EARLE, JOHN STILES
Name: John Stiles Earle
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Reserves
Unit: Attack Squadron 172, USS SHANGRI-LA (CVS-38)
Date of Birth: 03 July 1941 (Northampton MA)
Home City of Record: Westfield MA
Date of Loss: 22 June 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: (none)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 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: When Douglas Aircraft created the A4 Skyhawk the intent was 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
Flying from an aircraft carrier is a special science. The limited takeoff and
landing area leaves little room for error. Occasionally, tragic accidents occur,
Lt. John S. Earle was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 172 onboard the
aircraft carrier USS SHANGRI-LA. He launched in his A4C Skyhawk attack aircraft
as part of a two plane strike mission into South Vietnam. His 9:30 p.m. catapult
launch was normal as he began his initial climb. When told to climb by the "Air
Boss", Lt. Earle responded, "Roger, Boss, I'm trying. It just won't climb." His
aircraft was seen in a slow descent and seconds later impacted the water 2-3
miles ahead of the ship. The area was thoroughly searched by destroyers and
helicopters throughout the night and following day. The search was unsuccessful.
The exact reason for the accident will perhaps never be known, but whatever
happened was obviously beyond his control.
Lt. Earle was placed in a missing status on June 22, 1970, which was changed the
next day to Reported Dead/Body Not Recovered. He is listed among the dead as he
obviously did not survive the downing of his aircraft. He is listed with honor
among the missing because his remains could not be found.
Other cases of the missing are not so clear. Many were known captives, some were
photographed in captivity. Many were in radio contact and in good health as they
described their imminent capture. Evidence mounts that many of these men are
still alive waiting for the country they served to bring them home. While Lt.
Earle may not be one of them, one can imagine him proudly taking one more flight
order from the Air Boss to bring them home.