LEWIS, EARL GARDNER JR.
Name: Earl Gardner Lewis, Jr. Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: USS Coral Sea VF 151 Date of Birth: Home City of Record: Cape Girardeau MO Date of Loss: 24 October 1967 Country of Loss: North Vietnam Loss Coordinates: 212800N 1052600E (WJ448736) Status (in 1973): Released POW Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B Missions: 151
Source: Compiled 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 in 2002.
Other Personnel In Incident: (from other F4 at same coordinates): Charles C. Gillespie (returned POW); Richard C. Clark (missing); Robert Frishmann, (both returned POWs)
REMARKS: 730314 RELEASED BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: On October 24, 1967, Ltjg. Richard Clark was flying as backseater aboard the F4B Phantom fighter jet flown by Commander Charles R. Gillespie on a bombing mission over the Hanoi, Haiphong and Vinh Phuc region of North Vietnam. The aircraft was one in a flight of two.
Clark and Gillespie's aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile and crashed in Vinh Phu Province. Other members of the flight observed two good parachutes, heard one electronic beacon signal, and observed one unidentified crew member on the ground.
On the same day, the F4 flown by Earl Lewis and Robert Frishmann was shot down at the same coordinates. Frishmann relates that he "wasn't even diving when they hit me. I was flying. Bad luck!" Frishmann sustained a serious injury to his arm by missile fragments. Frishmann believed Lewis was dead, but after 4 hours, located him. Both were captured by the Vietnamese.
The Vietnamese were able to save Frishmann's arm, but he lost his elbow, leaving the arm nearly 8 inches shorter than the other. A reporter, Oriana Fallaci, interviewed Frishmann for Look Magazine in July 1969. At that time, he had been held in solitary confinement for 18 months.
Lewis, Frishmann and Gillespie were held in various locations in and around Hanoi as prisoners. At no time did any of them see Richard Clark, who had successfully ejected from the aircraft.
Lt. Frishmann was released in August 1969 with the blessings of the POW community. His message to the world would reveal the torture endured by Americans held in Vietnam and cause a public outcry which would eventually help stop the torture and result in better treatment for the prisoners.
Gillespie and Lewis were both released from Hanoi March 14, 1973 in the general prisoner release nearing the end of American involvement in the war in Vietnam.
Cdr. Gillespie, in his debrief, stated that after the missile hit, smoke filled the cockpit, and as the intercom system failed, he gave an emergency hand signal to eject and he did not see Lt. Clark again. On October 24, Radio Hanoi announced that in the afternoon of October 24, eight U.S. war planes had been shot down and that a number of U.S. pilots had been captured. The U.S. correlates this information to Lt. Clark and placed him in prisoner of war classification. (Inexplicably, however, the Defense Intelligence Agency codes Clark as "category 2" which means only "suspected" enemy knowledge of his fate.)
If Lt. Clark was captured, why did he not return home? If he died, where are his remains? If he is one of the hundreds of Americans experts now believe are still alive in captivity in Southeast Asia, what are we doing to bring him home? What must he be thinking of us?
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).
EARL G. LEWIS Lieutenant Commander - United States Navy Shot Down: October 24, 1967 Released: March 14, 1973
Lcdr. Earl G. Lewis, Jr. was shot down while on his second cruise, on October 24, 1967. Mr. Lewis and his wife, Suzanne, are both originally from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Their son, Earl Gardner Lewis, III, (nicknamed Tres) is five years old and was born after Lcdr. Lewis was shot down.
"While I was a prisoner of war I felt certain that the American people would remember us with faith and loyalty, but it was deeply reassuring to witness the depth of this concern upon my return to the United States. It has been overwhelming."
"I certainly appreciate all the outpouring of enthusiasm over our return, but there are many thousands of men who also deserve this and these are the men who served their time in Vietnam and returned to be shunned and sometimes ignored by many of us and to be criticized by their contemporaries. Last but not least are the many thousands who were wounded and the 46,000 men who gave the supreme sacrifice; they too deserve recognition. Remember them. Remember our MlA's.
"I hope that our return will in some way help to pull the country together after such a long and controversial war."
Earl Lewis Jr. retired from the United States Navy as a Commander. He now lives in California. He lost his father September 20, 2002.