17. A New Home and the Building Storm
     While receiving the new aircraft, VQ-1 began the move to a new homeport at NAS Atsugi, Japan. The move was completed by July 1960 and the last P4M-1Q was retired in ceremonies held at Atsugi on the 23rd. The squadron now had nine A3D-2Q, four WV-2Q and two F9F-8Ts, with 62 officers and 373 enlisted personnel.

     During the last week of CDR Knopfe’s command, an A3D-2Q was lost while conducting a routine training mission at Atsugi. LT H.P. Sams spun in on the runway after wave off during an aircraft commander check ride. The cause of the accident was undetermined. Other fatalities in this crash were LCDR A.R. Hodge, AMI E. Taylor and AO3 O.J. Cladry.

     CDR T.E. Moore assumed command of VQ-1 25 January 1961. During his tenure VQ-l grew to a total complement of 75 officers, 383 enlisted and 10 civilian personnel. Then in 1961 ominous developments began to unfold with a civil war in Vietnam. The crisis there would continue to build with the assassination of President Diem in 1963, the coup in January 1964 and finally the Tonkin Gulf incident in August. This action would prove the beginning of a long-term U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War -one in which VQ-l would play a major part in the Navy’s role. In fact, VQ-1 began flying missions in Southeast Asia as early as the spring of 1962.

     With the building storm in Southeast Asia VQ-1 continued electronic reconnaissance missions in support of both Navy and national intelligence collection requirements through the early 1960s. Commanders J.W. Jenkins, W.J. Wacker and A.T. Holt led VQ-1 through the period December 1961-November 1964.

     While the conflict in Southeast Asia heated up, VQ-l began preparations for establishment of EA-3B detachments on board Seventh Fleet aircraft carriers. According to aviation history summaries, aircrew carrier proficiency qualifications began in late 1962 and the first detachment embarked in USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) in May 1964. Records available through September 1966 show VQ-1 dets operating from these other carriers off Vietnam: Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31), Constellation (CVA-64), Coral Sea (CVA-43), Enterprise (CVA(N)-65), Hancock (CVA-19) Independence (CVA-62), Midway (CVA-41), Oriskany (CVA-34), Ranger (CVA-61), Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), and Ticonderoga (CVA-14). During one of these EA-3B dets the seven members of LCDR Cunningham’s crew won the Navy Unit Commendation for their part in the U.S. response to North Vietnamese aggression during the Tonkin Gulf incident of August 1964. However, for most of the Vietnam War, the EA-3Bs were primarily land-based at DaNang because of the lack of deck space on the war-loaded carriers and better facilities at the South Vietnamese base.

     On 25 November 1964 CDR F. Carment Jr. assumed command of VQ-1 as the United States began to enter the Vietnamese War in earnest. During the next nine years VQ-1 would operate its land-based EC-121Ms and EP-3Bs from DaNang AB, RVN; NAS Cubi Point, P.I.; Bangkok, Thailand; Tainan, Taiwan; and several other bases, while the EA-3Bs flew primarily from Seventh Fleet carriers and DaNang. These missions were flown in support of USN and USAF air strikes, U.S. Army and Marine Corps land campaigns and national intelligence collection requirements.

     Specific types of support provided by the VQ-1 aircrews were MiG and SAM warning services, electronic order of battle (EOB) updating and electronic intelligence collection in support of combat contingency planning. The VQ-1 SAM warning services were especially crucial to the survival of Navy carrier aircrews flying over North Vietnam because of the lack of deceptive ECM (DECM) systems on tactical aircraft at that time.

     In recognition of these vital electronic reconnaissance missions, VQ-1 aircrews were presented innumerable awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, various campaign medals and two Navy Unit Commendations (NUC). In the citation to the Navy Unit Commendation presented to VQ-1 for the period 1 December 1965 through 30 November 1967 the squadron was cited as “carrying out an extremely broad program of electronic warfare and special intelligence collection of national importance”, The citation further stated that VQ-l “provided invaluable direct tactical support to combat commanders prosecuting the war against communist subversion in Southeast Asia, VQ-l has won unqualified praise from all branches of the United States Armed Services, and from national intelligence agencies, and is widely considered the unquestioned leader in the field of electronic warfare tactical support under combat conditions”. Finally, the citation acknowledged that VQ-l “has been directly instrumental in saving countless lives of U.S. air combat pilots and crewmen over North Vietnam”.

     Although no VQ-1 aircraft were shot down in the hostilities in Southeast Asia there were instances of damage to squadron aircraft on the ground during enemy rocket attacks at DaNang. Outside the war zone however, in April 1969, a VQ-1 EC-121M and crew of 30 were lost to hostile fire from North Korean MiG fighters. On 14 April the Super Connie, with LCDR James Howard Overstreet as mission commander, took off from Atsugi and headed northeast for a routine electronic reconnaissance mission off the North Korean coast. The flight plan called for the crew to proceed to a point off Musu Peninsula where they were to fly elliptical orbits, each about l20 miles long.

     At 1350, a little less than seven hours after takeoff, a U.S. Air Force tracking station monitoring the flight detected two new blips as a pair of North Korean MiGs rapidly closed on the unarmed VQ-1 aircraft. Although a prearranged message was sent to Overstreet ordering him to abort his mission, as the lumbering EC-121M turned away it was shot down southeast of Chongjin, North Korea, with a loss of all thirty crewmen. Only two bodies were subsequently recovered, those of LTJG Joseph R. Ribar and AT1 Richard E. Sweeney. In addition to Overstreet, Ribar and Sweeney, those lost in the shoot down were: LTs John Dzema, Dennis B. Gleason, Peter P. Perrottet, John H. Singer and Robert F. Taylor; LTJGs Robert J. Sykora and Norman E. Wilkerson; CPOs Laverne A. Greiner, Marshall H. McNamara and Richard E. Smith; PO1s Steven C. Chartier, Bernie J. Colgin, Bailard F. Connors Jr., James L. Roach and John H. Potts; PO2s Louis F. Balderman, Dennis J. Horrigan, Richard H. Kincaid, Frederick A. Randall and Stephen J. Tesmer; PO3s Gene K. Graham, David M. Willis, Gary R. Ducharme, John A. Miller Jr. and Philip D, Sundby; AN Richard T. Prindle and SSGT Hugh M. Lynch. Immediately after the incident President Nixon ordered a halt to reconnaissance missions in the Sea of Japan. The frequency of these missions had been averaging more than 60 per month until this time. President Nixon ordered the electronic reconnaissance resumed three days later, however, but this time with the protection of Task Force 71.