Name: John Russell Pitzen
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 114, USS KITTY HAWK (CVA 63)
Date of Birth: 04 April 1934
Home City of Record: Stacyville IA
Date of Loss: 17 August 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210100N 1063400E (XJ784247)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4J
Refno: 1910

Other Personnel in Incident: Orland J. Pender Jr. (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 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.


SYNOPSIS: The USS KITTY HAWK was on duty in Vietnam as early as 1964 and had
131 combat sorties to its credit by the end of 1965, and many more through
the remaining years of the Vietnam war. The KITTY HAWK was one of the
Forrestal-class "super" carriers, and could operate up to ninety aircraft
from her angled deck.

One of the aircraft launched from the decks of the KITTY HAWK was the F4
Phantom fighter jet. The Phantom served a multitude of functions including
fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two
man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300
miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely
maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected
for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved
radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots
considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

CDR John R. Pitzen was an F4J pilot and LT Orland J. Pender Jr. a Radar
Intercept Officer (RIO) assigned to Fighter Squadron 114 onboard the USS
KITTY Hawk. On August 17, 1972, the two were assigned to fly escort
protection for A6A Intruder attack bombers against a target near Haiphong,
North Vietnam. Their function would be to fly night MIG combat air patrol,
protecting the attack aircraft.

Pitzen's aircraft was about one minute behind the Intruders when they
crossed the enemy coastline. The Intruder reported four surface-to-air
missiles (SAM) fired from the Haiphong area. Either Pitzen or Pender radioed
to the pilot of an A6, "Viceroy 507, are you at point alpha?" The A6 pilot
responded, "Affirmative," indicating that he was at the coast-in point.
Pitzen and Pender were still about one minute behind the Intruder flight,
and continued north to Hon Gay.

Pitzen's aircraft reached Hon Gay at 1:40 a.m. and the KITTY HAWK radar lost
contact with the aircraft at this time. At 1:44 a.m. another SAM was
observed by the A6 in the Haiphong area. The missile flew five to ten
seconds in level flight at approximately 11,000 feet and then was observed
to explode into two large fireballs. When the F4 did not call "feet wet"
indicating its return out to sea long the coast line, an immediate
electronic surveillance was initiated which was continued throughout the
next day with no results.

Both Pitzen and Pender were declared Missing in Action. Certainly, the
possibility exists that the two ejected safely and were captured. The area
in which the aircraft crashed was heavily defended and densely populated.
But no further information ever surfaced about the two.

For eighteen years, the Vietnamese have denied any knowledge of Pitzen and
Pender, although the U.S. continues to present information on them, and
others who are missing, in hopes of new information.

591 American Prisoners of War were released in 1973, but nearly 2500 were
not. Thousands of reports have been received by the U.S. Government that
indicate hundreds of Americans are still alive and held captive in Southeast
Asia, yet the government seems unable or unwilling to successfully achieve
their release. Policy statements indicate that "conclusive proof" is not
available, but when it is, the government will act. Detractors state that
proof is in hand, but the will to act does not exist.

Whether Pitzen and Pender were captured is not known. Whether they are among
those believed to be still alive today is uncertain. What cannot be
questioned, however, is that America has a moral and legal obligation to
secure the freedom of those who may still be illegally held by the communist
governments of Southeast Asia. It's time we brought our men home.