Watching Charge d'Affairs Hicks testify on Fox News about his Tripoli Airport conversation, and his disbelief in hearing Colonel Gibson's troops would not be allowed to board the C-130 leaving for the fight in Benghazi, reminded me of that disastrous Rolling Thunder operation on Yankee Station off North Vietnam:
Two A-1H propeller-driven "spads" had left NAS Cubi Point in the Philippines for the long flight to their carrier on Yankee. Due to bad weather and navigation aid problems, they strayed too far north and came within range of Chinese MiG's on Hainan. One of the spads escaped and was eventually recovered, but the other piloted by Lieutenant Joe Dunn was shot down by the Chinese. He bailed out and succeeded in getting into his survival raft.
As I recall, Yankee Station aircraft were vectored toward the area to establish contact with the downed pilot on his survival radio. The skipper of the carrier U.S.S. Coral Sea set a course for the downed pilot's area and plans were made for a pickup when within helicopter range.
Incredibly, "higher authority" ordered Coral Sea to remain on Yankee and not effect a rescue. Our aircraft remained in radio contact with the downed spad driver as he floated some three two seven miles off the Hainan coast. Chinese MiG's were observed on radar airborne over Hainan, probably waiting for us to "do the right thing."
Then, a night-time storm came through the area, and contact with that deserted and abandoned United States naval aviator was lost. It was a devastating blow to everyone's morale, and brought home to some of us just how detached and far removed our political leadership was from the battles in which we were fighting and dying.
"Welcome aboard, Mr. Hicks." May God bless those who died that fiery night in Benghazi, just as I'm sure he has already blessed Navy Pilot Joe Dunn who vanished that stormy night off Hainan. His wife Maureen and son became strong advocates for the recovery of our POWs and the resolution of our MIAs from the Vietnam conflict, but the Chinese have repelled all requests for information. A recent visit to Hainan by his son revealed pots and pans made from the skin of his father's aircraft, but no further information.
Mr. Hicks, Mr. Nordstrom, Marine Colonel Thompson: You are now part of a brotherhood which fully appreciates what it means to be betrayed by some secretive "higher authority," but which also knows we must continue to fight bravely and serve honorably because the very survival of the "good" in America is at stake.