GRAY, DAVID FLETCHER
|Name: David Fletcher Gray
Rank/Branch: O2/United States Air Force, pilot-systems operator
Unit: 497th TFS
Date of Birth: 26 June 1941 Findlay OH
Home City of Record: Ft. Walton Beach FL
Date of Loss: 23 January 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 211000 North 1053700 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Missions: NVN 2 Laos 2
Other Personnel in Incident: Barry Bridger, returnee
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews. 2018
REMARKS: 730304 RELEASED BY DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATED and Edited by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
DAVID F. GRAY, JR.
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: January 23, 1967
Released: March 4, 1973
I was born on June 26, 1941 in Findley, Ohio. We lived in many places and I
enjoyed the life of an Air Force brat. In 1959 I graduated from high school
in Abilene, Texas. I then attended the University of Florida where I studied
Building Construction. I married Lynda Gourlie after she had earned her B.S.
in nursing. She worked until I completed my degree. After pilot and combat
crew training I was assigned to the 497TFS at Ubon, Thailand. I arrived
there on Jan. 4, 1967 and after three combat missions was shot down and
captured. This ended forever my career of world's greatest fighter pilot.
Due to ejection, I had several back fractures. While in captivity I also had
a ruptured sinus, gall bladder disease, and developed nutritive amblyopia. I
was tortured with ropes and denied sleep.
While living in ten different prisons (New Guy Village, Lil Vegas, Sontay,
Faith, Hope, Dogpatch, Dirty Bird, Trolly Tracks) my contribution, if any,
was to play the court jester - trying to provide entertainment. I also
enjoyed studying - language, math, and history. I studied four languages-
French, Spanish, German and Russian. Naturally I did poorly in all. I
coordinated the geography and travelogue programs and was also the quiz
master. Jon Reynolds and I were presenting an exhaustive history of World
War I when we were moved. I participated in choir and religious services.
Trying to entertain I told about eight movies and was the recipient of the
1971 award for the "most forgettable area". My brilliant, but lengthy,
original story about China was so honored because no one could remember the
title. Weekly over a two-month period Dick "King Dog" Brenneman and I
performed a skit called "Frat Man and Rock". It was based on a skit by Dave
Hatcher and Denver Key called "Fat Man and Ox" (which was based on Batman).
In May 1972 about 200 of us moved to Camp Dogpatch where we mostly lived in
groups of 20. In my building seven of us were locked in a room at night. To
combat boredom I told a story based on "A Stone for Danny Fisher" by
Harold Robbins. After seven evenings the story should have ended, but due to
popular request I continued the story via improvisation. Thus the POW soap
opera was born. The seven of us participated jointly in casting the
characters (over 100 in all). As storyteller I tried to reflect the wishes
of the group regarding the plot. The story had heroes, goats and sex
symbols galore. Danny Fisher, the central figure, was Steve McQueen. During
the course of the 120 plus episodes we were the worlds greatest:
prizefighter (Golden Gloves champ), actor (two Oscars in one year), tycoon
(Howard Hughes began as his assistant), pilot (air races champion, test
pilot, combat ace in China, England, the Med and the Pacific) and lover (our
fighter pilot alter-ego had more women than Mickey Rooney and Tommy
Mansville). Planning the story and sorting out the characters in my mind,
occupied most of my time from June to Oct. 1972. I believe that the story
had a profound effect on all of us. I believe that many of us had, over the
years, adopted the view that our wives would be unchanged perfect things -
like a crystal figurine. The inevitable changes in our wives wrought by time
and suffering might have had a shattering effect on such idealistic images,
had not some realistic evaluations occurred. I hope the personal
relationships in my story helped us to initiate this update in our thinking.
The entertainment value was, of course, the main purpose. The story was
never completed because we moved around to align us by shoot down date.
Something was up!
In Oct. 72 we saw our first US magazines (1970 sports issues). Peace was at
hand. The guards were almost friendly and the medical treatment and food
improved as the Linebacker 11 offensive was bringing Hanoi to its knees.
Finally late in January it happened - back to Hanoi 20 or more on each
truck. Six weeks later my group was released. Our departure from Gia Lam
airport and arrival at Clark in the Philippines was a fantasy of delight.
Many of us cried that day. It was a very, very emotional time. Our first
telephone calls home were wonderful for me, but some of the others heard bad
news. Divorce and its crushing effect on one's friends caused our first free
days to be difficult.
Captain David Baldwin was my escort officer. We had been together in pilot
and combat crew training and in Thailand. He'd been rescued when Col. Dick
Vogel was captured. Dave was my brain for the five days we were together.
While at Clark I got only six hours of sleep and after four days I met my
wife Lynda at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. I arrived home on March 7, 1973.
Lynda and I along with debriefers and the medical staff, spent the next 15
days talking non-stop. We then flew to Mac Dill enroute to our condominium
in Treasure Island, Florida. A week later we traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla.
(my parents's home) for "Capt. David Gray Day." I gave speeches, rode in a
parade, was given the key to the city, and threw the first pitch at an
Astros-Expos exhibition game. It was a great but hectic day. On our tenth
anniversary, April 28th, Lynda and I were remarried in San Francisco. We
wrote our own ceremony and included the same people that had been in our
first wedding. This occurred the weekend of the Son Tay POW/Raiders Reunion
hosted by H. Ross Perot. In May we attended the White House fete and in June
we attended the Dallas Salute for Viet Vets. After giving a July 4th speech
in St. Petersburg, I entered the hospital for surgery. This gave me about
six weeks to recuperate for the River Rats Reunion in Las Vegas. Finally in
September I went back to work - flight recurrency training at Randolph AFB.
During the most difficult months that followed my release I've at times had
to use all the strength and faith I possess: So many things have changed - I
had to change also. It was hard, but now life has a new meaning. The frenzy
of readjustment has abated. I, like the nation, have endured these hard
times recently culminating in the resignation of our President. Yet I still
have profound faith and confidence in America. I believe that our sustaining
values - religion, humanity and patriotism - will ensure our continued
Since his release, Lt. Col. Gray has attended the University of West
Florida, for an MBA w/computer science option. He was an "outstanding
graduate." The Air War College followed in 1985 where he was again
He was awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star,
Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and 3 Meritorious Service Medals, as well as
the P.O.W. Medal.
David Gray retired from the United States Air Force in 1993 as a Lt.
Colonel. David is a former Vice President of NAM-POWs Inc., and for the
last four years has been a board member of the National League of POW/MIA
Families. He keeps busy as a professional vender at Veteran's events, air
shows etc. David and Jean have two sons, Bo and Scott, and three
grandchildren - Chimere, Christopher, and Royal. They reside in
Ex-POW walked the walk: US pilot spent six years as North
He also served on the board of the National League of POW/MIA Families for 20 years, stepping down this year. “I've had a great life,” he said. “I've been very ...