HUBBS, DONALD RICHARD
Name: Donald Richard Hubbs
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23, USS Yorktown
Date of Birth: 19 February 1926 (Riverton NJ)
Home City of Record: Palmyra NJ
Date of Loss: 17 March 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 191759N 1062269E (XG453344)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Lee D. Benson; Thomas D. Barber; Randall J.
Nightingale (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1991 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.
REMARKS: LOST O/W - SEARCH FAILED - J
SYNOPSIS: Cdr. Donald R. Hubbs (pilot); LtJg. Lee D. Benson (co-pilot); AX2
Randall J. Nightingale (Antisubmarine Warfare Technician 2nd Class); and ADR
Thomas D. Barber (crewman) comprised the crew of an S2E aircraft assigned to
Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23 aboard the USS YORKTOWN.
As submarine action in Vietnam was virtually (if not completely) unknown, a
wide variety of activities were conducted by Anti-submarine units in
Vietnam. Because Anti-submarine warfare involves the use of magnetic
detection gear or acoustic buoys in conjunction with "listening" devices,
anti-submarine aircraft and their crews' training proved especially
adaptable to reconnaissance and tracking missions.
On March 17, 1968, Hubbs and his crew launched from the YORKTOWN on a night
surveillance mission over the North Vietnam coast in the area of Vinh.
Weather was bad with zero visibility. Approximately one hour after launch,
the aircraft reported radar problems. No other transmissions were heard, and
the aircraft disappeared from the ship's radar scope. All efforts to make
contact were unsuccessful. However, five hours after the last contact, radio
signals were heard, and North Vietnamese fishing boats were spotted in the
area the next day. The last point of contact occurred about 30 miles off the
shore of North Vietnam about 25 miles east southeast of the island of Hon
On July 2O, 1968 a section of the starboard wing was found. During the
period of July through September 1973 an overwater/at-sea casualty
resolution operation was conducted to determine the feasibility and
desirability of such water loses. These operations were terminated when it
was determined to be unfeasible and nonproductive in such cases. Commander
Hubbs and the rest of his crew are still carried in the status of Presumed
When considering a personnel loss at sea, the criteria for survival involves
both the location and the cause of the loss. In the case of the S2E, no
reason for loss was ever determined. Therefore, it was either shot down or
went down due to mechanical or weather difficulties.
If mechanical difficulties resulted in the downing of the S2E, in an
entirely non-hostile environment, then there can be little chance of
survival for the crew of the S2E unless they managed to cross 25 miles of
ocean. If enemy activity was present, however, there can be ample room for
speculation that the crew might have been captured by one of the fishing
boats in the area.
The crew of the S2E is among nearly 3000 Americans who remained prisoner,
missing, or otherwise unaccounted for at the end of the Vietnam war. Since
that time, cases have been resolved by the return of remains and by other
means. Since the end of the war, over 10,000 reports relating to these
Americans have been received by the U.S. Government, convincing many
authorities that hundreds of Americans remain alive in enemy hands today.
Whether the crew of the S2E survived to be captured can only be speculated.
It would be kinder to them and to their families if they died on March 17,
1968. It is impossible to imagine the agony they must feel to have been
abandoned by their country. It is heartbreaking to consider that Americans
still await rescue by the country they proudly served.
I just wanted to pass along to you all that an unfortunate, and
untimely death occurred on Valentines Day, 1999. Mrs. Bereth Hubbs passed
away. She is the mother of Jill Hubbs and wife of unaccounted for POW,
Donald R Hubbs. Please find it in your hearts to say a small prayer for this
family. Bereth left this world, without knowing what happened to Donald. May
God hold her in His hands and give her peace.
God Bless you all.
Subject: 35 Years Ago Today
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 12:58:06 -0500
From: Jill Hubbs <Jill_Hubbs@WSRE.pbs.org>
March 17, 1968. Thirty-five years ago today, my father, Navy Cdr. Donald
Richard Hubbs, and his three crewmates were lost when their S-2 aircraft
disappeared off the coast of Vietnam. I have spent all day thinking about my
father -and his three crewmates - especially as the United States is about
to enter into another war.
I have a picture of my father and his crew, taken beside the S-2 just before
they left on their mission. My father was 42 years old. I'm older now than
he was when he was lost. His crewmates were all young men - barely in their
twenties. Their young faces look like the young faces we see on the news
every night - young men and women - Americans - who are putting their lives
on the line as America goes to war.
I support our troops. I just hope we know what we are doing. I wish I
understood the urgency to go to war now. I was always taught to support the
President - and I want to and I do - but I am worried about where this war
will lead us and what the price of this war will be. All of those lives lost
and destroyed - families forever changed - will be the cost of the war. And
like Vietnam, there is an undertone of "why exactly are we fighting this
I expressed thoughts like that yesterday with friends and was overheard by
someone who then proceeded to scream at me and tell me I didn't know what I
was talking about.
To that person, I quietly responded that yes, I know exactly what I am
talking about. Thirty-five years ago my father and his three crewmates were
lost. What exactly did they die for? And thirty-five years later, we still
don't know what happened to my father or his crewmates. We never had a
funeral. We have never had a memorial service. We just kept waiting for him
to come home and he never did. I told that person that I know personally
about the cost of war. War cost me my father and forever changed my life and
the lives of my family. The Vietnam War is long over - but it is still a
part of my life. It hasn't ended for my family.
I had tears streaming down my face as I finished saying this to the person
who had screamed at me. He got really quiet and said no more.
I received a packet of papers from the Department of Defense last week. I
had requested an update on my father's status and what they were doing to
recover remains or information. The papers I received are just like all the
ones I have received during the last 35 years - some details, lots of
double-talk, key information blacked out - no answers. We have bits and
pieces of information but not enough to find out the truth or to know what
really happened. A live sighting report. A grave registration. Dog tags
found from one of the crewmates. Old Vietnamese documents. It is a
frustrating, excruciating, painful never-ending ordeal. No one really
I just hate to see it happen all over again to a whole new generation of
American soldiers and their families. I hope the veterans will understand
how I'm feeling and why. It's a difficult day today, remembering my father
and his crewmates. I will go down to the Wall South, here in Pensacola, and
leave some flowers by my father's name. The names of his crewmates are
etched in the granite right there near his name. They all died serving their
country - and I believe that the United States is the greatest country in
the world. They believed it too. I am proud of my father and his crewmates
and all of the other thousands who died in Vietnam - and the thousands and
thousands of others who served and returned home. They are all heroes.
I just don't want to have to visit another memorial with thousands of
names from this war.
Will you share this with our veteran buddies?
BThanks.... Jill Hubbs
Margot, Kim and I were able to meet in Hanoi today with the DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) to discuss our dadsí cases. We met with Buddy Newell, who is the Casualty Resolution Specialist for the team in Vietnam. He went over details of my dadís case as well as Col. Carlsonís and also told us that in December, there is a coordination conference with the DPAA team members where the possibility of further field activity with our dadsí cases will be considered. It is frustrating and heartbreaking to still be doing this 50 years after my father became missing in action. There are still 1,247 Americans who remain unaccounted for in Vietnam and they actively are finding remains, repatriating them to the United States and positively identifying them with DNA technology.
My dadís plane disappeared off the radar screen over the Gulf of Tonkin near the coast of North Vietnam. I want a search of the area using those radar coordinates and the technology of the oceanographic survey ship but the searches are only conducted within 12 miles off the coast. My dadís plane disappeared about 21 miles off the coast. Going beyond those parameters would take serious action from both the Vietnamese government as well as ours. Red tape. Bureaucracy. Politics. Everyoneís hands are tied for many reasons. The work that the DPAA is doing is also difficult because of the terrain, weather and witnesses to many war-time incidents are aging and dying.
I also shared with Mr. Buddy Newell that I was very proud that my cousin Justin Harty is part of the DPAA field team working in Vietnam and Laos.
Next Monday, our 2 Sides Project group will go on a boat out into the Gulf of Tonkin near the area where my fatherís plane disappeared so that I can honor and remember him and his crew with a memorial service. I brought some special things to place in the Gulf of Tonkin in memory of Donald Richard Hubbs, Lee Benson, Thomas Barber and Randall Nightingale. I am always going to do my best to make sure that work continues to locate my father and his crew. We may never know what happened to them and we may never find their remains, but one thing is for certain - they will always be honored and remembered.
Follow Jill's story, her efforts for answers, her work, her trip to Vietnam, here: