United States Navy Aircrew
17 August 1972
ORLAND JAMES JR
REMAINS RECOVERED NOVEMBER 1994 ID MARCH 1996
Name: Orland James Pender Jr.
Other Personnel in Incident: John R. Pitzen (missing)
The USS KITTY HAWK was on duty in Vietnam as early as 1964 and had 131 combat sorties to its credit by the end of 1965, and many more through the remaining years of the Vietnam war. The KITTY HAWK was one of the Forrestal-class "super" carriers, and could operate up to ninety aircraft from her angled deck.
One of the aircraft launched from the decks of the KITTY HAWK was the F4 Phantom fighter jet. The Phantom served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 - 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.
CommanderJohn R. Pitzen was an F4J pilot and LieutenantOrland J. Pender Jr. a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) assigned to Fighter Squadron 114 onboard the USS KITTY Hawk. On August 17, 1972, the two were assigned to fly escort protection for A6A Intruder attack bombers against a target near Haiphong, North Vietnam. Their function would be to fly night MIG combat air patrol, protecting the attack aircraft.
Pitzen's aircraft was about one minute behind the Intruders when they crossed the enemy coastline. The Intruder reported four surface-to-air missiles (SAM) fired from the Haiphong area. Either Pitzen or Pender radioed to the pilot of an A6, "Viceroy 507, are you at point alpha?" The A6 pilot responded, "Affirmative," indicating that he was at the coast-in point. Pitzen and Pender were still about one minute behind the Intruder flight, and continued north to Hon Gay.
Pitzen's aircraft reached Hon Gay at 1:40 a.m. and the KITTY HAWK radar lost contact with the aircraft at this time. At 1:44 a.m. another SAM was observed by the A6 in the Haiphong area. The missile flew five to ten seconds in level flight at approximately 11,000 feet and then was observed to explode into two large fireballs. When the F4 did not call "feet wet" indicating its return out to sea long the coast line, an immediate electronic surveillance was initiated which was continued throughout the next day with no results.
Both Pitzen and Pender were declared Missing in Action. Certainly, the possibility exists that the two ejected safely and were captured. The area in which the aircraft crashed was heavily defended and densely populated. But no further information ever surfaced about the two.
For eighteen years, the Vietnamese have denied
any knowledge of Pitzen and Pender, although the U.S. continues to present
information on them, and others who are missing, in hopes of new information.
JOHN RUSSELL PITZEN
Posted: 31 August 2006
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanne Wells-Layton, August 2006