MICKELSEN, WILLIAM EMIL JR.
Name: William Emil Mickelsen, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 144, USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31)
Date of Birth: 25 October 1934
Home City of Record: Minneapolis MN
Date of Loss: 10 August 1969
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 180400N 1073058E (YE663992)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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: The USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31) saw early Vietnam war action.
A World War II Essex-class carrier, she was on station participating in combat
action against the Communists as early as August 1964. Her aircraft carried
the first Walleye missiles when they were introduced in 1967. In November
1970, the BON HOMME RICHARD completed its sixth combat deployment and was
scheduled for decommissioning by mid-1971.
Among the aircraft launched from the decks of the BON HOMME RICHARD was the
Douglas Aircraft A4 Skyhawk. The Skyhawk was an inexpensive, lightweight
attack and ground support aircraft. The design emphasized low-speed control
and stability during take-off and landing as well as strength enough for
catapult launch and carrier landings. The plane was so compact that it did
not need folding wings for aboardship storage and handling. In spite of its
diminutive size, the A4 packed a devastating punch and performed well where
speed and maneuverability were essential.
LT William E. Mickelsen Jr. was an A4E pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 144
onboard the USS BON HOMME RICHARD. On August 10, 1969, LT Mickelsen launched
in his A4E on a night strike mission into North Vietnam.
Upon his return from the strike mission and during aircraft recovery, LT
Mickelsen's aircraft crashed into the flight deck ramp during his landing
approach. The crash sprayed aircraft parts about the carrier's flight deck
and fantail injuring several people. The belly fuel tank ruptured and
ignited, but was brought under control by the shipboard damage control fire
fighters. The remainder of the aircraft fell into the water.
Search efforts proved fruitless, and LT Mickelsen was never found. It was
strongly believed that he had died in the crash of his aircraft, and he was
listed Killed/Body Not Recovered. The carrier was at that time located in
the Gulf of Tonkin (i.e. "Yankee Station") about 75 miles east of Mui Ron Ma
in Ha Tinh Province, North Vietnam.
Mickelsen is listed with honor among the Americans still prisoner, missing
or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia because his body was never recovered.
Others who are missing do not have such clear cut cases. Some were known
captives; some were photographed as they were led by their guards. Some were
in radio contact with search teams, while others simply disappeared.
Since the war ended, over 250,000 interviews have been conducted with those
who claim to know about Americans still alive in Southeast Asia, and several
million documents have been studied. U.S. Government experts cannot seem to
agree whether Americans are there alive or not. Distracters say it would be
far too politically difficult to bring the men they believe to be alive
home, and the U.S. is content to negotiate for remains.
Over 1000 eye-witness reports of living American prisoners were received by
1989. Most of them are still classified. If, as the U.S. seems to believe,
the men are all dead, why the secrecy after so many years? If the men are
alive, why are they not home?