Accident McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II 150631,
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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 254187
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Date:Sunday 17 October 1965
Type:Silhouette image of generic F4 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II
Owner/operator:VF-41, US Navy
Registration: 150631
MSN: 289
Fatalities:Fatalities: 1 / Occupants: 2
Aircraft damage: Destroyed
Location:Quang Lang, approximately 54 miles north of Haiphong, NVN -   Vietnam
Phase: Combat
Departure airport:USS Independence (CVA-62),
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Little or no information is available
McDonnell Douglas F-4B Phantom II Bu No 150631. VF-41, US Navy: Written off (destroyed) in combat operations on October 17 1965. Operating from the USS Independence (CVA-62), struck by AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) fire as they made a pass on the Thai Nguyen bridge located approximately 38 miles north of Hanoi made an effort to get "feet wet", the aircraft crashed near the town of Quang Lang, approximately 54 miles north of Haiphong and 65 miles northeast of Hanoi.

Of the two crew one was killed, and the other survived to be taken POW: Lt Roderick Lewis Mayer (pilot, KIA) and Lt(jg) David Robert Wheat (RIO, ejected, survived, taken POW). According to the official US Navy record of the incident, and of the fates of the two crew:

"Name: David Robert Wheat
Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy
Unit: Fighter Squadron 41, USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA 62)
Date of Birth:
Home City of Record: Duluth MN
Date of Loss: 17 October 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 214000N 1063800E (XJ689966)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F-4B
Missions: 80

Other Personnel In Incident: Roderick L. Mayer (missing - died of severe wounds); At nearby coordinates, all F4 aircraft from USS Independence and US Navy personnel; Stanley E. Olmstead (missing) and Porter A. Halyburton (released POW); Rodney A. Knutson and Ralph E. Gaither (both released POWs)

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. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK March 1997.


SYNOPSIS: LT Roderick Mayer was a pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62). On October 17, 1965 he and his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), LTJG David Wheat launched in their F4B Phantom fighter jet for a day strike mission on the Thai Nguyen bridge northeast of Hanoi.

On the same day, a second Phantom flown by LCDR Stanley E. Olmstead, with LTJG Porter A. Halyburton as his RIO, and a third Phantom flown by LTJG Ralph Gaither and LTJG Rodney A/ Knutson also launched from the USS INDEPENCENCE. These four pilots were part of Fighter Squadron 84, the "Jolly Rogers". Mayer and Wheat were part of the carriers Fighter Squadron 41. All were dispatched to the same general mission area near the city of Thai Nguyen.

The three Phantoms were all shot down within a few miles of each other. Knutson and Gaither were shot down bin Long Song Province, North Vietnam, near the border of China, or about 75 miles northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen. Olmstead and Halyburton were shot down in Long Son Province about 40 miles east of the city of Thai Nguyen. Mayer and Wheat were shot down about 55 miles east-northeast of the city of Thai Nguyen, in Long Son Province.

Mayer and Wheat's aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Both men were seen to eject from the aircraft. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were hampered due to enemy small arms fire. Lt. Mayer was observed over a period of two hours in a prone position, still in his parachute. Before rescue helicopters could reach the scene, both Mayer and Wheat had disappeared from sight and enemy troops were seen in the area. David R. Wheat was confirmed to be a prisoner of war, and when released in 1973, made statements which suggest that Mayer was killed during the ejection or that he died later of injuries resulting from the ejection. He stated that Lt. Mayer did not move, even when he was found by ground troops. Mayer was classified Prisoner of War.

LCDR Olmstead's aircraft was hit by hostile fire and crashed while on a bombing mission. No transmissions were heard, nor was there any sign of ejection by either crew member. Other U.S. aircraft passed over the crash
site and determined that there was no possibility of survival. However, it was later learned that Halyburton had survived, and was captured. Being the RIO, Halyburton would eject first. It was believed that Olmstead had probably died in the crash of the aircraft, but there was no proof of this theory. Olmstead was classified Missing in Action.

Gaither and Knutson were captured by the North Vietnamese, spent nearly 8 years as prisoners and were both released on February 12, 1973 in Operation Homecoming. Knutson had been injured, and was not fully recovered at the time of his release.

The fates of these six men from the USS INDEPENDENCE was not clear at the time they were shot down. Their status changed from Reported Dead to Prisoner of War or Missing in Action. At the end of the war, only Olmstead and Mayer remained missing. Ultimately, they were declared dead for lack of evidence that they were still alive.

Roderick L. Mayer was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing and David R. Wheat was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

Rodney A. Knutson and Ralph E. Gaither were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period they were maintained as prisoner of war.

Stanley E. Olmstead was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing. Porter A. Halyburton was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period he was maintained as a prisoner of war.



Revision history:

30-Apr-2021 11:15 ASN archive Added
18-Jun-2022 01:02 Dr. John Smith Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Other fatalities, Location, Country, Phase, Departure airport, Source, Narrative, Category]

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