JOHN B. WORCESTER, LCDR, USN
John Worcester '63
Date of birth: April 23, 1941
Date of death: October 19, 1965
From the 1963 Lucky Bag:
from USNA Class of 1963:
On the afternoon of 19 October 1965, then LT(jg) John B. "Smiley" Worcester was the pilot of an A-4C Skyhawk that launched from the deck of USS Bonhomme Richard (CVA 31) as the number two aircraft in a section of two. The flight was conducting a late afternoon armed reconnaissance mission over central North Vietnam between the major cities of Thanh Hoa and Vinh, Nghe An Province, North Vietnam. The visibility along the entire route of flight was excellent.
At approximately 1700 hours, the Skyhawks were directed to attack the bridge over the Song Hieu river that flowed through the town of Nghia Hung in an attempt to cut the communist supply line in that region. Both aircraft made a run on the bridge with LT(jg) Worcester right behind the lead aircraft. Smiley Worcester expended part of his ordnance on the bridge, and as he pulled off target, he reported he was turning over checkpoint 1.
At approximately 1715 hours, his flight leader reported reaching checkpoint 2 and requested a radio check from LT(jg) Worcester. When no contact could be established, the flight leader radioed the Airborne Battlefield Command and Control (ABCCC) aircraft to request a search and rescue (SAR) mission be immediately initiated. He then began a visual search through the rolling hills along their flight path, but found no evidence of LT(jg) Worcester or his aircraft.
A nearby fighter aircraft reported an explosion in the area about 1715 hours, but was too far away to determine if it was the Skyhawk.
All aerial search operations proved negative. Because of the location of loss being deep in enemy-held territory, no ground search was possible. LT(jg) Worcester's last known location was approximately 26 miles due west of the coastline, 41 miles south-southwest of Thanh Hoa and 47 miles north-northwest of Vinh, North Vietnam. At the time the formal search effort was terminated, John "Smiley" Worcester was listed Missing in Action.
John Worcester arrived in Southeast Asia in early August 1965, only 6 weeks before his last flight. It was on his 15th combat mission at the time he disappeared.
From USNA Class of 1963:
On March 30, 2010 received this information from classmate Bob Giddens:
I was flying with John the day he disappeared. We arrived in the Philippines at about the same time and took a bus trip to Manila while we were awaiting transportation to the Bonnie Dick. We flew to the ship on the same COD and flew our first missions on the same day.
As I remember, John was shot down on about his 15th mission. A flight of four A4s were bombing a small bridge and we successfully knocked down a half span, meaning that one lane was taken out. With iron bomb technology it was rare to get a direct hit on a span. With 250 pound bombs, that's what it took. There was no visible AAA while we were on target. John didn't call "off" and we all immediately looked for him with no luck. We were within 2 miles of the bridge when we started looking, but there was no smoke, no wreckage, no clue as to what happened.
The Air Wing put dozens of sorties into the area and the rescue planes were on alert from the first 5 minutes. We can guess that a single rifle shot may have picked him off. Someone from the search flights should have seen wreckage, as we kept looking for days. We suppose his plane crashed in water. Not the Gulf of Tonkin. We looked in that direction from the outset and would have seen a splash. No emergency beacon.
I inventoried John's stuff and wrote to his parents. John was an all-around nice guy as you well remember. Hard to believe how fast 45 years go by. I remember that day clearly and a couple of the search flights from the next 2 days. We did encounter AAA on the search flights, but not right at the bridge. Bob Giddens
His name is frequently misspelled "Worchester." It has been corrected throughout the quoted passages here.