ESTOCIN, MICHAEL JOHN
Name: Michael John Estocin
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 192, USS TICONDEROGA (CVA-14)
Date of Birth: 27 April 1931
Home City of Record: Turtle Creek PA
Loss Date: 26 April 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204258N 1070257E (YH134919)
Status (in 1973): Prisoner of War
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.
SYNOPSIS: The USS TICONDEROGA (CVA 14) was first in Vietnam waters in late
1944 when fighter planes from the TICONDEROGA and the USS HANCOCK flew
strike missions against enemy vessels in Saigon Harbor. The TICONDEROGA, the
fourteenth U.S. aircraft carrier to be built, was on station during the very
early years of the Vietnam war and remained throughout most of the duration
of the war.
The "World Famous Golden Dragons" of Attack squadron 192 returned to the
waters off North Vietnam in November 1966, their third combat deployment and
a cruise that would prove to be both intense and noteworthy.
LTCDR Michael J. Estocin was an A4E Skyhawk pilot and the operations officer
of Attack Squadron ONE NINE TWO, onboard the USS TICONDEROGA. On March 11,
1967, Estocin was the lead pilot of a three-plane group in support of a
coordinated strike against two thermal power plants in Haiphong. Estocin was
to fly SHRIKE, which considered among the toughest of the war. He was one of
six SHRIKE pilots in the squadron on this, his second tour of Vietnam. The
previous month, the executive officer of the squadron, CDR Ernest M. "Mel"
Moore, had been hit on a SHRIKE mission and had been captured by the North
The SHRIKE pilot's job was to fly ahead of the strike group by five to seven
minutes literally trying to draw fire from the surface-to-air missile
emplacements. When the ground radar found the SHRIKE, the pilot would fire
anti-radar missiles at SAM sites. The goal was either to actually knock out
the SAM radar or, as was sometimes the case, to force the North Vietnamese
to turn off the radar, enabling the alpha strike force behind the SHRIKE
aircraft to fly on and off their targets without SAMs launched against them.
The more SAMs that were fired at the SHRIKES meant fewer fired at the
formations, which had to stay together to complete their part of the
During the operation, Estocin provided warnings to the strike group leaders
of SAM threats, and personally neutralized three SAM sites. Although
Estocin's aircraft was severely damaged by an expoloding missile, he
reentered the target area and prosecuted a SHRIKE attack amidst intense
anti-aircraft fire. He left the target area when he had less than five
minutes of fuel remaining. Estocin refueled during his return to the ship.
Six days later, on April 26, Estocin again flew a SHRIKE mission over
Haiphong against enemy fuel facilities. Again, his aircraft was seriously
damaged by shrapnel from an exploding SAM, but he gained control of the
plane and launched his SHRIKE missiles before departing the area.
Estocin called, "I'm hit," and his wingman informed him that he was trailing
fuel and on fire. The aircraft was observed to recover after 4-5
uncontrolled aileron rolls, and Estocin turned toward the sea calling: "I'm
going down, switch to channel five" (Search and Rescue Common Frequency).
Estocin was observed by his wingman to be sitting erect and appeared to be
uninjured. The cockpit area of the aircraft was undamaged by the missile.
Passing an altitude of 6000 feet the aircraft again commenced a series of
uncontrolled aileron rolls, and then stabilized in the inverted position
descending in a 10-15 degree dive.
Estocin's wingman observed the aircraft enter a 3500 feet undercast cloud
layer in the inverted position. Maximum ground elevation in the area was
1,086 feet. The islands in the vicinity of Haiphong, where the aircraft was
last seen, are sparsely populated, densely covered with foliage, and ideal
for escape and evasion. No part of the ejection sequence was observed by the
wingman, who was less than 1,000 feet from the aircraft throughout this
period. The overcast cloud layer bottoms were lying on the ground which
precluded observation of aircraft impact or immediate search of the area for
the pilot. Radio contact was lost with Estocin after his aircraft entered
the cloud layer.
Electronic and visual searches were conducted until dark and began again at
the first light. No voice or other electronic communications were
established, and visual search failed to locate the aircraft crash site or
any sign of the pilot. No reports of pilot capture or aircraft downing in
the area was reported by the Vietnamese following this incident. It was the
considered opinion of the Commanding Officer that Estocin be carried as
Missing In Action.
On April 26 and 27, Radio Hanoi broadcasted information indicating that
Estocin may have been captured. U.S. intelligence sources reported that
Estocin was alive in North Vietnam, as a prisoner of war and his status was
changed to reflect this. An interesting side-note to Estocin's story is that
one of his squadron mates, who actually wrote the citation application for
Estocin's mission, never knew that there was the chance he had ejected. For
the next 20 years, the squadron member believed no word had ever been
surfaced on the fate of Michael Estocin. This is not in the least unusual,
given the U.S. Government's conservative policy of releasing information on
Americans who are missing. Much of the information publicly released is
classified or incomplete. This would also apply even to military personnel
who did not have a "need to know."
Estocin's family wrote and sent packages. In August, 1972, a package sent by
Mike's sister was returned from Hanoi. All the contents were still in the
package, but it had been opened and other items had been added.
Added to the box was a crudely cut, hand-sewn felt bootie with two "M's" cut
out of felt on it (Michael's wife's name is Maria). Inside the bootie were
three hearts and two scraps of felt (The Estocins have three children). The
Navy could not determine how this could have happened. Mike's family felt
they were made by Mike and were heartened by this sign of his well-being.
In 1973, 591 American prisoners were released from North Vietnam. LCDR
Estocin was not among them. Returned POWs heard his name in several camps,
and sources reported that he was alive, still held prisoner. Hanoi denies
any knowledge of Michael Estocin. He is among nearly 2500 Americans still
missing from the Vietnam war.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have been received relating to
Americans missing in Southeast Asia which have convinced many officials that
large numbers are still alive as captives. Estocin could be one of them.
Michael John Estocin is the only Navy jet pilot to receive the Congressional
Medal of Honor for a combat role. He was awarded the CMH for conspicuous
gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call
of duty on 20 and 26 April 1967. While the CMH was not normally given for a
combination of missions, an exception was made for this very intense two-day
SHRIKE mission and, according to those who flew with Estocin, the honor was
Medal of Honor
ESTOCIN, MICHAEL J. *
Rank and organization: Captain (then Lt. Cmdr.), U.S. Navy, Attack Squadron
192, USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14)
Place and date: Haiphong, North Vietnam, 20 and 26 April 1967
Entered service at: Akron, Ohio, 20 July 1954
Born: 27 April 1931, Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty on 20 and 26 April 1967 as a pilot in Attack
Squadron 192, embarked in USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14). Leading a 3-plane group
of aircraft in support of a coordinated stake against 2 thermal power plants
in Haiphong, North Vietnam, on 20 April 1967, Capt. Estocin provided
continuous warnings to the strike group leaders of the surface-to air
missile (SAM) threats, and personally neutralized 3 SAM sites. Although his
aircraft was severely damaged by an exploding missile, he re-entered the
target area and relentlessly prosecuted a SHRIKE attack in the face of
intense antiaircraft fire. With less than 5 minutes of fuel remaining he
departed the target area and commenced inflight refueling which continued
for over 100 miles. 3 miles aft of Ticonderoga, and without enough fuel for
a second approach, he disengaged from the tanker and executed a precise
approach to a fiery arrested landing. On 26 April 1967, in support of a
coordinated strike against the vital fuel facilities in Haiphong, he led an
attack on a threatening SAM site, during which his aircraft was seriously
damaged by an exploding SAM, nevertheless, he regained control of his
bunting aircraft and courageously launched his SHRIKE missiles before
departing the area. By his inspiring courage and unswerving devotion to duty
in the face of grave personal danger, Captain Estocin upheld the highest
traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.