|Name:||Marvin Benjamin Christopher Wiles|
|Rank/Branch:||Lieutenant Commander/US Navy|
Carrier Attack Wing 15,
USS Coral Seas (CVA-43)
|Date of Birth:||10 December 1943 (Denver, CO)|
|Home of Record:||San Diego, CA)|
|Date of Loss:||06 May 1972|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam|
Click coordinates to view maps
|Status in 1973:||Prisoner of War|
|Other Personnel In Incident:||(none missing)|
SYNOPSIS: The A7 Corsair was the US Navy's single seat, light attack jet aircraft that featured advanced radar, navigation and weapons systems, and could carry a 15,000 pound bomb load. 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. The Corsair was also flown by Air Force and Marine air wings.
On 6 May 1972, then Lt. Marvin B. C. Wiles was the pilot of an VA 22 (Redcock) A7E Corsair (tail number: NL-313, serial #156879), that launched from the deck of the USS Coral Sea as the number 2 aircraft in a flight of two on an armed reconnaissance mission. The lead aircraft was piloted by Attack Squadron 22's Wing Commander, Cmdr. Roger Sheets.
At 0906 hours, the flight crossed the coastline of North Vietnam just south of the major port city of Vinh. At this time, they saw a surface-to-air missile (SAM) lift off the ground about 10 miles away and to the left of the flight. After the SAM passed by them harmlessly, both pilots saw the SAM launch site and prepared to attack it. Cmdr. Sheets dove on the site to confirm its exact location, then bombed it. At the same time another American fighter/bomber on an "Iron Hand" SAM strike mission was in the area and monitoring the missile site. The pilot of that aircraft launched a SHRIKE missile that struck the target just seconds before Cmdr. Sheets bombs landed. The end result was the SAM site was completely covered and destroyed.
After his attack run, Cmdr. Sheets pulled off the target to the left then came back to the right of it. As he did so, he heard SAM warning signals again. He radioed his wingman to see if he had initiated his bomb run on the target. At the same time Cmdr. Sheets looked back at the target. As he did so, he saw an aircraft crashing into the ground. Cmdr. Sheets scanned the sky back across Lt. Wiles flight path, where upon he saw his wingman descending in his parachute. It was his belief Lt. Wiles' aircraft had been hit by a SAM from another site located in the area.
Cmdr. Sheets followed Lt. Wiles as he descended uninjured into the middle of a village located at the junction to two primary roads, one of which ran from the northeast to southwest through the Ban Karai Pass and onto the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This densely populated mountainous region was located approximately 14 miles southwest of the coastline and 23 miles northwest of Dong Hoi, Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam. Cmdr. Sheets' began taking enemy ground fire and was forced to depart the area. Under the circumstances, Marvin Wiles was immediately listed as a Prisoner of War.
The Ban Karai Pass was considered a major gateway into the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. 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.
Within hours of the Corsair's shootdown, at least 6 enemy radio messages were intercepted by US intelligence personnel. In June 1972, the Department of the Navy reconfirmed Lt. Wiles' status as a POW to his family when it notified them that he had been captured. When the Paris Peace Accords were signed 7 months later, our government fully expected Marvin Wiles would return to US control. When he did not return during Operation Homecoming, he became 1 of 117 confirmed prisoners from North and South Vietnam the Communists refused to return.
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.
Pilots in Vietnam were call 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.
Marvin B. C. Wiles graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1966.