From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Victor Buckley '66

Date of birth: August 4, 1944

Date of death: December 16, 1969

Age: 25

Lucky Bag

From the 1966 Lucky Bag:


From the April 1971 issue of Shipmate:

Lt. Victor Pat Buckley, USN, listed as missing in action in SE Asia since December 1969, was declared by DOD, in February 1971, to have been killed in action.

Born in Havana, Cuba, Lt. Buckley graduated from the Naval Academy in 1966. He become a Naval Aviator at Pensacola in 1968. He was serving aboard the USS HANCOCK as a photo reconnaissance pilot when he failed to return to the ship following a mission in SE Asia. He was awarded the Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Purple Heart and other commendations for his service.

He is survived by his parents, Cdr. and Mrs. Russell H. Buckley, USN (Ret.) '39 of 2114 Great Falls St., Falls Church, Va. 22043; a brother, Lt. R. H. Buckley, Jr., USN '64; and two sisters, Virginia Carter of Alexandria, Va., and Kathleen Walsh of Arlington, Va.

The destroyer USS Dennis J. Buckley (DD 808) — no relation to the namesake — searched for him for three days.

He has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery.


1966 Buckley 1.jpg

From Wall of Faces:

My fiancé Lt. V. Patrick Buckley, disappeared returning to the USS Hancock, in the Gulf of Tonkin, on Dec. 16, 1969. His remains have never been recovered. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The sadness just never leaves you. I held on to the hope for years that his plane somehow made it to land and he was captured. I hoped and prayed that he would be returned to us. But the POW's eventually came home and he wasn't among them. I wish that I had the words to describe to you what a handsome, bright, dynamic individual he was. He just loved life and had so much to offer. I tried without success to find out what happened to him. I know that if the situation was reversed he would never have stopped looking for me. I hope that he knows that with the little resources that I had at my disposal I did try my best and I continue to try. I hope that whatever happened to him was quick and that he did not suffer. It is said that pain eases with time, but I still feel his loss so acutely to this day. I hope that he is somewhere where there is no pain and suffering and if I pray really hard I will some day see him again. DARLENE MCPHEE SIMEONE, 12/15/16

On December 16, 1970, my ship the USS DENNIS J BUCKLEY was sent to search for a pilot that had went down in the Tonkin Gulf while coming back from a mission over Vietnam. We broke off from the aircraft carrier we were working with and proceeded to the site where the plane went down. Capt Luskin announced the pilot's name was Victor Buckley. We spent three days looking for him, but to no avail. We did find a nose wheel off of a plane, but had no idea whether it came off of Lt Buckley's plane. It was a tremendous let down to the crew when we were ordered to return to the carrier. HAROLD FERGUSON, HAROLD.FERGUSON@SBCGLOBAL.NET, 1/15/07

A lifetime ago, when Pat was an Ensign in flight training at Meridian, MS, we were friends. Actually, we dated for a while. How he loved life, laughter, his TR3, his motorcycle, and flying jets! Time spent with Pat was time spent having fun.

I first learned that Pat had been killed in Vietnam when I came across his name on the memorial at Punchbowl in Hawaii. I'm pleased to find this online memorial to him, to learn more about what happened, and to be able to add my 'farewell'. I'll think of him fondly when I look out at the stars. JANICE (BAKER) BLASE, JANBLASE@COMCAST.NET, 7/7/05

Victor (Pat) was a true friend, we shared many classes at the Naval Academy. It's so sad he left us so early. May God continue to bless his soul. TOM PORTER, 11/13/04

1966 Buckley 2.jpg

Friend, roommate, classmate

Although he was tragically lost in Viet Nam, I'm not able to think about Bucs without instantly remembering his ever-present smile. He was a friend to all who knew him, a confidant to those who needed help or advice, and a professional when it came to doing his work. These days Bucs surely sits somewhere close to God so that he can be called on to cheer things up when even God is dismayed about happenings here on earth. A wonderful person, part of the tragedy of his loss is that others never had the chance to meet him. BILL COWAN, USMC (RET), WVC3@EARTHLINK.NET, 7/19/04

From Daily Breeze on May 23, 2015. Quote from Steve Wilson:

"A couple of these guys never came back. I worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and would just watch them leave and never come back,” the Torrance resident said, walking to another section and landing his finger beneath the name Victor P. Buckley. “We searched three days for him and never found him."

Loss Details

Though some sites claim his aircraft was hit by enemy fire, there is no evidence to support this. Information from his sister at the 2018 and 2019 Honor Our Fallen Heroes event at the Naval Academy, and the report below.

From a report of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on May 28, 2019:

On 16 December 1969, Lieutenant (LT) Victor P. Buckley [Pilot], assigned to Light Photographic Squadron Sixty Three (VFP-63), Carrier Air Wing Twenty One (CVW-21), deployed with aircraft carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19), was the pilot of an RF-8G aircraft (Bureau number: 145611; call sign: Cork Tip 600) that disappeared over the Gulf of Tonkin while returning to Hancock from a photo reconnaissance mission. Lieutenant Buckley advised the approach controller that he was unable to hear flight instructions. The fighter escort took the lead and gave the standard lead change signal, which LT Buckley acknowledged. Lieutenant Buckley's aircraft was then observed to drift aft into a loose cruise position as the fighter escort descended for refueling and rendezvous with a tanker. The KA-3B tanker crew never saw the second aircraft, only the fighter escort when it came in to refuel, despite good visibility. Following refueling, less than ten minutes after they had switched positions, the escort was unable to locate the RF-8G either visually or via radio, nor was the Hancock. Search efforts by aircraft, search and rescue helicopters, and surface units over a 54-hour period found no evidence of the missing pilot or aircraft. During the search, one naval vessel recovered an apparent nose wheel from an aircraft within one of the search areas, but were unable to say with any certainty if it came from his aircraft. They terminated the organized search at 181800H. The U.S. Navy requested all units to maintain electronic search alert for any evidence related to the missing aircraft or pilot.

On 21 January 1971, the Department of Navy determined LT Buckley was killed-in-action. The Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) designated this air loss incident as Reference number (REFNO) 1537.

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Richard Williams '66 and Michael Wunsch '66 were also in 11th Company.

Class of 1966

Victor is one of 36 members of the Class of 1966 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.