JAMES D. LAHAYE, CDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

James Lahaye '47

Date of birth: July 21, 2023

Date of death: May 8, 1965

Age: -58

Lucky Bag

From the 1947 Lucky Bag:

Loss

From VF-11/111 ‘Sundowners’ 1942–95:

Following the Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964, US forces were increasingly committed to Southeast Asia. Cdr James D LaHaye led VF-111's 1965 deployment, flying F-8Ds in CVW-2 aboard Midway. LaHaye was an experienced Crusader pilot, having ejected from a VF-32 aircraft in 1958. In a typical air wing composition of the period, VF-111's Crusaders were teamed with VF-21's F-4B Phantom IIs. The deployment was a long one, extending from early March to lane November, and it incurred significant losses — 17 in combat and five in accidents, resulting in 12 airmen being killed and five captured.

On 5 May Cdr LaHaye participated in an attack on Vinh airfield, flying NE 451 (BuNo 148637). Armed with Zuni rockets and 20 mm cannon, he rolled in to suppress North Vietnamese gunners, but 37 mm AAA struck hard. The skipper radioed, 'I've been hit! Have fire warning light!' Streaming fuel, the stricken Crusader turned eastward for the Gulf of Tonkin. Other 'Sundowners' watched the CO descending wings level until he hit the water. There was no apparent reason for LaHaye's failure to eject, some speculating that his seat had suffered a malfunction.

Distinguished Flying Cross

1947 LaHaye 1.jpg

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Commander James David LaHaye, United States Navy, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Pilot of an F-8D Crusader aircraft on 8 May 1965, while serving as Commanding Officer of Fighter Squadron ONE HUNDRED ELEVEN (VF-111), aboard U.S.S. MIDWAY (CVA-41), during operations against enemy aggressor forces in Vietnam. Leading a flight of eight aircraft on an anti-aircraft suppression mission against an enemy airfield, Commander LaHaye, in the face of heavy hostile anti-aircraft fire, initiated the strike for Attack Carrier Air Wing TWO and struck his target with devastating effect. When his aircraft sustained severe damage from anti-aircraft fire, he piloted the stricken jet through intense opposition away from enemy territory to the open sea.

General Orders: All Hands (June 1966)
Action Date: May 8, 1965
Service: Navy
Rank: Commander
Company: Fighter Squadron 111 (VF-111)
Division: U.S.S. Midway (CVA-41)

Other

From "Dressing for Altitude: U.S. Aviation Pressure Suits":

On July 25, 1957, Lt. James D. LaHaye, a test pilot with Air Development Squadron Three (VX-3) from Naval Air Station (NAS) Atlantic City, N.J., was testing an early F8U-1. The fight, intended to collect zoom-climb performance data, became a real-world emergency when the Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet experienced a flameout at 52,000 feet. At that point, the Mark III suit LaHaye was wearing did exactly what it was designed to do: it inflated. Despite the relative discomfort, LaHaye immediately descended and began the air-start procedures as he passed through 35,000 feet, with the engine finally coming back to life at 30,000 feet.

After the flight, LaHaye reported the suit did not overly restrict his movements while pressurized, that he had no difficulty flying the aircraft, and the suit did not restrict visibility. “In the uninflated condition, the visibility afforded by the suit was far better than I had antici- pated. Since the back kit of the full-pressure suit moves the pilot forward, I expected to have difficulty in seeing the switches on the after parts of the consoles. But I found that I could see and reach all necessary switches.” LaHaye, however, did find that the bulk of the straps and other items at the shoulders had an adverse effect on mobility of the helmet because it restricted the movement of the neck ring.

LaHaye continued, “My overall impression of this suit as compared to the partial-pressure suit is that it has very little less mobility, visibility, and comfort in the uninflated condition. In the inflated condition, it is much more comfortable and affords much more mobility and visibility than an inflated partial- pressure suit.” A recurring theme of pressure suits is that pilots frequently find fewer faults with the garments during actual emergencies than they do during routine evaluations. Credit the adrenaline.

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Charles Glisson, Jr. ’47 was also a member of the fencing team.


Class of 1947

James is one of 27 members of the Class of 1947 in Memorial Hall.