NAKAGAWA, GORDON R.
Name: Gordon R. Nakagawa
Rank/Branch: O5/United States Navy, pilot
Unit: Attack Squadron 196
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: New Castle CA
Date of Loss: 21 December 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 204900 North 1063800 East
Status (in 1973): Returnee
Other Personnel in Incident: Kenneth Higdon, returnee
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews.
REMARKS: 730329 RELEASED BY DRV
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
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
GORDON R. NAKAGAWA
Commander - United States Navy
Shot Down: December 21, 1972
Released: March 29, 1973
Cdr. Nakagawa was Executive Officer of Attack Squadron 196 flying from the
nuclear powered carrier USS Enterprise when his A6A Intruder was hit during
a single plane low level night strike against Haiphong. He has flown on
three carrier deployments to Southeast Asia with 185 combat missions and has
twice been hit by enemy fire.
He began his naval career in September 1953 as a midshipman in the Regular
NROTC Program. He attained the rank of Midshipman Captain serving as
Midshipman Commander of the University of California, Berkeley Unit.
Upon being commissioned on 7 February 1958 he was assigned to Flight
Training at Pensacola, Florida. He was designated a Naval Aviator in August
1958 and was assigned to VS-23. As Antisubmarine Warfare Officer in VS-25 he
contributed to the development of effective tactics for carrier task groups
against nuclear attack submarines.
He was the Pacific Missile Range Program Manager for a project whose
objectives included the improvement of ballistic missile capability for
penetrating antimissile defenses. At the Naval Postgraduate School,
Monterey, California, he earned an M.S.E.E. specializing in Automatic
His initial assignment to an A6 squadron was VA-165 where he completed two
combat deployments aboard USS Ranger which included Sea of Japan operations
following the capture of the USS Pueblo.
As an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, he taught upper
division and postgraduate level courses in Automatic Control Theory and
Weapons Systems Engineering. He was also the Officer Representative and
Assistant Coach for the U.S.N.A. Pistol Team which won the Intercollegiate
National Championship during both years of his assignment. As
Officer-in-Charge of Small Arms Training, he developed a program which far
exceeded all previous attempts in training midshipmen in the effective use
of the .45 Service Pistol and the M1 Rifle.
Cdr. Nakagawa was then assigned as an instructor pilot in VA-128 whose
mission is to train A6A air crew members and maintenance personnel for
assignment to the fleet.
Upon release from Bremerton Naval Hospital, Cdr. Nakagawa will resume his
assignment with VA-196.
Cdr. Nakagawa is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny Y. Nakagawa of Auburn,
California and is married to the former Miss Jeanne Takemoto of Lincoln,
California. They now reside in Oak Harbor, Washington with two sons, Gregory
and Steven, and daughter, Kathleen. His hobbies include bowling, hunting,
photography and competitive rifle and pistol shooting. He was the Maryland
State Outdoor Pistol Champion in 1970 and placed second in the Atlantic
Fleet Rifle and Pistol Championships in 1971.
"I feel indebted to all the wonderful people who, through their thoughts,
deeds and prayers, have made our return possible and our homecoming so
meaningful. l am particularly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief President
Richard M. Nixon, who possessed the wisdom for making those difficult
decisions last December and who, despite so much criticism, had the courage
to stand firmly by his convictions."
Gordon Nakagawa retired from the United States Navy as a Captain. He and his
wife Jeanne lived in California until his death in August 2011. He had been ill.
Captain Gordon Ross Nakagawa, USN (ret), age 76, a career naval officer,
passed away surrounded by his family at Westland House on August 24,
2011, following a courageous battle with cancer. Captain Nakagawa was a
long-time resident of Marina, CA.
He was born June 13, 1935 in Auburn, California, to the late Bunny and
Harriett Nakagawa. He is survived by his loving wife Jeanne, and their
three children, - Gregory, Kathleen, and Steven; three grandchildren -
Ryan, Graham, and Tait; and his loyal lab Maddy.
Captain Nakagawa graduated from the University of California at Berkeley
with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, and the
Naval Postgraduate School with an Master of Science degree in Electrical
Engineering, where he also returned to teach Weapons Systems in
Captain Nakagawa's distinguished career as a naval officer included
flying 185 combat missions in the A-6 intruder during four combat
deployments to Vietnam. In December 1972 his aircraft was struck by
enemy fire, resulting in his being detained as a Prisoner of War in
Hanoi. Captain Nakagawa also was Commanding Officer of the Naval Air
Station Pt. Mugu, coordinated all major design competitions for Naval
Aviation at Naval Air Systems Command, and in his final active duty
assignment, was Chair for Tactical Analysis at Naval Postgraduate School
During his service, Captain Nakagawa was awarded two Legions of Merit,
two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, two Meritorious Service Medals,
Distinguished Marksman (Rifle) Medal, Distinguished Pistol Medal, POW
Medal and various other campaign, service and individual awards.
He was elected to the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District Board
serving 8 1/2 years, and is a Board member Emeritus of Leadership
Monterey Peninsula. He was granted a Leadership Recognition Award from
the California Association of Leadership Programs. He is a 2000
California State University Monterey Bay Distinguished Fellow, a 2004
Monterey County Veteran of the Year, and 2006 Marina Citizen of the
Celebration of Life services will be held Saturday, September 17 at 1:00
p.m. at the Fort Ord Military Community Chapel, Bldg 4280, General Jim
Moore Blvd. Chaplain Louis Rosa will preside.
In lieu of flowers, memorial funds have been established in his name for
The Marina Foundation and the Central Coast Cemetery Foundation.
The Marina Foundation
P.O. Box 324
Marina, CA 93933
Central Coast Veterans Cemetery Foundation
Marina, CA 93933
We would like to thank all of the doctors and staff of Community
Hospital of the Monterey Penninsula and the Westland House for their
compassion and support of the family during Gordon's fight with cancer.
As most of you know, Gordon lost his battle with
cancer. He was 76. Today was his Celebration of Life. It was held at
the Fort Ord chapel, with the reception at the hall of the Naval
Postgraduate School in Monterey, which was his last assignment as a
professor. His was an interesting life of service to his country, his
family and to his community. He gave the Navy 32 years of active
He was born in Auburn, CA and at age six when World
War II broke out, his family, like so many other Japanese-American
families were rounded up and shipped to the remote, wind swept lands
of Tule Lake, CA to live in an internment camp. They soon were
relocated to a farm labor camp in Caldwell, Idaho. He excelled at
school, graduating tops in his class. He met his wife to be, Jeanne.
in grade school. He entered the University of California at
Berkeley and became the Battalion Commander of the Naval ROTC
class. He was commissioned as an Ensign in 1958 and became a Naval
Aviator in 1959, earning his gold wings. He had many assignments in
the navy, but when the war broke out in Vietnam, he was to fly the
A-6 intruder. Flying off aircraft carriers, he was shot down on his
185th mission, captured and imprisoned at the Hoa Loa prison in
Hanoi, known to all as the Hanoi Hilton. He was freed in 1973 and
soon regained his flight status. He returned to Vietnam flying
protective cover for the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.
In his program are two quotes that meant a great deal
to him.. the first by John F. Kennedy speaking at the US Naval
Academy, "...any man who may be asked in this century what he did to
make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of
pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.' "
Another he remembered scratched on a wall in the Hoa
Loa prison by an unknown POW, "Freedom has a taste to those who
fight and almost die for it that the protected shall never know."
His son, Steven Nakagawa is now a Captain in the Navy
and also flew the A-6. He told an interesting story. He went through
the tail numbers of all the A-6s still flying some years ago and
discovered eleven that both he and his father had flown. Then he
told of touring the 'boneyard' of aircraft stored in the dry desert
of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, AZ. Walking through the
A-6s there, he found the one he was looking for. A generation
apart, both had flown her. Said he, "Good old girl, you served two
generations of Nakagawas".
Steven had arranged a special event for those in
attendance. The squadron at Lemoore Naval Air Station had just
returned from deployment in the sand box and the mechanics gave up
their Saturday with their families to ready two for a flyover. At
precisely 3:30 PM, two FA-18s flew over the crowd in a salute to
Gordon. They set off about a hundred car alarms. It was awesome.
Harold K. Strunk, Captain
United States Navy Retired