CHRISTIAN, MICHAEL DURHEN Died in fire at home September 1983
Name: Michael Durhen Christian Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 85, USS KITTY HAWK Date of Birth: 07 October 1940 Home City of Record: Huntsville AL Date of Loss: 24 April 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212400N 1061900E (XJ364667) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A
Other Personnel in Incident: Lewis I. Williams, Jr. (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 April 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
REMARKS: 730305 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude, carrier-based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and electronic warfare platform. The A6A primarily flew close-air-support, all-weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong by a single A6. Their missions were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.
Lt. Lewis I. Williams was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 85 onboard the USS KITTY HAWK (CVA 63). On April 24, 1967, he launched in his A6A Intruder attack bomber with his bombardier/navigator, Lt. Michael D. Christian, on a daylight strike mission into North Veitnam.
Approximately 3 miles from the target, their port (left) wing was hit by 85mm anti-aircraft fire and was subsequently engulfed in flames. Lt. Williams reversed course and jettisoned his ordnance before both crewmen ejected. Both men were seen to land in an open field about 100 yards apart and established radio contact with airborne aircraft. The crewmen appeared uninjured and reported their condition as good. The ejection occurred in a well-defended, populated area near the city of Kep in Ha Bac Province, and capture was almost immediate.
Williams and Christian were held in various locations in Hanoi, North Vietnam before they were released in March 1973. Christian received an award for a birthday during his captivity for being "The Best Bull Shooter in the Whole World." Williams' and Christian's lives followed very diverse courses after their release.
Lt. Williams remained in the Navy and attained the rank of Captain. In 1989, his duty assignment was with the office of the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Lt. Christian was promoted during his captivity to the rank of Lt. Commander. He voluntarily retired on February 1, 1978 while at the Armed Forces Staff College. His resignation was as a protest to president-elect Jimmy Carter's amnesty plan for draft dodgers. In protest, Christian threw his medals on the grave of a veteran. He had been awarded two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, four Air Medals, the Legion of Merit, and the Navy Commendation Medal.
In September 1983, Michael D. Christian died in a fire in his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Williams and Christian were among 591 lucky Americans who were released in 1973 from Vietnam prisoner of war camps. Unfortunately, nearly 2300 are still prisoner, missing and otherwise unaccounted for from the Vietnam war. As Williams must surely be aware, thousands of reports relating to these men have been received by the U.S. Government. The thought that some of their comrades are still alive is very disturbing to most returnees. They had a code among them that none of them could honorably return home unless they all came home.
Today, many authorities who have reviewed the largely classified information relating to missing Americans in Southeast Asia have reluctantly concluded that hundreds of Americans remain alive today in captivity. It's long past time our men were home.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977 Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
MICHAEL D. CHRISTIAN Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: April 24, 1967 Released: March 4, 1973
Family: Father, William D. Christian of Huntsville, Alabama. My mother died during the last year of my captivity. Sister, Pat Endres of Colonie, New York. Brother, Lary Alan Christian, age 11, of Huntsville, Alabama. Wife, Charlotte Strong Christian of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Children, Deborah Kaye, age 13, Sandra Dawn, age 11, Pamela Joan, age 8.
Education: Pre High School, Schenectady, New York; Butler High School, Huntsville, Alabama; University of Alabama (1 semester); Purdue University, BSEE 1964.
Navy: Enlisted 28 January 1958-Aviation electronics technician; Naval Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) a commission program; one and a half years surface Navy in the USS Dahlgren DLG-12; B/N Wings in 1966; A-6A B/N in VA-85 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63).
Interests: Music, Languages, Literature, Travel, and mainly - my family.
My pilot was Lt. Lewis Irving (Irv) Williams. We were shot down 24 April 1967 at Kep Airfield about 30 miles northeast of Hanoi.
I frequently found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got to know the Vietnamese and their methods quite well during five major and various minor pain sessions. Their attempts at propaganda and indoctrination taught me, as it did so many, just how strongly I support the ideals and policies of my country and our system of government. I learned a great deal about myself and my fellow man. I saw Americans function under conditions of great stress and report with pride their tremendous courage and resourcefulness . Perhaps the two strongest lessons I learned are: One, look around and find those who love you. Be aware of their love and react to it while you still can. Two, the International Communist Revolution is a deadly serious business and we MUST become aware of it. We need not panic, but we absolutely must deal with communism from a position of strength. Peace at any price politics will destroy us.
------- A friend of mine forwarded me the following story. I got to live with Mike and considered him a great roommate. Mike was an A6A pilot, POW 4-24-67 to 3-4-73. A couple of years following release, he was trapped in an apartment by a fire. The bars on the window prevented him from from making an escape. He battled to get through but lost the fight. MM (John Michael McGrath ex POW) ______
Our Flag- The Stars and Stripes "Mike's Flag"
(Condensed from a speech by Leo K Thorness, recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. )
You've probably seen the bumper sticker somewhere along the road. It depicts an American Flag, accompanied by the words "These colors don't run." I'm always glad to see this, because it reminds me of an incident from my confinement in North Vietnam at the Hao Lo POW Camp, or the "Hanoi Hilton," as it became known.
Then a Major in the U.S. Air Force, I had been captured and imprisoned from 1967-1973. Our treatment had been frequently brutal. After three years, however, the beatings and torture became less frequent. During the last year, we were allowed outside most days for a couple of minutes to bathe. We showered by drawing water from a concrete tank with a homemade bucket.
One day as we all stood by the tank, stripped of our clothes, a young Naval pilot named Mike Christian found the remnants of a handkerchief in a gutter that ran under the prison wall. Mike managed to sneak the grimy rag into our cell and began fashioning it into a flag. Over time we all loaned him a little soap, and he spent days cleaning the material. We helped by scrounging and stealing bits and pieces of anything he could use. At night, under his mosquito net, Mike worked on the flag. He made red and blue from ground-up roof tiles and tiny amounts of ink and painted the colors onto the cloth with watery rice glue. Using thread from his own blanket and a homemade bamboo needle, he sewed on stars. Early in the morning a few days later, when the guards were not alert, he whispered loudly from the back of our cell, "Hey gang, look here." He proudly held up this tattered piece of cloth, waving it as if in a breeze. If you used your imagination, you could tell it was supposed to be an American flag. When he raised that smudgy fabric, we automatically stood straight and saluted, our chests puffing out, and more than a few eyes had tears. About once a week the guards would strip us, run us outside and go through our clothing. During one of those shakedowns, they found Mike's flag. We all knew what would happen. That night they came for him. Night interrogations were always the worst. They opened the cell door and pulled Mike out. We could hear the beginning of the torture before they even had him in the torture cell. They beat him most of the night. About daylight they pushed what was left of him back through the cell door. He was badly broken; even his voice was gone.
Within two weeks, despite the danger, Mike scrounged another piece of cloth and began another flag. The Stars and Stripes, our national symbol, was worth the sacrifice to him. Now, whenever I see the flag, I think of Mike and the morning he first waved that tattered emblem of a nation. It was then, thousands of miles from home in a lonely prison cell, that he showed us what it is to be truly free.