Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 May 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.
SYNOPSIS: When nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on
December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with
her not only an imposing physical presence, but also an impressive component
of warplanes and the newest technology. Her air wing (CAG 9) consisted of
more than ninety aircraft. Among her attack squadrons were VA 36, VA 93, VA
76 and VA 94. She launched her opening combat strike against targets in
North Vietnam on December 17, and by the end of her first week of combat
operations, the ENTERPRISE had set a record of 165 combat sorties in a
single day, surpassing the KITTY HAWK's 131.
By the end of her first combat
cruise, her air wing had flown over 13,000 combat sorties.
The record had
not been achieved without cost.
On December 22, the ENTERPRISE teamed with the carriers KITTY HAWK and
TICONDEROGA in one of the war's biggest strikes to date, with one hundred
aircraft hitting the thermal power plant at Uong Bi located fifteen miles
north-northeast of the city of Haiphong. This was the first industrial
target authorized by the Johnson administration. The ENTERPRISE's aircraft
approached from the north and the KITTY HAWK/TICONDEROGA force from the
south, leaving the plant in shambles. The day's casualties were two A4Cs
from the ENTERPRISE, an RA5C Vigilante, and an A6A Intruder -- six Americans
One of the A4s was flown by LTJG Wendell R. Alcorn, a pilot from Attack
Squadron 36 onboard the ENTERPRISE. Alcorn's aircraft was shot down about 15
miles north-northeast of Haiphong and he was captured by the North
Vietnamese. For the next 7 years, Alcorn was a "guest" in the Hanoi prison
system. He was ultimately released in Operation Homecoming on Valentine's
The second A4C shot down on December 22, 1965 was flown from the ENTERPRISE
by LT John D. Prudhomme. Prudhomme's aircraft was hit by enemy fire and
crashed near Alcorn's position. Prudhomme was not as lucky as Alcorn; he was
deemed to have been killed in the crash of his aircraft. He is listed among
the missing because his remains were not recovered.
The RA5C reconnaissance aircraft was shot down about 5 miles east of Hai
Duong in Hai Hung Province, about 30 miles from Alcorn and Prudhomme. Its
crew consisted of the pilot, LCDR Max D. Lukenbach and his rear-seater, LTJG
Glenn H. Daigle. LTJG Daigle was captured by the Vietnamese and held in
Hanoi until his release on February 12, 1973. Lukenbach, according to
intelligence received, died in the crash of the plane and was buried near
the crash site.
The fates of the crew of the fourth aircraft to be shot down is uncertain.
Pilot CDR Billie J. Cartwright and his rear-seater LT Edward F. Gold were
declared missing in action after their A6A Intruder went down about 30 miles
northeast of Haiphong.
On December 23, twenty-four hours before President Johnson's
thirty-seven-day bombing halt would take effect, another large flight
launched from the ENTERPRISE for strikes in North Vietnam.
LTJG William L. Shankel describes the flight:
"About twenty planes were going after a bridge over the Red River, halfway
between Hanoi and Haiphong and I was in the second section. My A4 was a real
dog, and I had to cut corners to keep everybody else from running off and
leaving me. I reached the target by myself, pulled up, and rolled in to
dive-bomb the bridge. The plane was hit as soon as the bombs left, at the
bottom of the dive... When I went out, the plane was inverted and almost
supersonic, and the ejection really thrashed my right knee."
Shankel, Alcorn and Daigle were all held in what has come to be known as the
Hanoi prison system -- The Hoa Lo (Hanoi Hilton), Heartbreak Hotel, the Zoo,
Alcatraz, Briarpatch and others. Although their captivity was distinctly
unpleasant, both from the standpoint of torture and deprivation and from the
mental torture of wondering year after year, if they would ever come home,
these three are among the more lucky ones. They came home alive.
At the end of the war, 591 Americans were released from the Hanoi prison
system. Military authorities at the time were shocked that hundreds more
known or suspected to be prisoners were not released. Since that time,
nearly 10,000 intelligence reports have been received relating to Americans
who were prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Some
officials, having reviewed this largely-classified information, have
reluctantly concluded that large numbers of Americans are still alive in
These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned American
prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return unless all of
the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the honor of our
country is in jeopardy as long as even one man remains unjustly held.
William L. Shankel, Glenn H. Daigle and Wendell R. Alcorn were promoted to
the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period they were Prisoners of
War. Billie J. Cartwright was promoted to the rank of Captain and Edward F.
Gold to the rank of Commander during the period they were maintained