SPINELLI, DOMENICK ANTHONY
Name: Domenick "Spike" Anthony Spinelli
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 196, USS CONSTELLATION (CVA61)
Date of Birth: 06 November 1925 (Haverhill MA)
Home City: Oak Harbor WA
(Listed on the WALL as Ohio, numerous other records as WA)
Date of Loss: 30 September 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 185400N 1053200E (WF561896)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel in Incident: Larry Van Renselaar (remains returned)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project with the assistance of one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews: 15
March 1990. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2020.
SYNOPSIS: "Spike" Spinelli's wife, Raye, had dealt with war before Spike
left for Vietnam to fly from the USS Constellation. Her first husband was
the only man who was not rescued from his downed aircraft. He was declared
missing in action in World War II and Raye never saw him again. Spike had
joined the Navy in 1942 as an enlisted man. He also had served in World War
II, and was commissioned as a Naval officer in 1960.
Spike Spinelli flew as navigator/bombadier on Larry Van Renselaar's A6A
Intruder. On September 30, 1968, the two left the ship on a night armed
reconnaissance mission near the city of Vinh. The mission called for the
acquisition and destruction of moving targets just south of 19 degrees north
latitude. They were to reconnoiter inland to the town of Vinh Son, North
Vietnam, then southeast along Highway 72 that parallels the Song Ca River.
Surface-to-air (SAM) missiles were launched at the aircraft as they crossed
the coastline. A few seconds after Commander Spinelli reported missiles. His
last radio communication relayed, "This is Milestone 404. Two missiles
lifting, 19, coast." Another pilot tried to contact the aircraft but was
About 20 seconds later, an explosion was observed that lit up a large
portion of the horizon. Wreckage was seen on the ground but no parachutes
were observed and no contact was established with the crew.
The aircraft was fired on near the 19th parallel; the pilot was trying for
the coast to facilitate rescue. He didn't make it. Although emergency
signals were heard, search and rescue was negative. Both men were classified
Missing In Action, and their families were given little hope.
A Radio Hanoi broadcast on October 1, 1968 was received which alluded to the
shooting down of an A-6 jet plane on September 30, 1968. This aircraft was
downed over Nghe An Province and the fate of the crew was not mentioned.
Spinelli and Van Renselaar were not among the 591 American POWs returned at
the end of the war. Their families were told the returning POWs had no
information about their men.
In early 1987, Diane Van Renselaar called Raye with the news that the two
men had been maintained in Category 1, indicating CONFIRMED enemy knowledge.
Diane had never been told this, nor had Raye. The two wives decided to
review their husband's files for information. Raye found that Spinelli had
been identified by a Navy pilot held prisoner in Hanoi and that Spinelli's
photograph had been positively identified by CIA as a prisoner. Diane found
that both men had been included on a 1986 negotiation list. Both families
feel certain their men had been captured - and that they were lied to.
In the fall of 1989, the remains of Larry Van Renselaar were "discovered" by
the Vietnamese and returned to U.S. control. Diane no longer must wonder if
her husband is dead or alive. No public announcement has been made of any
return of remains of Spinelli.
The Van Renselaar and Spinelli families continue to press for answers, with
limited success. Diane Van Renselaar says, "All POW/MIA families have the
right to know the complete truth. If they are alive, we have a right to
know. If they are dead, we must be told. Why has information been withheld
from us? Why is it still being withheld? What are they afraid of?"
Van Renselaar and Spinelli were two of nearly 2500 Americans who remain
missing in Southeast Asia. There have been nearly 10,000 reports; over 1000
of them eyewitness reports, of Americans still in captivity. As long as
those reports remain unresolved, we must conclude that Americans are still
alive, waiting for their country to bring them home.
SMITH 324 COMPELLING CASES
North Vietnam Domenick A. Spinelli
On 30 September 1968, Lieutenant JG Larry J. VanRenselaar and
Lieutenant Domenick A. Spinelli were the crew of an A-6A aircraft
which departed the U.S.S Constellation in a flight of three
aircraft. The flight was assigned to acquire and destroy moving
targets just south of 19 degrees North Latitude over North Vietnam.
Two hostile surface to air missiles, one high and one law, were
observed by other flight members to explode near Spinelli's
aircraft. About 20 seconds later a third explosion was observed
and it lit up the horizon. At this point the flight was
approximately nine kilometers southwest of Phu Dien Chau, Nghe Tinh
(Formerly Nghe An) Province.
No parachutes were sighted and no distress beepers were heard. All
subsequent search and rescue efforts were futile. A Radio Hanoi
broadcast on October 1, 1968, stated than an A-6 aircraft had been
shot down over Nghe An Province. Lieutenant Spinelli's A-6A
aircraft was the only one shot down on September 10, 1968, over
Nghe An Province. Both airmen were declared missing in action.
During Operation Homecoming, a returnee, Lieutenant Tangeman,
stated that he knew the name Spinelli but he did not know him as a
POW. In the late 1970s, Tangeman was visited by Spinelli's next of
kin. During that visit, he finally recalled why he recognized the
name;both he and Lieutenant Spinelli had been at the same naval air
training facility before going to Vietnam. Lieutenant Spinelli's
family alleged the existence of a photo depicting Spinelli in
captivity. The Defense Intelligence Agency has no knowledge of
such a photo but did provide the family a photo of a POW, Major
Gideon, shown riding in an ox cart. This photo is on sale at the
military museum in Hanoi and may have been confused by family
members with being a photograph of Lieutenant Spinelli.
Returning U.S. POWs were unable to provide any information on
either crewman's eventual fate. After Operation Homecoming both
were declared killed in action, body not recovered, based on a
presumptive finding of death.
On July 31, 1989, Vietnam repatriated remains it identified as
those of Lieutenant VanRenselaar. On June 22, 1990 the Armed
Forces Identification Review Board approved the identification of
these remains as Lieutenant VanRenselaar.