From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Harvey Aiau '53

Date of birth: May 2, 1930

Date of death: March 16, 1970

Age: 39

Lucky Bag

From the 1953 Lucky Bag:


From the June 1970 issue of SHIPMATE:

LCdr. Harvey C. Aiau, USN , died 16 March in Da Nang, South Vietnam. Services were held at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Del Mar, Ca, and interment was in Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego.

LCdr. Aiau was born in Maryland, but he was appointed to the Academy from Hawaii. He graduated in the class of 1953, and saw various areas of service; including the USS Calvert, flight training at Pensacola and Hutchinson, Ks.; AEWRON; CIC School; and NAS Glynco. He served on the staff or CARDIVONE and CINCPAC. He also attended the Postgraduate School at Monterey and the fleet computer programming center-Pac.

LCdr. Aiau held a Master's degree in management science from the United States International University, San Diego, and was a Life Member of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.

He is survived by his widow, Ruth; two songs and one daughter.

Harvey was lost when the EC-121 he was aboard (as aircraft commander) crashed at Da Nang Air Base, Vietnam. Twenty-two of the thirty others aboard also died. There are some pictures of the crash posted.


1953 Aiau 1.jpg

From PR-26 Vietnam:

Brian Nickerson email: brian (at) comfacs.com

Mr. Aiau was the plane commander for this EC-121M from Navy Squadron Faireconron-One (VQ-1) which crashed in on March 16, 1970. He and his crew were just starting their rotation for duty in . Permanently stationed at NAS Atsugi, Japan, VQ-1 had a detachment in . The detachment's mission was to provide Mig, SAM and AAA warnings to US aircraft flying over the Gulf of Tonkin and on missions into North Vietnam.

Although Mr. Aiau was the plane commander, there were typically three pilots on the 32 member crew and the pilots would share the duties since missions could be 10-12 hours long. In this case, one of the other pilots was at the controls. One of the four engines was having some problem and was feathered during the landing. This is not considered a serious emergency, but the tower at was probably aware of it. Apparently, the "line up" for the landing wasn't correct and the pilot at the controls decided to waive off and come around again for a landing. The plane was on final and, when the pilot pulled out of the approach, the right wing dropped too far and caught the top of a revetment for an Air Force F-4 on the Air Force side of the field. The plane took a nose down attitude and crashed. The tail section separated from the aircraft and flew for a few hundred feet before landing. Eight crew members in this aft section of the plane survived. Mr. Aiau, being one of the pilots, was in the front and did not survive. My recollection of Mr. Aiau was that he was a kind and humorous man. I was one of the squadron's air intelligence officers and got to know most of the pilots. He had arrived at the squadron after I did (June 1968) but I believe he had been there a year or so. Some of the pilots were more likeable than others, as it is with all groups. I remember Mr. Aiau being one of the more likeable of the group.

Sam Thornton
former YN1, USN - via email 20 August 2008

I was really pleased to discover this memorial to LCDR Aiau and heart-sick to learn of his loss. I served under Commander Aiau when he was Administrative Officer of Patrol Squadron 28 -- coincidentally nicknamed "The Hawaiian Warriors" -- at NAS Barbaras, Hawaii in the early 1960's. He was, as you say, a likable man. Moreover, besides being remarkably intelligent and knowledgeable, Commander Aiau was the kind of officer whose men (me included) would have followed through the gates of Hell.

Commander Aiau was one of the rare full-blooded Hawaiians remaining, the descendant of Kings. In the Navy of those times, this, unfortunately, worked against him when it came to promotions. I was shocked to learn he was still a LCDR in 1968. He deserved much, much better from the Navy he loved, served so well, and sacrificed his life to.

One anecdote: When we served at VP-28, the aircraft was the ungainly looking P2V7S (two turning and two burning). He was an aircraft commander. One day on a final approach, Commander Aiau's plane lost all hydraulic pressure while he still had the plane nose-down. Although the P2V7S could theoretically be flown without hydraulics, the kind of forces required to move the controls was enormous, well beyond what any ordinary pilot could muster. Commander Aiau, however, pulled his plane out and landed without incident. Later, one of his crew members discovered Commander Aiau, in pulling the plane out, had actually bent the control column, a solid, 2-inch, piece of steel, several inches from its designed shape. I know as surely as I write this, that had Commander Aiau been at the controls of the plane that claimed his life, he would have found a way out that, too. He was that kind of pilot and that kind of man.

Best wishes,

Sam Thornton, former YN1, USN

From Wall of Faces:

Harvey, It's been 34 years and I still think of you the crew of PR26 and the men of VQ-1 often. Those were interesting times doing a job of incredible importance. P.J., IRUNTHR4IM@AOL.COM, 3/15/04

There is a [post at Wall of Faces with a picture from on 3/17/09 from Kathleen Aiau KAIAU@ROADRUNNER.COM.

Memorial Hall Error?

Harvey is listed on the killed in action panel in the front of Memorial Hall. While not an obvious error, inclusion on the panel for crashes like this—which appears to be incidental to a combat flight—has been inconsistent across WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.

Class of 1953

Harvey is one of 62 members of the Class of 1953 on Virtual Memorial Hall.