Name: Michael John Kustigian
Rank/Branch: E7/US Navy
Unit: USS Long Beach (CGN-9)
Date of Birth: 09 March 1949
Home City of Record: Worcester MA
Date of Loss: 05 May 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: (none)
Status (in 1973): Unauthorized Absentee
Category: (none)
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ship
Refno: 2054

Other Personnel In Incident: Harry E. Mitchell (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.
Network 2020.


                                               [ssrep7.txt 02/09/93]


Over water              

                        Harry E. Mitchell
                     Michael J. Kustigian

On the morning of May 6, 1968, Seamen Mitchell and Kustigian did
not report for an assigned worked detail on board the U.S.S. Long
Beach.  The Long Beach was at the time an estimated 40 miles off
the coast of Central Vietnam in the South China Sea and heading
into the Gulf of Tonkin.  An on-board investigation failed to
disclose any cogent reason for the disappearance of the two seamen
and they were reported missing.  Both had been confirmed on board
the ship the previous evening when the ship was well at to sea.
However, a later U.S. Navy review board classified the two men as
deserters and they were not listed as Southeast Asia casualties due
to the Defense Department's policy of excluding deserters from
casualty reports.

In 1979 the U.S. Navy reviewed its previous findings in the case of
Mitchell and Kustigian.  Upon review, both seamen were declared
missing non-hostile and then declared dead/body not recovered,
based on a presumptive finding of death.

After their initial disappearance, a Stars and Stripes article
erroneously reported them as having been located.  Another report
offered information that Harry Mitchell was seen later in the
United States but this was never confirmed and neither seaman has
ever been confirmed alive since the night of May 5th/6th, 1968 and
the precise circumstances of their disappearance and fate have
never been definitely established.

Received April 29, 2008

Seaman Apprentice Gunners Mate Michael John Kustigian (promoted
administratively to Chief by Missing Persons' act), USN, was a crewman
assigned to the Guided Missile Cruiser USS LONG BEACH (CGN-9) on station in
the Gulf of Tonkin. On May 6, 1968 he was observed to be absent from his
assigned work detail. A complete inspection of every compartment in the ship
was completed and it was found that along with Seaman Apprentice Kustigian,
a Seaman Harry ""E"" Mitchell was missing (Kustigian and Mitchell were known
to be best friends and shared an apartment at their home port). An in-depth
investigation established that Kustigian and Mitchell were last seen aboard
ship at about 9:00 p.m. on the night of May 5, 1968.  Witness statements
from the JAG report place both men having intense discussions earlier in the
day, and they were dismissive of others who tired to speak with them. They
were last seen on the after part of the ship's main deck. The exact
circumstances of their disappearance are not known, however the
investigation concluded that they most likely left the ship voluntarily and
due to their own personal misconduct. None of the lookouts saw any
indication of a man overboard situation during the night and the
investigators believe that Kustigian and Mitchell went over the side in a
manner to avoid detection. A search of the entire area was conducted by the
The search was finally terminated with negative results. The ship's course tracked
20-25 miles off the coast of North Vietnam. The weather was fair, seas calm,
visibility good, and the shoreline could be seen from the ship's position
due to combat activity (flares etc) on the beach.  These conditions and the
fact that all life lines were properly installed make it virtually
impossible for a sailor (much less two sailors) to inadvertently fall from
the side of the ship.  Inspection of personal effects of both men disclosed
one set of swim fins, face mask and snorkel tube missing from Mitchell's
personal locker.  Statements later gathered from other members of the crew
say that 2 wetsuits had gone missing from the ship's inventory at the same
time that Kustigian and Mitchell deserted, but those items were unreported
at the time.  SN Kustigian also had anti-American literature in the form of
a book titled ""American War Crimes in Vietnam" in his possession on the
ship.   .One strong possibility is that both individuals disappeared over
the side in some fashion to avoid ""Man Overboard"" reports from lookouts. .
Due to vague language in the Missing Persons act of 1979, Kustigian's status
was administratively changed from "deserter" to "missing".  SN Kustigian was
subsequently declared Lost At Sea/ Body Not Recovered in accordance with the
Missing Persons Act action on September 13, 1979 by administrative.  This
action was taken against the strong recommendation of Captain R.J. McCarthy
(JAG) who felt that the language and spirit of the Missing Persons act
should not apply deserters.

Ongoing efforts by the family to determine what happened to SN Kustigian
have produced a statement from one of the USS Long Beach's former Radiomen
saying that he had decoded a message saying that Kustigian and Mitchell had
been picked up by fishermen and turned over to enemy forces.  Neither
Admiral James Watkins (Executive Officer of the USS Long Beach at the time
of the incident) nor Admiral Kenneth White (Commanding Officer of the USS
Long Beach at the time of the incident) had any recollection of Kustigian or
Mitchell falling into enemy hands.

LT xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
POW/MIA Case Analyst





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Seaman Apprentice Michael John Kustigian, who joined the U.S. Navy from Massachusetts, served aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Long Beach (CGN 9). On May 6, 1968, SA Kustigian did not report to an assigned work detail aboard the Long Beach, which off the coast of North Vietnam at the time. A ship-wide search was initiated and it was learned that SA Kustigian was last seen the previous evening aboard the ship with a fellow crew member and close friend who was also discovered to be missing. When the men could not be located on the ship, an area-wide search was conducted that involved several other U.S. Navy vessels but was unsuccessful. Seaman Apprentice Kustigian was not seen again. After the incident, the Navy promoted SA Kustigian to the rank of Chief Gunner's Mate (GMGC). 

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Non-recoverable.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

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