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John Ellison '52

Date of birth: December 16, 1928

Date of death: March 24, 1967

Age: 38

Lucky Bag

From the 1952 Lucky Bag:


From Virtual Wall:

John Cooley Ellison entered the United States Naval Academy in 1948 and was graduated in 1952. He entered flight training in 1953, following a tour of duty aboard USS BATAAN (CVL-29). He qualified in the F-9F Cougar and deployed to the far east with VF-144 aboard the USS BOXER and USS HORNET. Following a tour of duty with the Air Training Command (1957-60), he was assigned to VF-41 and served in the Mediterranean. He then was assigned to duty with the US Air Force, flying the F-104 Starfighter with the 435th TFS, George AFB, California. During this tour, he earned his first Distinguished Flying Cross for saving an F-104 following severe in-flight damage to the aircraft.

Upon completion of this tour, he returned to Naval Air Station Oceana, VA, for qualification in the A-6A Intruder. He twice deployed to Southeast Asia with Attack Squadron 85 aboard USS KITTY HAWK (CVA-63). He and LT(jg) Jim Plowman were shot down during the second deployment.

A memorial to John Ellison - husband, father, friend. From his family,

John was lost on March 24, 1967. He was a LCDR at the time; his promotions to CDR and CAPT came before his declaration of death in 1975.


1952 Ellison 1.jpg

In 1967 Attack Squadron 85 (call sign BUCKEYE), operating the A-6A INTRUDER, deployed aboard USS KITTY HAWK. On 24 March, LCDR John "Buzz" Ellison and LTJG Jim Plowman launched in A-6A BuNo 151587 as part of a strike force directed against the Bac Giang thermal power plant in North Vietnam. The target was heavily defended by SAMs and a full spectrum of conventional anti-aircraft weaponry. Ellison and Plowman were tasked with SAM suppression for the bombers.

After the strike was completed, friendly radar flight following tracked the BUCKEYE aircraft as it headed toward the Gulf of Tonkin, but the track terminated in the vicinity of Ha Bac Province near the Vietnam/China border. Combat SAR was initiated. Voice contact was achieved with LCDR Ellison, but neither he nor Plowman was rescued. Both men were placed in "Missing in Action" status.

The North Vietnamese never acknowledged capturing either Ellison or Plowman, nor did they report that either man had been killed. However, there is evidence that both men survived.

Even so, the two men were never placed in POW status, and on 5 Sep 1975 the Secretary of the Navy approved a Presumptive Finding of Death for now-Captain Ellison, changing his status to "Died while Missing".

While I had only a slight acquaintance with these two men -- I joined VA-85 after their loss -- they are not forgotten.

Ken Davis, A-6 Aircrewman, Attack Squadron 85,, 1/2/01

Buzz Ellison was our Operations Officer in VA-85 in the spring of 1967 and I I had trained in the A6 RAG, VA-42, with Jim Plowman, Buzz's B/N.

I still wear an MIA bracelet to remember Buzz and Jim.

I will continue to wear the MIA bracelet until their remains are returned and the true story of their loss is explained to all.

From a squadronmate, Tom Murphy, VA-85 (1966-1969),

From Wall of Faces:

Just got off the phone with Johns brother Ted who would welcome correspondence concerning him. His address is: Ted Ellison, 1272 Birdie Lane, Kaysville, UT 84037. Ted is great man also and his daughter is my we're all family. My own father served in Pleiku 1969-1970. Thank goodness he returned home safely. Slow salute to all those brave men who didn't......RIP. VICKI SIMONSEN SANDERS, SLIMVICKI@COMCAST.NET, 1/10/16

My last post was 10/01/2013.

Buzz, I sometimes reflect on the lessons I learned with you when I was on your right wing, a "Junior Birdman" as most of us junior officers were. Though you were only one deployment older and 2 years senior, you demonstrated the path of courage-with-calm that got us through. Our AirGroup-14 lost 4 pilots in 6 months, but our flight led by Buzz never had a serious problem.

Even though our 1957 tour on the USS Hornet CVA-12 was in peacetime, there were challenges nonetheless. Eager to learn the tactics of war, we all were possibly a trigger-happy risk to the US naval plans and national strategies, just so shortly after the cessation of hostilities over N. Korea.

If I can find the photo I will expand on the story of the day I talked Buzz into letting me lead our sortie off the Hornet: so we simply swapped planes. When we returned to the ship to land, his [my] tailhook simply ... would not catch a wire !

By the time he'd gone around for several attempts, I was already up on the Island to observe him fly his [my] F9F Cougar into the Barrier they rigged.

Calm, masterful. His Luck? Lucky the ship still had room left on the Pacific, to give Buzz time to burn down his fuel load. And Buzz never held that adventure against me! It's a wonderful photo. ROBERT LITFIN LTJG USN, 9/28/15

Judith Delfine Lanier - BUZZ was simply a tiger, and also a Blue-Angel-wannabee. As you know, an Annapolis Grad 1952. I met up with him when he came back from his first tour with TheBitterBird squadron [Reserves called back for the Korean fight] re-designated as VF-144.

I flew on his right wing for 18 months out of NAS Miramar as we progressed through some tired F9F5s, into F9F6s and then into the F9F8 Cougars, single-seat Day Fighters. Jan 1957 we deployed to the Far East on the USS Hornet CVA-12, now a "show boat" docked at Alameda CA open to the public.

And Buzz flew them hard. He was smart, thoughtful, tough, resourceful, and very genuinely human. Fierce, always dedicated to his craft. I matured a good bit in that time with Buzz the coach and confidence-builder as we worked out how we could fly the barrel-rolls of the Blue Angels. Vietnam took him the other direction, and I miss him yet today..

And we also had a great skipper, Gerry Robinson. I was never aware until our squadron's 50th reunion ... about Gerry's contributions in WW-II as a rescue-pilot, shooting his seaplane off a cruiser's catapult and making several daring rescues in the sea. ROBERT LITFIN, 10/1/13

When John would come home for a visit, he'd let us know the approximate time and we would be outside watching for his plane. He always 'buzzed' the house before landing at Hill Air Force Base, where we would go to pick him up. He always brought his dress white uniform because he knew Mom wanted him to wear it to church on Sunday. She was so proud of his accomplishments and wanted it to show at all occasions. KATHRYN E. FIRTH, FIRTHFARM@GMAIL.COM, 3/22/13

Dear John, to honor your memory and the sacrifice you made for our country I want to make sure your photo will be displayed on your birthday each and every year when the Education Center is completed, so it is with great pride and humility that I post this remembrance and picture of you. You are not forgotten and remain in the hearts of many all these years later. You have been designated to be one of God's special angels, along with the love of my life, who also sacrificed his life during this war 45 years ago. God Bless You, John, for being who you were and for all you did--we live in freedom to this day thanks to heroes like you. CAROL (CIPRIANI) HABERCHAK, HABERCHAK1311@COMCAST.NET, 6/21/12

There are a thousand things I would like to say after 44 years. Brown Military,Annapolis,Breaking the sound barrier with Dad,Dutchess, Mr.A-6, Jean & your kids, and the list goes on.Thanks for your sacrafice toward my military service. Veterans Day 11-11-2011. We haven't forgotten. TED ELLISON, LTTED@MSN.COM, 11/12/11

Capt. Buzz Ellison, Fond memories from a Lynchburg friend

Capt. "Buzz" Ellison was a Navy pilot shot down on March 24 1967. Buzz was declared missing in action for a number of years but his wife and children were tireless in their search for his whereabouts. Capt. Ellison was finally categorized as "administratively dead" in 1980. May this American Hero rest in peace and may God bless his wife and children. Greg Reid GREG REID, GREGREID68@HOTMAIL.COM, 11/10/99

There are several pictures at Wall of Faces, though none have captions and some are unclear as to which person pictured is John.

Related Articles

John O'Grady '52, Robert Allison '52, Frederic Davis '52, Raymond Tacke '52, and Charles Andrews, III '52 were also on the track team.

Class of 1952

John is one of 48 members of the Class of 1952 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.