NICHOLAS G. BROOKS, LCDR, USN
Nicholas Brooks '66
Date of birth: May 18, 1943
Date of death: January 2, 1970
From the 1966 Lucky Bag:
From Task Force Omega:
On 2 January 1970, Lt. Bruce Fryar '66, pilot; and then-Lt. Nicholas G. Brook, bombardier/navigator; launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in an A6A as the lead aircraft in a flight of two on an bombing mission against targets in Laos. The targets were located in the foothills on south side of a jungle-covered mountain range approximately 59 miles due west of the major North Vietnamese port city of Dong Hoi, 7 miles southwest of the Lao/Vietnamese border and 5 mile northeast of Ban Senphon, Khammouan Province, Laos.
This area of eastern Laos was considered a major artery of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
At 1800 hours, during their visual dive bombing attack, the Intruder was struck by anti-aircraft artillery fire, immediately began breaking up and exploded upon impacting the ground. Two parachutes were sighted by both the strike control aircraft and the downed aircraft's wingman, and two survival signals were heard by them. Further, one man was sighted on the ground in a prone position with the parachute still attached. When search and rescue (SAR) personnel arrived on site a short time later, a pararescueman (PJ) was lowered to the ground. He attempted to attach the unconscious flyer to a hoist for rescue, however, heavy enemy fire forced the SAR aircraft away before that could be accomplished. The PJ had sparse seconds to attempt the recovery, but in that time, was able to positively identify the downed crewman as Lt. Fryar. Darkness precluded further rescue attempts that day. The next morning at first light SAR aircraft returned to the known location of Bruce Fryar only to find that both the pilot and his parachute had been removed. Over the next several days visual and electronic searches continued, but found no trace of either crewman. At the time SAR efforts were terminated, both Bruce Fryar and Nicholas Brooks were listed Missing in Action. Lt. Brooks family learned through intelligence reports that he had been captured and was believed to have attempted at least three escape attempts only to be recaptured.
On 3 February 1982, Lao Nationals, frequently referred to as Freedom Fighters, recovered and turned over Nicholas Brook's remains to an American citizen working with resistance elements in Laos. Those remains subsequently identified as his on 4 March 1982.
At his family's request, his remains were buried at sea on March 25, 1982.
From Wall of Faces:
Nick it took all these years to write this but I do it with all my heart and soul. May God bless you and keep you. I remember the Cristmas that we both met for drinks at Bill and Marion McDonough's house. We were both in uniform-you a Lt. and getting ready to deploy and me a freshly commissioned Ensign going to my first ship after the holidays. How different things were then--we were both so excited and ready to do our part. Who knew what the future would hold. Well I got back Nick and I often think of you and those few moments that we spent together. It was obvious that you were all quality and I was so sad that you were one of the unfortunate ones. You remain in my prayers. PETER OLYMPIA, PETEROLYMPIA@AOL.COM, 10/17/10
Nick and I went through the A-6 RAG (VA-128) together at Whidbey Island in 1968. We ended up in the same squadron (VA-196) in early 1969. By then we had had the time to become close friends. Nick was a 1966 graduate of the Naval Academy who had originally started his Fleet tour as a junior officer on a destroyer. I think Nick was drawn to being an A-6 B/N by his friendship with his classmate Joe Mobley, who had gone straight into the NFO program after graduation. Joe was flying with VA-35 off the Enterprise when he was shot down in June of 1968. I remember that Nick took this news very hard; it seemed to reinforce his determination to make a difference as an A-6 B/N. (Joe was listed as MIA for over a year. We did not know of his status as a POW until August of 1969 - shortly before VA-196 deployed. Joe returned to the USA in 1973, resumed his Navy career, and later retired as a Rear Admiral.)
VA-196 deployed to Vietnam in late 1969 as part of Air Wing TWO on the USS Ranger. We arrived at Yankee Station in November, and lost two aircraft almost immediately on the same day (November 22, 1969) over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in central Laos. Only one of the four crewmen was recovered. After this shock, we settled down to the tedious hard work of daily flights over the Trail. As the weeks went by, the NVN Army moved more and more anti-aircraft artillery into the passes leading from North Vietnam and along the many roads headed south through Laos. On January 2, 1970, Nick and his pilot, Bruce Fryar, were shot down on an interdiction mission along the Trail in the Mu Gia Pass area, reportedly on a dive bombing run. Although we ran SAR operations for several days, neither Nick or Bruce was recovered.
Nick was a bachelor. He drove a British Racing Green Triumph TR-4A roadster and loved jazz. Before we left for Vietnam, he had lived in a little house on the water, within sight of the Deception Pass Bridge. We had a great time one weekend bottling a batch of homemade beer, but I don't remember ever drinking any of it later. Nick also liked to spend weekends in Vancouver, BC, or in looking for little out-of-the-way eateries among the many small towns near Whidbey. He had a philosophical bent that came out after a beer or two, but he was always cheerful and a good companion. I wore his MIA bracelet for several years - until we received word that his remains had been returned to his family and buried at sea. I still have the bracelet. PETE YOUNG, 8/11/03
Dear Nick - My heart broke when I saw your name etched on the Wall during a visit to the monument years ago. You were listed as an MIA back then, but I hoped and prayed you'd return home safely. I am so deeply sorry my prayers were not answered. I will never forget you....(Sue Storey, NFA Class of '61) SUZANNE STRANGÉ, FORTOUCHE@AOL.COM, 5/14/99
From Virtual Wall:
Nick and I were company-mates all four years at the US Naval Academy. When I learned of his MIA status I requested a POW bracelet with his name. My wife wore the bracelet of our class/company-mate, Joe Mobley. Thankfully, she was able to present her bracelet to Joe after his release.
I attended the memorial service for Nick and as we went through the receiving line I gave the bracelet I had been wearing to his Mother. I think of Nick frequently: his energy, enthusiasm, and love for life. He was truly one of our best and brightest. He is missed and he is well thought of. Thomas R. Bernier, email@example.com, June 10, 2007
This Veterans' Day is perhaps more poignant since my husband and I spent two weeks in Vietnam and Laos last February. Today I opened a 40 year old scrapbook and took out the letter that Nick Brooks wrote to me in October, 1968.
My name is Phyllis Ensign Harding, and my grandparents (Harold and Jennie Ensign) owned the beach house near Deception Pass that Nick rented in 1968. I spent the summers of my teenage years with my grandparents whose house was behind Nick's, and my "job" that year was to paint the beach house. I was 17 years old, just a kid, but Nick and I became friends sharing long summer days of talking and skipping stones on the water.
Nick had a sketch pad to which I evidently added some creative cartooning when he wasn't looking. This is mentioned in this letter he had my grandmother mail to me in the fall after I went back home to Kent, Washington:
Hi - Feeling somewhat artistic tonight, I opened my sketch pad for the first time in quite awhile, and uncovered some very unflattering mischief! Actually, it's quite good, and I do appreciate it, Phyllis. The sun is seldom strong enough to warm the North winds that blow in now, and no longer do I find willowy, long-haired girls splashing paint all over my humble home - but little else has changed.
I hope this note finds all of your family in good health. Be sure to stop by next time you are North. Nick
I still have the Seattle newspaper article that my grandmother mailed to me announcing Nick's disappearance in Vietnam in 1970. All of these years I never knew what happened to him.
Today I decided to Google the Vietnam MIA website, and it was there that I found his memorial wall site.
Pete, I wonder if I ever met you. I remember Nick's friends coming over. I have to laugh today imagining my grandparents keeping an eagle-eye on me! I also remember his Triumph roadster ... Nick seemed so cool to me.
To Louise, his sister, I further Googled the pages of years of reports of your father George's quest with the CIA to find out what happened to his son. Today I am remembering getting to know Nick that summer 39 years ago, and I thank you for his memorial page. Phyllis Harding, firstname.lastname@example.org, November 11, 2007
Nick was survived by his parents and at least one sister, Louise Brooks Town.
Bruce Fryar '66 was piloting the A-6A Intruder and was also killed in the crash.
Leroy Bates '65 was also in 4th Company.