far away to determine if it was the Skyhawk. The location of the explosion was in a small rice field on the western edge of Nghia Hung and approximately ½ mile west of the Song Hieu River. Highway 116 was located ¼ mile to the north of the possible crash site and Highway 15, the primary north/south highway, was located between the river and the explosion. Large plantations surround the town including one situated just yards to the south of the site.

All aerial search operations proved negative. Because of the location of loss being deep in enemy-held territory, no ground search was possible. Lt. JG Worchester's last known location was approximately 26 miles due west of the coastline, 41 miles south-southwest of Thanh Hoa and 47 miles north-northwest of Vinh, North Vietnam. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, John "Smiley" Worchester was listed Missing in Action.

John Worchester arrived in Southeast Asia in early August 1965, only 6 weeks before his last flight. It was on his 15th combat mission at the time he disappeared. If Smiley Worchester died in the loss of his aircraft, he has the right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, there is no chance he could have avoided capture 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 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.

Lt. JG John B. Worchester graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1963.