JAMES J. CONNELL, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

James Connell '61

Date of birth: May 6, 1939

Date of death: July 15, 1966

Age: 27

Lucky Bag

From the 1961 Lucky Bag:


Obituary

1961 Connell 1.jpg

From Veteran Tributes:

J.J. Connell was born on May 6, 1939, in Wilmington, Delaware. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy on June 7, 1961, and was designated a Naval Aviator on June 18, 1962. After completing additional training, Connell was assigned as a flight instructor at NAAS Whiting Field, Florida, from December 1962 to November 1963, when he joined the Replacement Air Group at NAS Lemoore, California. He next served with Attack Squadron 55 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14), at NAS Lemoore, and aboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61), from August 1964 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on July 15, 1966. After spending 1,645 days in captivity, LCDR Connell died at the hands of the North Vietnamese on January 14, 1971. His remains were returned to the United States on March 6, 1974.

Loss

1961 Connell 2.jpg

From Virtual Wall:

James J. Connell was graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the Class of 1961 and proceeded into the flight training program, qualifying in the A-4 Skyhawk light attack aircraft. On 10 Dec 1965, Lieutenant Connell deployed as a pilot in Attack Squadron 55 embarked in USS RANGER (CVA-61). On 15 July 1966, LT Connell was flying A-4E BuNo 151024 as one of four aircraft conducting an "Iron Hand" mission along the Red River south of Hanoi. The flight encountered heavy conventional antiaircraft artillery and SAM fire as they attacked an SA-2 surface-to-air missile site. As the flight pulled off target one of the pilots saw a parachute on the ground and realized that Connell had been shot down. Shortly thereafter, Connell established radio contact with his squadronmates and advised them that he was OK, having sustained only minor injuries during the ejection. Rescue efforts were impossible in this high threat area and it was taken for granted that he would be captured. He was.

When the POWs were repatriated in February 1973, Jimmy Connell was not among them; he had died in captivity, reportedly on 14 January 1971. His remains were not repatriated until 06 March 1974.

Lieutenant Commander Connell's Navy Cross Citation speaks to both his treatment while a POW and his response to that treatment. He was kept in solitary confinement for several years and was subjected to repeated and severe physical and mental abuse by his captors. His fellow POWs were in a position to judge LCDR Connell's response, and it was their judgement and first-person testimony which led to the award of the Navy Cross.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is his wife, Jenny Robertson, jennyr1@cox.net
27 Nov 2002

Remembrances

From Wall of Faces:

Dear dad,
I wish I had gotten to know you. But I was only about a year old when you left, so I have no memories of you. All I know of you is what others have told me. Even so I miss you so much. I know my life would have turned out very differently if you had survived the war. I hope you can forgive all the mistakes i have made over the years. I am only now coming to gripes with the pain of your death. It took the death of a loved one to open up the grief I had buried inside for so long that I did not know I still carried with me. I will always love you and miss you.
With Love Your Son, James J. Connell III JAMES J. CONNELL III, 6/10/14

From Wall of Faces:

Though 45 years have passed since you departed on that last cruise, it could be just 45 minutes. Your children and I miss you terribly. You would be so proud of them and your grandchildren. JENNY CONNELL ROBERTSON, JENNYR1@COX.NET, 1/2/11

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander [then Lieutenant] James Joseph Connell (NSN: 0-64738), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from April 1968 to June 1969. Under constant pressure from the North Vietnamese in their attempt to gain military information and propaganda material, Lieutenant Commander Connell experienced severe torture with ropes and was kept in almost continuous solitary confinement. As they persisted in their hostile treatment of him, he continued to resist by feigning facial muscle spasms, incoherency of speech, and crippled arms with loss of feeling in his fingers. The Vietnamese, convinced of his plight, applied shock treatments in an attempt to improve his condition. However, he chose not to indicate improvement for fear of further cruelty. Isolated in a corner of the camp near a work area visited daily by other prisoners, he established and maintained covert communications with changing groups of POW's, thereby serving as a main point of exchange of intelligence information. By his exceptional courage, determination, and resourcefulness in this most difficult line of resistance, he reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.

General Orders: Authority: Navy Department Board of Decorations and Medals
Action Date: April 1968 - June 1969
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant Commander James Joseph Connell (NSN: 0-64738), United States Navy, was awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam.

Action Date: Vietnam War
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Lieutenant James Joseph Connell (NSN: 0-64738), United States Navy, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Southeast Asia.

Action Date: Vietnam War
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant

Prisoner of War

From Hall of Valor:

Lieutenant Commander James Joseph Connell (NSN: 0-64738), United States Navy, was held as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from July 15, 1971 until his death in captivity on or about January 13, 1972.

Action Date: July 15, 1971 - January 13, 1972
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
Division: Prisoner of War (North Vietnam)


Class of 1961

James is one of 23 members of the Class of 1961 in Memorial Hall.