HICKERSON, JAMES MARTIN
Name: James Martin Hickerson
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 147, USS RANGER
Date of Birth: 02/14/34
Home City of Record: Atlanta GA
Date of Loss: 22 December 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204200N 1064600E (XH839897)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category:
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A7A
Refno:
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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 2009.
REMARKS: 730314 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The USS RANGER was a seasoned combat veteran, having been deployed
to Vietnam for Flaming Dart I operations. The carrier played a steady role
throughout American involvement in the war. The first fighter jets to bomb
Haiphong in Operation Rolling Thunder came from her decks.
In early December 1967, Carrier Air Wing 2 and the USS RANGER arrived in the
Gulf of Tonkin bringing the all-new A7A LTV Corsair to combat. Designed to
replace the workhorse A4 as the Navy's primary light attack aircraft, the
Corsair was flown by the Argonauts of Attack Squadron 147.
According to pilots, forward air controllers (FAC) loved the A7, especially
in North Vietnam. Whenever A7s were around, they'd try to get them because
of their ability to put the ordnance right where it was supposed to be. The
accuracy had little to do with pilot technique, it was the bombing computers
onboard the aircraft at the time. The Corsair manufacturer had as many
technical reps onboard the ship as there were pilots, and they reps had the
airplanes tuned to perfection. A7s were also good on fuel, with an
exceptionally long range over 700 miles.
The first A7 loss occurred on December 22 near Haiphong in North Vietnam.
LTCDR James M. Hickerson was a section leader in a flight of several
aircraft from VA 147. Hickerson was about 10 mile south of Haiphong when his
aircraft was hit by surface-to-air missile (SAM) and he was forced to eject.
Approximately one out of six Americans shot down in the Iron Triangle
(Haiphong, Hanoi, Thanh Hoa) region of North Vietnam who were known to be
alive on the ground were recovered by search and rescue units. At best, a
pilot could expect an extended stay in the Hanoi prison system. On the other
end of the spectrum, stories circulated about pilots who were literally
clubbed and beaten to death in villages.
Hickerson might be considered one of the luckier ones. Although the next
five years were spent in the torture and deprivation of the North Vietnamese
prisoner of war facilities, he survived to come home in Operation Homecoming
in 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).
JAMES M. HICKERSON
Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: December 22, 1967
Released: March 14, 1973
Born: Lenoir, North Carolina on 14 February 1934.
Schooling: Went to high school and college in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating
from Georgia Tech in 1956 with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering Degree.
Family: Met Shirley Anne McNeill in Memphis, Tennessee and succumbed to her
Southern charms on 28 December 1958.
Military Service: Prior to that fateful day, 22 December 1967, I had tours in
the Naval Training Command as an instrument instructor, two WestPac cruises
with VA-155 on board the USS Coral Sea, an exchange tour with the Marines in
VMA-311, a three year tour at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River,
during which  I graduated with Test Pilot School, Class 38, and finally my
last tour in VA-147, the first A-7 squadron to go to combat. Unfortunately, I
was the first A-7 pilot shot down.
                              
During my stay in the Hilton, faith in God, Country, Family and fellow POWs
enabled me to keep sight of "the light at the end of the tunnel." The
realization of just how lucky I am to be an American citizen is far and away
the foremost lesson learned during my captivity.

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James Hickerson retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He and his
wife Carole reside in Hawaii.

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