HEILIG, JOHN

Name: John Heilig
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: VFP 63
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Miami FL
Date of Loss: 05 May 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 184700N 1052600E (WF456767)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Aircraft/Veicle/Ground: RF8A

Other Personnel in Incident: none

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: 730212 RELSD BY DRV

SYNOPSIS: The Vought F8 "Crusader" saw action early in U.S. involvement in
Southeast Asia. Its fighter models participated both in the first Gulf of
Tonkin reprisal in August 1964 and in the myriad attacks against North
Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. The Crusader was used exclusively
by the Navy and Marine air wings (although there is one U.S. Air Force pilot
reported shot down on an F8) and represented half or more of the carrier
fighters in the Gulf of Tonkin during the first four years of the war. The
aircraft was credited with nearly 53% of MiG kills in Vietnam.

The most frequently used fighter versions of the Crusader in Vietnam were
the C, D, and E models although the H and J were also used. The Charlie
carried only Sidewinders on fuselage racks, and were assigned such missions
as CAP (Combat Air Patrol), flying at higher altitudes. The Echo model had a
heavier reinforced wing able to carry extra Sidewinders or bombs, and were
used to attack ground targets, giving it increased vulnerability. The Echo
version launched with less fuel, to accommodate the larger bomb store, and
frequently arrived back at ship low on fuel. The RF-A models were equipped
for photo reconnaissance. The RF-G were also photographic versions, but with
additional cameras and navigational equipment.

The combat attrition rate of the Crusader was comparable to similar
fighters. Between 1964 to 1972, eighty-three Crusaders were either lost or
destroyed by enemy fire. Another 109 required major rebuilding. 145 Crusader
pilots were recovered; 57 were not. Twenty of these pilots were captured and
released. The other 43 remained missing at the end of the war. In addition,
there were 16 pilots who went down on photographic versions of the aircraft.
Of these 16, seven were captured (six were released, one died in captivity).

Lt. John Heilig was the pilot of an RF8A on a combat mission in Nghe An
Province, North Vietnam on May 5, 1966. As he was about 20 miles northwest
of the city of Vinh, his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Heilig
was captured by the Vietnamese, and held prisoner until his return in
Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973.

Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men 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

JOHN HEILIG
Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: May 5, 1966
Released: February 12, 1973

I wish to express my sincerest appreciation to the loyal and patriotic
American citizenry, exemplified by those who have shown such personal
interest and made so many sacrifices on our behalf, and for our families,
and who have supported our President in his efforts to obtain our release.
It has been over seven years since I stood on the deck of the USS Hancock
and watched the beautiful shoreline of America  fade in the distance. Yet
upon my return, I still find, as I knew I would, the same warm and human
people and the abiding dedication and loyalty to America from those who have
made her great. Thank you!!

John Heilig retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He and his
wife Patti still live in Florida.