HEILIG, JOHN Name: John Heilig Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Unit: VFP 63 Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Miami FL Date of Loss: 05 May 1966 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 184700N 1052600E (WF456767) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Veicle/Ground: RF8A Other Personnel in Incident: none Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 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. NETWORK. REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV SYNOPSIS: The Vought F8 "Crusader" saw action early in U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Its fighter models participated both in the first Gulf of Tonkin reprisal in August 1964 and in the myriad attacks against North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder. The Crusader was used exclusively by the Navy and Marine air wings (although there is one U.S. Air Force pilot reported shot down on an F8) and represented half or more of the carrier fighters in the Gulf of Tonkin during the first four years of the war. The aircraft was credited with nearly 53% of MiG kills in Vietnam. The most frequently used fighter versions of the Crusader in Vietnam were the C, D, and E models although the H and J were also used. The Charlie carried only Sidewinders on fuselage racks, and were assigned such missions as CAP (Combat Air Patrol), flying at higher altitudes. The Echo model had a heavier reinforced wing able to carry extra Sidewinders or bombs, and were used to attack ground targets, giving it increased vulnerability. The Echo version launched with less fuel, to accommodate the larger bomb store, and frequently arrived back at ship low on fuel. The RF-A models were equipped for photo reconnaissance. The RF-G were also photographic versions, but with additional cameras and navigational equipment. The combat attrition rate of the Crusader was comparable to similar fighters. Between 1964 to 1972, eighty-three Crusaders were either lost or destroyed by enemy fire. Another 109 required major rebuilding. 145 Crusader pilots were recovered; 57 were not. Twenty of these pilots were captured and released. The other 43 remained missing at the end of the war. In addition, there were 16 pilots who went down on photographic versions of the aircraft. Of these 16, seven were captured (six were released, one died in captivity). Lt. John Heilig was the pilot of an RF8A on a combat mission in Nghe An Province, North Vietnam on May 5, 1966. As he was about 20 miles northwest of the city of Vinh, his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. Heilig was captured by the Vietnamese, and held prisoner until his return in Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973. Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly held. It's time we brought our men home.
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 spelling errors). UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO JOHN HEILIG Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: May 5, 1966 Released: February 12, 1973 I wish to express my sincerest appreciation to the loyal and patriotic American citizenry, exemplified by those who have shown such personal interest and made so many sacrifices on our behalf, and for our families, and who have supported our President in his efforts to obtain our release. It has been over seven years since I stood on the deck of the USS Hancock and watched the beautiful shoreline of America fade in the distance. Yet upon my return, I still find, as I knew I would, the same warm and human people and the abiding dedication and loyalty to America from those who have made her great. Thank you!!
John Heilig retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He and his wife Patti still live in Florida.