Name: John Bowers Worcester
Rank/Branch: O2/LTjg/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 195, USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA 31)
Date of Birth: 23 April 1941
Home City of Record: Big Rapids, MI
Date of Loss: 19 October 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 191900N 1052500E (WG437357)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01
April 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government
agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.
REMARKS: RADIO CONTACT LOST
SYNOPSIS: LTJG John B. "Smiley" Worcester was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 195 onboard the USS BON HOMME RICHARD (CVA-31). He had been in the Vietnam theater for about six weeks, and had flown 14 combat missions. On October 19, 1965, Worcester launched in his A4C Skyhawk attack aircraft as the second plane in a two-plane section of A4Cs on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.
The route was along a river valley and over rolling hills with peaks extending up to approximately 1800 feet mean sea level. The weather in the entire mission area was clear with unrestricted visibility. Some automatic weapons and anti-aircraft positions were known to exist along the mission route. The flight was conducted at altitudes between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above ground level.
At about 5:00 p.m. local time, LTJG Worcester expended part of his ordnance on a bridge. There was no enemy ground fire observed. The flight leader called "turning over point" and had visual contact with Worcester. He acknowledged over the radio that he had visual sight of the leader. The flight leader called "point 2" and received no response from LTJG Worcester. Calls were made on both attack primary and guard frequencies. The mission area was in Nghe An Province, North Vietnam. Worcester's last known location was about 75 miles northwest of the city of Vinh.
The flight leader retraced the entire route three times, but saw no trace nor indication of any kind of a crash or anti-aircraft artillery fire. A fighter pilot in the general area saw an explosion on the ground near the alternate rendezvous point, but was too far away to determine its origin.
Meanwhile, another section of aircraft circled the alternate rendezvous point at 10,000 feet looking for Worcester. This point was a prominent peninsula on the coast clearly visible from the entire mission area. All aircraft stayed in the area as long as fuel permitted. Search and rescue units were alerted and began their search efforts at that time. Darkness precluded further overland search.
Worcester was not among the prisoners of war that were released in 1973 by the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese deny any knowledge of him, though circumstances surrounding his incident indicate the strong probability that enemy forces knew his fate.
Alarmingly, evidence continues to mount that Americans were left as prisoners in Southeast Asia and continue to be held today. Unlike "MIAs" from other wars, most of the nearly 2500 men and women who remain missing in Southeast Asia can be accounted for. If even one was left alive (and many authorities estimate the numbers to be in the hundreds), we have failed as a nation until and unless we do everything possible to secure his freedom and bring him home.
John B. Worcester graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1963.
John B. Worcester was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period he was maintained missing.
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