DICKSON, EDWARD ANDREW Name: Edward Andrew Dickson Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Reserves Unit: Attack Squadron 155, USS CORAL SEA (CVA-43) Date of Birth: 03 September 1937 Home City of Record: Wyoming PA Date of Loss: 07 February 1965 Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 173200N 1063600E (XE707391) Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered Category: 2 Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E Refno: 0053 Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 1990 with the assistance of Task Force Omega 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: EJECTED - NO PARA - SEAT -J SYNOPSIS: By early January, 1965, following two significant military defeats at the hands of North Vietnamese guerrilla forces, the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam was near collapse; U.S. options were either to leave the country or increase its military activity. President Johnson chose to escalate. Plans were authorized for a "limited war" that included a bombing campaign in North Vietnam. The first major air strike over North Vietnam took place in reaction to Viet Cong mortaring of an American advisor's compound at Pleiku on February 7, 1965. Eight Americans died in the attack, more than one hundred were wounded, and ten aircraft were destroyed. President Johnson immediately launched FLAMING DART I, a strike against the Vit Thu Lu staging area, fifteen miles inland and five miles north of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Thirty-four aircraft launched from the USS RANGER, but were prevented from carrying out that attack by poor weather, and the RANGER aircraft were not allowed to join the forty-nine planes from the USS CORAL SEA and USS HANCOCK, which struck the North Vietnamese army barracks and port facilities at Dong Hoi. LT Edward A. Dickson was an A4E Skyhawk pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 155 onboard the CORAL SEA. Dickson was a section leader in a four-plane flight on the strike at Dong Hoi. About 5 miles south of the target area, LT Dickson reported that his aircraft had been hit by ground fire. His wingman was instructed to look his aircraft over for damage as they continued to approach the final run-in to the target. Just prior to reaching the bomb release point, LT Dickson's left wing burst into flames and the wingman notified of that fact. At this time the flight leader gave the signal to drop the bombs. Dickson continued in his bomb run, turning out to sea only after his last bomb had left the aircraft. Upon completing the bombing run, the flight made an immediate turn to head for the sea, and for easier rescue. As the flight continued to the coastline it was noted that the left wing of Dickson's aircraft was completely engulfed in flames. He was instructed to eject, and upon ejection, the canopy and ejection seat were observed to leave the plane. Partly because the aircraft were traveling at a high rate of speed, no one was sure Dickson himself left the aircraft, nor was a parachute seen deployed. The crippled A4 crashed into the Gulf of Tonkin approximately one-half mile off shore. Search and rescue facilities were alerted and accompanying aircraft circled in the vicinity of the crash site for roughly 15 minutes without being able to locate their downed comrade. Weather conditions in the target area were overcast with multiple stratus cloud layers. The search was terminated two days later with no results. LT Dickson, because he was lost over water, was classified Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered. His name is listed among the missing because no remains were ever found to return home. The strike was judged at best an inadequate reprisal. It accounted for sixteen destroyed buildings. The cost? The loss of one A4E Skyhawk pilot from the USS CORAL SEA and eight damaged aircraft. LT Dickson's loss was indeed ironic, or possibly just symbolic of the deadly business of naval aviation. One year earlier, Dickson had narrowly evaded death after ejecting from an A4 during a training exercise over the Sierra Nevada range in California. His parachute failed to open, but Dickson landed in a thirty-foot snowdrift and survived. Edward A. Dickson is one of nearly 2500 Americans still missing from the Vietnam war. Some certainly died. However, it is not totally clear that Lt. Dickson actually died when his aircraft went down, or in a faulty ejection, or if he survived to make it to shore or be picked up by boats in the area. Like many cases of those missing, Lt. Dickson's case is unclear. Tragically, since the end of the war, thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government that have convinced many authorities that hundreds of Americans are still alive, held captive in Southeast Asia. Most of these reports remain classified, so no public judgement can be made as to their worth. Speculation continues that Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia, waiting for their country to free them. It is not beyond comprehension that Edward A. Dickson could be one of them. If so, what must he think of us?