WILKINS, GEORGE HENRY REMAINS RETURNED 10/30/96 NAVY CMDR. GEROGE H. WILKINS OF GOLDSBORO, N.C. - LOST JULY 11, 1966, NORTH VIETNAM. "IN 1989, THE SRV REPATRIATED REMAINS BELIEVED TO BE THOSE OF A NUMBER OF U.S. SERVICEMEN LOST IN VIETNAM. THREE U.S.-SRV JOIN INVESTIGATIONS GATHERED ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND CRASH DEBRIS WHICH AIDED IN THE IDENTIFICATION. MITOCHONDRIAL DNA TESTING WAS USED TO CONFIRM THE IDENTIFICATION." POW/MIA DEFENSE WEEKLY Name: George Henry Wilkins Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy Unit: Attack Squadron 153, USS CONSTELLATION (CVA 64) Date of Birth: 14 July 1931 (Angler NC) Home City of Record: Goldsboro NC Date of Loss: 11 July 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 185200N 1053700E (WF649860) Status (in 1973): Missing in Action Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C Refno: 0391 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 1998. REMARKS: SYNOPSIS: The USS CONSTELLATION provided air power to the U.S. effort in Vietnam early in the war, having participated in strikes against Loc Chao and Hon Gai in North Vietnam during August 1964. One of the first American POWs of the war, and certainly one of the most well-known, LTJG Everett Alverez, launched from her decks and was captured during this series of strikes in 1964. The CONSTELLATION was large and carried a full range of aircraft. Fighters from her air wing, CVW-14, earned the carrier the Meritorious Unit Commendation in 1968 during a particularly intense period of air attacks. VF-96, a premier fighter squadron awarded the Clifton Trophy two straight years, flew from the CONSTELLATION in October 1971. During this period, two of her pilots, LT Randall H. Cunningham and LTJG William "Willie" Driscoll became the first American aces of the Vietnam War, having shot down five Russian-made MiG enemy aircraft. The CONSTELLATION remained on station throughout most of the war. One of the aircraft launched from the decks of the USS CONSTELLATION was the Douglas Douglas Aircraft A4 Skyhawk. The Skyhawk was produced to provide the Navy and Marine Corps with an inexpensive, lightweight attack and ground support aircraft. The design emphasized low-speed control and stability during take-off and landing as well as strength enough for catapult launch and carrier landings. The plane was so compact that it did not need folding wings for aboardship storage and handling. In spite of its diminutive size, the A4 packed a devastating punch and performed well where speed and maneuverability were essential. LTCDR George H. Wilkins was a Skyhawk pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 153 onboard the USS CONSTELLATION. On July 11, 1966, Wilkins launched in his A4C aircraft on a mission over North Vietnam. He was assigned to drop flares to illuminate roads in the search for a truck convoy. Wilkins had been briefed to make an identification pass under the flares after ignition. Shortly after Wilkins called "flares away," LT Patz, his wingman, observed a long trail of fire on the ground under the flares which came to rest in what appeared to be two separate pieces of debris. No other transmissions were heard by LT Patz although it is known that LTCDR Wilkins was equipped with adequate signaling devices. Moderate 37mm anti-aircraft fire was observed in the area. The crash site was located about 12 miles north of the city of Vinh in Nghe An Province, North Vietnam. No wreckage was sighted during a daytime search nor were any electronic signals received. It was believed that LTCDR Wilkins' aircraft was shot down by enemy fire and that he did not survive the shoot down. However, there still existed the possibility that Wilkins successfully bailed out of his aircraft, for he was listed Missing in Action rather than Killed. For 24 years, the Vietnamese have denied knowledge of the fate of George H. Wilkins, even though the U.S. believes there is a good possibility he was captured and died in captivity. On June 28, 1974, the Department of the Navy declared George Wilkins dead, based on no specific information he was still alive. Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese "stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically advantageous times. Could Wilkins be waiting, in a casket, for 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 Wilkins be among these? 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.