JERALD L. PINNEKER, LTJG, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Jerald Pinneker '63

Date of birth: September 29, 1940

Date of death: March 20, 1966

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

From the 1963 Lucky Bag:


Loss

From USNA Class of 1963:

LT(jg) Pinneker, in his A-4C aircraft, had just completed a successful napalm run when he was hit with automatic weapons fire 30 miles SW of Saigon. His plane disintegrated and crashed into the jungle canopy in Dinh Tuong Province, near the city of My Tho. An investigation into the crash site could not determine whether it was anti-aircraft or well-placed ground fire due to the ensuing explosion.

He was survived by his wife, Kay, his mother, Esther, and a brother, Reinold. (Information from May 1965 issue of SHIPMATE.)

Remembrances

From USNA Class of 1963:

This was received from Jerry's brother:
Jerry was one of those rare individuals who knew from an early age what he wanted to do. And, all of his energies were focused on that objective: to fly.

Born in North Platte, NE, he moved with his family to Scottsbluff, NE when he was about 6 years old. His father had an old Aeronica C-3 and every Sunday morning was spent at the airport, most times with my dad strapping the two of us into the rear seat of the plane and off we went...Jerry just loving the flight while I, his older brother, hanging onto and using the barf bag.

In addition to those Sundays in the sky, Jerry's Uncle (Harry W. Pinneker) was a WWII naval aviator who moved to Scottsbluff and brought his old Navy two-seater trainer with him and, until the cost of fuel forced him to sell it, Jerry would fly as "co-pilot" with his uncle.

The family moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and there at Billy Mitchell Field, Jerry discovered Civil Air Patrol. He spent most of his non-school hours involved with CAP.

After HS graduation, Jerry was Congressman Clement Zablocki's alternate appointee for the Academy and that's when he joined the Reserves where, a year later, he applied for an appointment from both the Congressman and the Reserves.

He won both and elected to enter the Academy with his Reserve appointment so that Zablocki's alternate appointee would be able to go.

Obituary

From Military Hall of Valor:

Early Life

Jerald Lee Pinneker was born on 29 September 1940 in North Platte, NE. He moved with his family to Scottsbluff, NE, when he was about 6 years old. His father had an old Aeronica C-3 and every Sunday morning was spent at the airport, most times with his dad strapping him and his older brother into the rear seat of the plane and off they went. Jerry just loved the flights while his older brother was hanging on and using the barf bag.

In addition to those Sundays in the sky with his dad, Jerry's Uncle (Harry W. Pinneker) was a WWII Naval Aviator who moved to Scottsbluff and brought his old Navy two-seater trainer with him and, until the cost of fuel forced him to sell it, Jerry would fly as "co-pilot" with his uncle.

The family moved to Milwaukee, WI, in 1953 and there, at Billy Mitchell Field, Jerry discovered the Civil Air Patrol. He spent most of his non-school hours involved with CAP.

Jerry was one of those rare individuals who knew from an early age what he wanted to do. And, all of his energies were focused on that objective: to fly.

U.S. Naval Academy

After graduation from high school, Jerry was Congressman Clement Zablocki's alternate appointee for the U.S. Naval Academy and that's when he joined the Navy Reserves where, a year later, he applied for an appointment from both the Congressman and the Reserves. He won both and elected to enter the Academy with his Reserve appointment so that Zablocki's alternate appointee would be able to go.

Upon his graduation from the Academy with the Class of 1963, Jerry was awarded the Mac Short Award in Aviation at as the most promising future Naval aviator:

"The name of the graduating midshipman who has displayed the most marked interest and practical aptitude for a career as a naval aviator will be inscribed annually upon a plaque presented by The Mac Short Memorial Foundation. In addition, such midshipman will be awarded a prize of a wrist watch, suitably engraved. The midshipman receiving this award must be physically qualified, temperamentally adapted, and must have submitted an official request for flight training with the intention of qualifying as a naval aviator."

Of course, Jerry completed flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator.

South Vietnam

On 6 March 1966, the USS Ticonderoga replaced the USS Kitty Hawk at Yankee Station. The war was escalating to the point that there were 95,000+ Naval men directly supporting the efforts in Southeast Asia, and Navy pilots were tasked with endless missions in both North and South Vietnam.

On 20 March 1966, the Ticonderoga pilots flew a total of 106 sorties -- most in support of US and ARVN ground troops west of Saigon. The South Vietnamese Army launched Operation Cuu Long 15 encountering a large NVA Battalion, and requested help from the US bombers to help destroy key enemy embankments.

LTJG Pinneker, in his A-4C Skyhawk aircraft, had just completed a successful napalm run when he was hit with automatic weapons fire 30 miles SW of Saigon. His plane disintegrated and crashed into the jungle canopy in Dinh Tuong Province, near the city of My Tho. An investigation into the crash site could not determine whether it was anti-aircraft or well-placed ground fire due to the ensuing explosion.

Three Navy pilots were shot down on 20 March, with 2 ejecting safely. Jerry was not one of them.

Death and Burial

LTJG Jerald Lee Pinneker was killed in action on 20 March 1966. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Distinguished Flying Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant, Junior Grade Jerald Lee Pinneker (NSN: 0-669422), United States Navy, for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight during a strike mission against a major Viet Cong stronghold in South Vietnam on 20 March 1966. In the presence of intense enemy ground fire, and fully aware of the personal danger involved, Lieutenant, Junior Grade, Pinneker resolutely made two separate napalm attacks, scoring a direct hit on an enemy automatic weapons position with his final attack. In completing the mission, he sacrificed his life when his aircraft was hit by a concentration of enemy ground fire.

General Orders: All Hands (April 1967)
Action Date: March 20, 1966
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Junior Grade

Mac Short Award

From USNA Class of 1963:

Jerry was awarded the Mac Short Award in Aviation at graduation from the Academy as the most promising future Naval aviator: "The name of the graduating midshipman who has displayed the most marked interest and practical aptitude for a career as a naval aviator will be inscribed annually upon a plaque presented by The Mac Short Memorial Foundation. In addition, such midshipman will be awarded a prize of a wrist watch, suitably engraved. The midshipman receiving this award must be physically qualified, temperamentally adapted, and must have submitted an official request for flight training with the intention of qualifying as a naval aviator."


Class of 1963

Jerald is one of 29 members of the Class of 1963 in Memorial Hall.