Eugene Deatrick and Dieter Dengler, NAS Miramar, 1968. His inmates included Air Force Lieutenant Duane Martin, and Eugene DeBruin an Air American crewman who bailed out of a burning cargo plane, and others from the Air American crew. They were far from the first American men to be imprisoned in a camp in Vietnam; Ban Houei Het was one of a dozen camps in North Vietnam alone. USN Photo.
Escape from Laos
On February 2nd of 1966, US Navy Lieutenant Dieter Dengler was flying his first combat mission over North Vietnam from the carrier U.S.S. Ranger. The Ranger and its warplanes, including the Skyraiders of VA-145, had just repositioned from Dixie to Yankee Station following a short workup off the waters of South Vietnam in the South China Sea. Missions from Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf would be much more demanding and dangerous than those flown in the relatively benign South Vietnamese environment.
The USS Ranger was a seasoned combat veteran, having been deployedto Vietnam for Flaming Dart I operations. The carrier played a steady role for the remainder of American involvement in the war. The first fighter jets to bomb Haiphong in Operation Rolling Thunder came from her decks.
LT Dieter Dengler was a German-born American citizen who advanced from VT30 to Attack Squadron 122 in late 1964 and then to Attack Squadron 145 onboard the Ranger. Dengler was known to his shipmates as something of a renegade; the ops officer was always after him to get a haircut and Dengler was forever in trouble over his uniform or lack of military manner. In his
German accent, he would protest, “I don’t understand.” But Dengler was a good pilot, although his flying career was brief.
U.S. Navy Lt. Dieter Dengler launched from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in an A1H Skyraider as part of a four-aircraft interdiction mission near the border of Laos. Dieter was the last man to roll in on a target when he was observed by the pilot of one of the other aircraft to start a normal recover. Due to limited visibility, the flight lost sight of him.
The other aircraft in the flight could not determine what had happened. They only knew Dengler disappeared. Dengler later stated that ground fire had severely damaged his aircraft, and he was forced to crash land in Laos. Search continued all that day and part of the night without success. The following morning, squadron members again went to search the area where Dengler disappeared and located the aircraft wreckage. Helicopters were called in. From the air, it appeared that no one was in the cockpit of the aircraft. The helicopter crew photographed the area and noted his donut (a round seat cushion) on the ground by the wing. They hoped he was still alive in the jungle somewhere.
Read more »