Remains Identified 04/16/99
Name: David Lawton Hodges
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 164, USS ORISKANY (CVA 43)
Date of Birth: 21 November 1937
Home City of Record: Chevy Chase MD
Date of Loss: 07 October 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204400N 1054158E (WH728926)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
Refno: 0854
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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.
SYNOPSIS: The USS ORISKANY was a World War II-era carrier on duty in Vietnam
as early as 1964. The ORISKANY at one time carried the RF8A (number 144608)
that Maj. John H. Glenn, the famous Marine astronaut (and later Senator),
flew in his 1957 transcontinental flight. In October, 1966 the ORISKANY
endured a tragic fire which killed 44 men onboard, but was soon back on
station. In 1972, the ORISKANY had an at-sea accident which resulted in the
loss of one of its aircraft elevators, and later lost a screw that put the
carrier into drydock in Yokosuka, Japan for major repairs, thus delaying its
involvement until the late months of the war.
The ORISKANY's 1966 tour was undoubtedly one of the most tragic deployments
of the Vietnam conflict. This cruise saw eight VA 164 "Ghostriders" lost;
four in the onboard fire, one in an aerial refueling mishap, and another
three in the operational arena. However, the 1967 deployment, which began in
June and ended on a chilly January morning as the ORISKANY anchored in San
Francisco Bay, earned near legendary status by virtue of extensive losses
suffered in the ship's squadrons, including among the Ghostriders of VA 164,
and Saints of VA 163. One reason may have been that Navy aviators were, at
this time, still forbidden to strike surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites
which were increasing in number in North Vietnam.
On July 18, 1967, LCDR Richard D. Hartman's aircraft fell victim to
anti-aircraft fire near Phu Ly in Nam Ha Province, North Vietnam. Hartman,
from VA 164, ejected safely, but could not be rescued due to the hostile
threat in the area. Others in the flight were in radio contact with him and
resupplied him for about three days. He was on a karst hill in a difficult
recovery area. Eventually the North Vietnamese moved in a lot of troops and
AAA guns, making rescue almost impossible.
One of the rescue helicopters attempting to recover LCDR Hartman on the 19th
was a Sikorsky SH3A helicopter flown by Navy LT Dennis W. Peterson. The crew
onboard the aircraft included ENS Donald P. Frye and AX2 William B. Jackson
and AX2 Donald P. McGrane. While attempting to rescue LCDR Hartman, this
aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed killing all onboard. The remains
of all but the pilot, Peterson, were returned by the Vietnamese on October
14, 1982. Peterson remains missing.
The decision was made to leave Hartman before more men were killed trying to
rescue him. It was not an easy decision, and one squadron mate said, "To
this day, I can remember his voice pleading, 'Please don't leave me.' We had
to, and it was a heartbreaker." Hartman was captured and news returned home
that he was in a POW camp. However, he was not released in 1973. The
Vietnamese finally returned his remains on March 5, 1974. Hartman had died
in captivity from unknown causes.
In July 1967, LCDR Donald V. Davis was one of the Saints of VA 163 onboard
the ORISKANY. Davis was an aggressive pilot. On the night of July 25, 1967,
Davis was assigned a mission over North Vietnam. The procedure for these
night attacks was to drop flares over a suspected target and then fly
beneath them to attack the target in the light of the flares. Davis and
another pilot were conducting the mission about 10 miles south of Ha Tinh
when Davis radioed that he had spotted a couple of trucks. He dropped the
flares and went in. On his strafing run, he drove his Skyhawk straight into
the ground and was killed immediately. Davis is listed among the missing
because his remains were never recovered.
LTJG Ralph C. Bisz was also assigned to Attack Squadron 163. On August 4,
1967, Bisz launched on a strike mission against a petroleum storage area
near Haiphong. Approximately a minute and a half from the target area, four
surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were observed lifting from the area northeast
of Haiphong. The flight maneuvered to avoid the SAMs, however, Bisz'
aircraft was observed as it was hit by a SAM by a wingman. Bisz' aircraft
exploded, burst into flames, and spun downward in a large ball of fire.
Remnants of the aircraft were observed falling down in the large ball of
fire until reaching an altitude estimated to be 5,000 feet and then appeared
to almost completely burn out prior to reaching the ground. No parachute or
ejection was observed. No emergency beeper or voice communications were
Bisz' aircraft went down in a heavily populated area in Hai Duong Province,
Vietnam. Information from an indigenous source which closely parallels his
incident indicated that his remains were recovered from the wreckage and
taken to Hanoi for burial. The U.S. Government listed Ralph Bisz as a
Prisoner of War with certain knowledge that the Vietnamese know his fate.
Bisz was placed in a casualty status of Captured on August 4, 1967.
The Navy now says that the possibility of Bisz ejecting was slim. If he had
ejected, his capture would have taken place in a matter of seconds due to
the heavy population concentration in the area and that due to the lack of
additional information it is believed that Bisz did not eject from his
aircraft and that he was killed on impact of the SAM.
Classified information on Bisz' case was presented to the Vietnamese by
General Vessey in the fall of 1987 in hopes that the Vietnamese would be
able to resolve the mystery of Bisz' fate. His case is one of what are
called "discrepancy" cases, which should be readily resolved. The Vietnamese
have not been forthcoming with information on Ralph Bisz.
On August 31, three pilots from the ORISKANY were shot down on a
particularly wild raid over Haiphong. The Air Wing had been conducting
strikes on Haiphong for two consecutive days. On this, the third day, ten
aircraft launched in three flights; four from VA 164 (call sign Ghostrider),
four from VA 163 (call sign Old Salt) and two from VA 163. As the flight
turned to go into Haiphong, one of the section leaders spotted two SAMs
lifting off from north of Haiphong. They were headed towards the Saints
section leader and the Ghostrider section leader, LCDR Richard C. Perry.
The Saints section leader and his wingman pitched up and to the right, while
Old Salt 3 (LCDR Hugh A. Stafford) turned down, his wingman, LTJG David J.
Carey close behind him. Carey, an Air Force Academy graduate, was on his
first operational mission. The missile detonated right in front of them and
aircraft pieces went everywhere.
The other SAM headed towards Perry's section, and he had frozen in the
cockpit. All three planes in the division pulled away, and he continued
straight and level. His helpless flightmates watched as the missile came
right up and hit the aircraft. The aircraft was generally whole and heading
for open water.
Old Salt Three and Old Salt Four, Stafford and Carey, had by that time
ejected from their ruined planes and were heading towards the ground from an
altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 feet. Both were okay, but Stafford had landed in
a tree near a village, making rescue impossible. Carey had landed about a
mile away near a small village. Stafford and Carey were captured and held in
various prisoner of war camps until their release in Operation Homecoming on
March 14, 1973.
Richard Perry had also ejected and was over open water. But as Perry entered
the water, his parachute went flat and he did not come up. A helicopter was
on scene within minutes, and a crewman went into the water after Perry. He
had suffered massive chest wounds, either in the aircraft or during descent
in his parachute and was dead. To recover his body was too dangerous because
the North Vietnamese were mortaring the helicopter. The helicopter left the
area. Richard Perry's remains were recovered by the Vietnamese and held
until February 1987, at which time they were returned to U.S. control.
Flight members were outraged that they had lost three pilots to SAMs that
they were forbidden to attack. Policy was soon changed to allow the pilots
to strike the sites, although never to the extent that they were disabled
On October 7, 1967, VA 164 pilot LT David L. Hodges was killed when his
Skyhawk was hit by a SAM about twelve miles southwest of Hanoi. His remains
were never recovered and he is listed among those missing in Vietnam.
On October 18, 1967, VA 164 pilot LCDR John F. Barr was killed when his
Skyhawk was hit by enemy fire and slammed into the ground while on a strike
mission at Haiphong. Barr's remains were not recovered.
On November 2, 1967, VA 164 pilot LTJG Frederic Knapp launched as the lead
of a flight of two aircraft on an armed reconnaissance mission over North
Vietnam. The wingman reported that during an attack run, the aircraft
appeared to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire. The wingman saw Knapp's
aircraft impact the ground and did not see the canopy separate from the
aircraft. There was no parachute sighted or emergency radio beeper heard.
The aircraft crashed about 9 kilometers west-southwest of Cho Giat, near
route 116, in Nghe An Province.
A source later reported that people from his village had removed the remains
of a dead pilot from his aircraft and buried the remains nearby. These
remains are believed to be those of Knapp. On October 14, 1982, Vietnamese
officials turned over to U.S. authorities a Geneva Convention card belonging
to Ltjg. Knapp. To date, no remains have been repatriated.
Six of the thirteen pilots and crewmen lost in 1967 off the decks of the
ORISKANY remain prisoner, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for in Vietnam.
Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese
"stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous
times. Could any of these six be in a casket, awaiting just such a moment?
Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S.
relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have
examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to the
conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Could any
of these six be among them?
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is it
really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As long as
reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive in
Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically
expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As
long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are alive.
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we must
do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
    No. 057-M
The remains of six American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from
the war in Southeast Asia have been identified and are being returned to
their families for burial in the United States.
        They are identified as Air Force Capt. Dean A. Wadsworth,
        Clarendon, Texas; Marine SSgt. Harold E. Reid, Salt Lake City,
        Utah; Navy Lt. David L. Hodges, Chevy Chase, Md.; Air Force Lt.
        Col. Lewis M. Robinson, Saginaw, Mich.; Air Force Capt. Douglas
        K. Martin, Tyler, Texas; and Air Force Capt. Samuel L. James,
        Chattanooga, Tenn.
On Oct. 8, 1963, Wadsworth and his South Vietnamese crewman were
flying their T-28B Trojan on a combat support mission approximately 50
miles southwest of Da Nang, South Vietnam.  As he completed his bombing
run over the target, his aircraft broke apart in mid air, crashed and
exploded, as reported by another pilot on the mission.  A massive search
and rescue operation was initiated that day by two Marine helicopters
but they disappeared during the mission.  At dawn on the following day,
Marine heli copters airlifted two companies of South Vietnamese
infantrymen to the area of the downed aircraft.  As the helicopters
landed, enemy troops fired on them, wounding three Marine crewmen and
killing a Vietnamese soldier.
Two T-28s, B-26s and a South Vietnamese A-1 aircraft responded
by strafing enemy positions.  An American L-19 light observation
aircraft directing the strike was hit, the Vietnamese observer was
wounded, and the aircraft made a forced landing.  Meanwhile, the
Vietnamese ground troops found both Marine helicopters that had
disappeared on the first day.  Ten bodies were recovered, but two remain
missing in action to this day.  In the days during the search and rescue
operations, 207 missions were flow n, three aircraft were lost and four
others damaged.  Fifteen South Vietnamese soldiers were killed and seven
were wounded.
In late 1993, a Vietnamese local turned over remains he said
were recovered near the crash site.  In May of the following year, a
joint U.S./Vietnamese team, led by the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting,
visited the area of the crash, interviewed villagers and obtained some
aircraft debris and pilot-related equipment.  In September, another
joint team examined the crash site and found more debris, but no
remains.  Then in May 1995, another team excavated the site where they
found remains, as well as two identification tags of Wadsworth.
On Sept. 13, 1967, Reid completed his tour guarding an
observation post near a river in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam.
Before dawn, he crossed the bridge to visit a friend on the south side
of the river.  He was never seen again. A joint U.S./Vietnamese team in
August 1993 interviewed local informants who claimed to have buried an
American Marine who had been shot by the Vietcong near the river.  The
informants stated that the body had been moved and re-buried at another
location, but the team could not locate it.  In September 1995, another
team interviewed other informants, but obtained little information.
Then in April 1996, a third team excavated the reported burial site
about 1,000 meters from the southern end of the bridge where they found
remains as well as material evidence and personal equipment.
On Oct. 7, 1967, Hodges was leading a strike mission near Hanoi,
North Vietnam when his A-4E Skyhawk was struck by an enemy
surface-to-air missile.  His wingman reported receiving a radio
transmission from the lieutenant that his engine had flamed out.  As the
wingman watched, Hodges' burning aircraft rolled to the right, entered a
steep dive, and crashed.  No parachute was sighted and no emergency
beeper signals were heard.  Because of enemy control of the area, there
was no search and rescue missi on mounted.
Acting on information obtained from Vietnamese wartime documents, a
joint U.S./Vietnamese team interviewed villagers in July 1995 who
claimed to have visited the site shortly after the crash and buried the
pilot.  But the crash crater had been filled with dirt to allow farming,
so the team found no evidence of a crash.  But the following April,
another team mounted an excavation at the site where they did recover
remains, a wristwatch fragment, pilot-related items and aircraft
wreckage.  Later, in S eptember 1996, a third team continued the
excavation and found additional remains among the wreckage.
Robinson was flying his A-1E Skyraider on a close air support mission
over Saravane Province, Laos, on June 4, 1967, when he was struck by
enemy ground fire.  His aircraft pitched up abruptly, struck the wing of
another aircraft, went into an inverted spin and crashed amid an
explosion.  None of the other pilots in the flight reported seeing a
parachute nor hearing emergency beeper signals.  Hostile threats in the
area prevented air or ground searches of the crash site.
In early 1988, representatives of the Laotian government turned over
remains to the U. S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the unit leading
joint recovery operations in Southeast Asia at the time.  A joint
U.S./Lao team traveled to the area of the crash site in November 1993,
interviewed villagers, surveyed the area and recovered skeletal
fragments, aircraft wreckage and pilot-related equipment.  Then in
January 1998, a second joint team excavated the site and recovered more
remains and personal eq uipment.
Martin and James were flying a forward air control mission over Cambodia
on April 18, 1973, when they descended below a 6,000-foot layer of haze
in their F-4E Phantom.   They radioed they had the target in sight, but
their wingman was unable to maintain visual contact.  He asked Martin
and James to give him an automatic direction-finder signal but there was
no response.  On several passes over the target, the wingman noted fires
and explosions near the target area.  There were no parachutes sighted,
nor emergency beeper signals.  Enemy activity in the area prevented a
ground search, but aerial reconnaissance the following day noted
aircraft debris at the site.
In 1993, 1995 and 1997, three joint U.S./Cambodian teams developed leads
through interviews with local villagers and surveys of the crash site.
The informants noted that the crash site had been heavily scavenged and
that remains had been present at one time.  Then in January 1998, a
joint team excavated the site where they found remains amid numerous
pieces of aircraft wreckage. Anthropological analysis of the remains and
other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory,
Hawaii confirmed the identification of all six of these servicemen.
With the accounting of these six, there are now 2,063 Americans
unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War.  Since the release of American
POWs in 1973, 520 MIAs from Southeast Asia have been accounted-for and
returned to their families for burial with full military honors.
The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of
the governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's
Democratic Republic, and the Kingdom of Cambodia that resulted in the
accounting of these servicemen.  We hope that such cooperation will
bring increased results in the future.  Achieving the fullest possible
accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority.
At Long Last, Word on a Missing Son
Md. Pilot Was MIA in Vietnam
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 19, 1999; Page B03
David Hodges loved flying so much that by the time he graduated from
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1955, he had already received both a
private pilot's and a commercial airman's license.....