GRIFFITH, JOHN GARY
Name: John Gary Griffith
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 35, USS ENTERPRISE
Date of Birth: 10 January 1936
Home City of Record: Kansas City MO
Date of Loss: 12 March 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 181258N 1074800E (YF961162)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Glenn E. Kollmann (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 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 nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on
December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with
her not only an imposing physical presence, but also an impressive component
of warplanes and the newest technology. By the end of her first week of
combat operations, the ENTERPRISE had set a record of 165 combat sorties in
a single day, surpassing the KITTY HAWK's 131. By the end of her first
combat cruise, her air wing had flown over 13,000 combat sorties. The record
had not been achieved without cost.
One of the aircraft that launched from the decks of the ENTERPRISE was the
Grumman A6 Intruder, a two-man all-weather, low-altitude, attack plane. The
A6A primarily flew close-air-support, all-weather and night attacks on enemy
troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced
navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack
navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges,
barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather
conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most
difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the
Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong by a single A6. Their missions
were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to
serve the United States.
During the ENTERPRISE's 1968 tour, Attack Squadron 35 lost a number of
Intruder aircraft. The aircraft was doing a lot of the heavy work, flying
daily at night into a lot of missiles and flak. The North Vietnamese had
become, in a matter of a few years, expert missile operators. It made
evasion for U.S. aircraft tougher. VA 35 flew over 50 percent of the night
missions the A6 community made into Hanoi. That's substantial for one
squadron, and over half the squadron was lost, including the commanding
officer and the executive officer.
CDR Glenn E. Kollmann was an A6A pilot and the commanding officer of VA 35.
He was very popular in the squadron and regarded as a capable man with a
wealth of aviation experience. On March 12, 1968, he was lost to
malfunction, not an enemy missile. He and his Bombardier Navigator, LT John
G. Griffith, launched from the carrier. The weather was terrible, but
perfect for A6 missions. There were four planes launched for a mission over
On the catapult launch, squadron mates listened by radio as a malfunction
caused Kollmann's aircraft to ditch right off the catapult. The other
aircraft continued on their mission and onboard search and rescue tried to
recover the downed crew.
Kollmann and Griffith were never located, due to a large degree to the
weather conditions. The two were listed as killed, and because their bodies
were never found, they are listed among the missing in Southeast Asia.
Despite their deep personal loss, the squadron never skipped a beat. As soon
as the flight Kollmann was to accompany returned to the ship, another left,
and continued their regular schedule of flying 12 hours on, 12 hours off.
For the Kollmann and Griffith, death seems a certainty. For hundreds of
others, however, simple answers are not possible. Adding to the torment of
nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia is the
certain knowledge that some Americans who were known to be prisoners of war
were not released at the end of the war. Others were suspected to be
prisoners, and still others were in radio contact with would-be rescuers
when last seen alive. Many were known to have survived their loss incidents,
only to disappear without a trace.
The problem of Americans still missing torments not only the families of
those who are missing, but the men who fought by their sides, and those in
the general public who realize the full implication of leaving men
unaccounted for at the end of a war.
Tragically, many authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still
alive in captivity in Southeast Asia today. What must they be thinking of
us? What will our next generation say if called to fight if we are unable to
bring these men home from Southeast Asia?