BENSON, LEE DAVID
Name: Lee David Benson
Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy
Unit: Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23, USS Yorktown
Date of Birth: 17 August 1943
Home City of Record: San Mateo CA
Date of Loss: 17 March 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 191759N 1062269E (XG453344)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Thomas D. Barber; Donald R. Hubbs; Randall J.
Nightingale (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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.
REMARKS: LOST O/W - SEARCH FAILED - J
SYNOPSIS: Cdr. Donald R. Hubbs (pilot); LtJg. Lee D. Benson (co-pilot); AX2
Randall J. Nightingale (Antisubmarine Warfare Technician 2nd Class); and ADR
Thomas D. Barber (crewman) comprised the crew of an S2E aircraft assigned to
Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23 aboard the USS YORKTOWN.
As submarine action in Vietnam was virtually (if not completely) unknown, a
wide variety of activities were conducted by Anti-submarine units in
Vietnam. Because Anti-submarine warfare involves the use of magnetic
detection gear or acoustic buoys in conjunction with "listening" devices,
anti-submarine aircraft and their crews' training proved especially
adaptable to reconnaissance and tracking missions.
On March 17, 1968, Hubbs and his crew launched from the YORKTOWN on a night
surveillance mission over the North Vietnam coast in the area of Vinh.
Weather was bad with zero visibility. Approximately one hour after launch,
the aircraft reported radar problems. No other transmissions were heard, and
the aircraft disappeared from the ship's radar scope. All efforts to make
contact were unsuccessful. However, five hours after the last contact, radio
signals were heard, and North Vietnamese fishing boats were spotted in the
area the next day. The last point of contact occurred about 30 miles off the
shore of North Vietnam about 25 miles east southeast of the island of Hon
On July 2O, 1968 a section of the starboard wing was found. During the
period of July through September 1973 an overwater/at-sea casualty
resolution operation was conducted to determine the feasibility and
desirability of such water loses. These operations were terminated when it
was determined to be unfeasible and nonproductive in such cases. Commander
Hubbs and the rest of his crew are still carried in the status of Presumed
When considering a personnel loss at sea, the criteria for survival involves
both the location and the cause of the loss. In the case of the S2E, no
reason for loss was ever determined. Therefore, it was either shot down or
went down due to mechanical or weather difficulties.
If mechanical difficulties resulted in the downing of the S2E, in an
entirely non-hostile environment, then there can be little chance of
survival for the crew of the S2E unless they managed to cross 25 miles of
ocean. If enemy activity was present, however, there can be ample room for
speculation that the crew might have been captured by one of the fishing
boats in the area.
The crew of the S2E is among nearly 3000 Americans who remained prisoner,
missing, or otherwise unaccounted for at the end of the Vietnam war. Since
that time, cases have been resolved by the return of remains and by other
means. Since the end of the war, over 10,000 reports relating to these
Americans have been received by the U.S. Government, convincing many
authorities that hundreds of Americans remain alive in enemy hands today.
Whether the crew of the S2E survived to be captured can only be speculated.
It would be kinder to them and to their families if they died on March 17,
1968. It is impossible to imagine the agony they must feel to have been
abandoned by their country. It is heartbreaking to consider that Americans
still await rescue by the country they proudly served.