THORNTON, GARY LYNN
Name: Gary Lynn Thornton
Rank/Branch: 01/US Navy
Unit: Liaison, USS ENTERPRISE
Date of Birth: 2 December 1941
Home City of Record: Porterville CA
Date of Loss: 20 February 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 194158N 1054257E (WG750782)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Other Personnel in Incident: Russell C. Goodman (originally missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 with the assistance
of 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 2017.
REMARKS: 730304 RELEASED BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings, served
a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and
electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2),
and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission
type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and
high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art
electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing
capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest"
Major Russell C. Goodman was an Air Force pilot flying as a liaison officer
between the Air Force and the Navy. On 20 February 1967, he was the pilot of
an F4B Phantom fighter jet with Ensign Gary L. Thornton flying as his
weapons/systems officer. The team was scheduled to fly a bombing mission
against a railroad siding in North Vietnam.
At a point about 8 miles south of the city Thanh Hoa in Thanh Hoa Province,
North Vietnam, Goodman's aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM)
in the left front section. Ensign Thornton could not establish contact with
Maj. Goodman. Before he ejected from the badly damaged jet, Thornton noted
that Goodman was either dead or unconscious because his head was down and
wobbling back and forth.
Ensign Thornton was captured by the North Vietnamese and returned to U.S.
control on March 4, 1973 during Operation Homecoming. During his debriefing,
Thornton expressed his belief that Maj. Goodman did not exit the aircraft.
Since American involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, nearly 10,000 reports
relating to Americans missing, prisoner, or otherwise unaccounted for in
Indochina have been received by the U.S. Government. Many officials, having
examined this largely classified information, have reluctantly concluded
that many Americans are still alive today, held captive by our long-ago
Maj. Russell C. Goodman probably died the day his Phantom took a SAM hit.
But one can imagine that he would gladly be among those first in line to
help bring his comrades home. It's time the war ended. It's time our men
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
GARY L. THORNTON
Lieutenant - United States Navy
Shot Down: February 20, 1967
Released: March 4, 1973
I was born in Delano, California, on 3 December 1941. I lived in that
immediate vicinity until early 1947, when my family and I moved to Klamath
Falls, Oregon. We remained there for about one year, then moved north, again,
to Washington state. We remained there until January, 1951. After four years
away from "God's Country," California, we returned to the Porterville,
California, area. I was in the third grade. My father began farming and did so
for the bulk of my remaining school years - much to my enjoyment, I might
add - something I was beginning to realize during my college years and I have
learned to appreciate even more through six years of imprisonment reflections.
I attended Porterville High School, graduating in 1960. I was moderately
active in high school sports and student government. Porterville Junior
College was my next educational step. I graduated from that school in 1963.
During my last year of high school (September 1959) I enlisted in the Naval
Air Reserve and served as a "Weekend Warrior" for some four years, entcring
active service in November 1963. I served the enlisted Navy in Jacksonville,
Florida, for some 15 months when I was recipient of orders to Naval School,
PreFlight (February 1965). After the completion of pre-flight I attended Basic
Naval Flight Officer's School, Sherman Field, completed in November 1965 and
transferred to RIO training at NAS Glynco, Georgia. On 9 February 1966, I was
commissioned and awarded my "Wings of gold".
My next duty station was NAS Miramar, San Diego, California and VF-121 for RIO
training in the F4B I completed the training syllabus in August 1966 and
joined my one and only operational Navy Squadron-FV-96 subsequently aboard USS
Enterprise. My first combat-December 1966. Forty-plus combat missions-shot
down, captured on 20 February 1967. Repatriated 4 March 1973. Six years,12
days of imprisonment (I think the last man to complete six years).
Since repatriation life has been filled by a world of activity, not the least
of which involves a meeting with the world's most beautiful woman (note some
personal bias, perhaps). Miss Mae Fagundes, a San Leandro, California, girl
and I were married on Saturday, 15 September 1973 at NAS Alameda.
After an Acapulco honeymoon we now make our home in the Monterey, California
vicinity where I attend Naval Post Graduate School in the pursuit of a
Bachelor of Arts degree in Government (International Relations).
At the end of my schooling I expect assignment to a fleet squadron and
continuation of my operational Naval career.
My parents, Mr. and Mrs. Billy Thornton, reside in Porterville, California. My
oldest brother, Bill D. Thornton works with the city planning office,
Glendale, California. Another brother, Jack W. Thornton is District Manager
for Travelers Insurance Co. Claims Division, Sacramento, California. Finally,
a sister, Mrs. Harland W. Walker, mother of four, lives in the Porterville
Gary Thornton retired from the United States Navy as a Commander. He lives
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