Remains Returned - ID Announced March 1990

Name: Donald Edward Erwin
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 164, USS HANCOCK (CVA 19)
Date of Birth: 01 January 1929
Home City of Record: Hobart IN
Date of Loss: 02 October 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 184957N 1052958E (WF680970)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of 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 McDonnell Douglas A4 Skyhawk was intended 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.

Commander Donald Edward Erwin was the pilot of an A-4E "SKYHAWK" attack aircraft
assigned to Attack Squadron ONE SIX FOUR on board the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19). On
October 2, 1968 he launched on an armed reconnaissance mission over North
Vietnam. He received a direct hit from anti-aircraft fire, forcing him to guide
his aircraft over the water. Commander Erwin was observed ejecting by his
wingman and land in the water. On a later pass the wingman saw only the pilot's
helmet and parachute in the water. No emergency radio transmission were
received. There were numerous small fishing boats observed in the area of the
ejection. Search and Rescue helicopters had no success in locating Commander

Defense Department loss coordinates (184957N 1052958E) place Commander Erwin's
last position about 20 miles northwest of the city of Vinh in Nghe An Province,
North Vietnam. This location is about 15 miles inland from the Gulf of Tonkin.
Other U.S. Government records state that Commander Erwin's aircraft was lost
over water, and that he was killed in the crash, and his remains were
determined to be non-recoverable (indicating a disastrous sea crash where no
trace could be found of the pilot).

In March, 1990, the Defense Department announced that a number of American
remains had been returned by Vietnam and had been positively identified. Among
them were those of Donald E. Erwin.

Nearly 2500 Americans did not return from the war in Vietnam. Thousands of
reports have been received indicating that some hundreds remain alive in
captivity. As in the case of Commander Erwin, Vietnam and her communist allies
can account for most of them. Current "negotiations" between the U.S. and
Vietnam have yielded the remains of nearly 300 Americans. The families of these
men at least now have the peace of knowing whether their loved one is alive or

In the total view of the issue of the missing, however, the return of remains
signals no progress. In the early 1980's the very credible Congressional
testimony of a Vietnamese mortician indicated that the Vietnamese are in
possession of over 400 sets of remains. In 15 years, they have returned barely
half of them -- others coming from joint excavations of aircraft crash sites.
More importantly, the same credible witness, whose testimony is believed
throughout Congress, stated that he had seen live Americans held at the same
location where the remains were stored -- after the war was over for the U.S.

As long as even one American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, the
only issue is that living man. We must bring them home before there are only
remains to negotiate for.

1997--- Donald Erwin joins one of almost a dozen discrepency cases - those
where "abandonment" in the South China Sea off Hainan Island could be the
true story. In Monika Jensen-Stevenson's "SPITE HOUSE", Tom McKinney relates
a tale of horror in the South China Sea. Rescuers were already on their way
to a downed pilot, unhurt in a raft, with a continuous beeper signal being
heard from an emergency transmitter. The instructions received, according to
McKenney, were "Abort Rescue. You will abort.....repeat, you will abort...He
is too close to the Hainan Island. We don't want to provoke the Chinese."

Ms. Maureen Dunn, wife of POW/MIA Joseph Dunn, eventually found out the same
thing happened to her husband. She demanded an apology from Robert McNamara,
who stated "I'm not just sorry, I'm horrified."

[see page 100-200 of "Spite House", 1997 Norton Publishing]