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
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
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.