Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Into the Storm

As shown in my previous post my last painting was of an US Navy A6A Intruder over Vietnam, entitled "Into the Storm"

I've included here the history that goes with this specific plane and the sad fate the befell Fred Holmes. The events of December 1971 provided the inspiration for this painting, reflecting both the "All Weather" capability of the aircraft, but also the bravery of the pilot and B/N as they prepare to fly into enemy AAA fire and missile defences over the target.

Proud Deep Alpha, a five day campaign 26-30 Dec1971, saw the greatest level of strikes since Rolling Thunder had been called to a halt on 31 October 1968. Targets for the five days were suspected munitions sites to the North of the DMZ.These strikes coincided with a period of serve bad weather, which saw solid cloud cover over the target areas from 500ft up to 10000 ft. On the last day of Proud Deep Alpha, December 30, 1971, an A6 from VA-165 flown by Lt Cdr Fred Holmes, with Lt C W Burton as B/N lead two A-7 Corsairs, and two F4 Phantoms from the USS Constellation on a radar guided bomb run. Their aircraft was observed to take a direct hit from a surface to air missile.

Lieutenant Burton was wounded, blown clear of the aircraft and his parachute deployed successfully. Another aircraft on the scene reported seeing two good chutes
deploy, but this report was later viewed as not confirmed. A search and rescue aircraft then reported both pilots in sight and in the water off Hon Nieu Island. Lieutenant Burton was rescued by U.S. forces. SAR forces located a pilot's ejection seat and life raft possibly belonging to Lieutenant Commander Holmes but were unable to locate either him or his chute in an area with a large number of North Vietnamese sampans.A Radio Hanoi broadcast referenced this incident,
one of several U.S. aircraft losses on the same date in the southern part of North Vietnam. While some pilots were reported captured alive,Lieutenant Commander Holmes' name was not identified among those captured. One returning POW recognized Lieutenant Commander Holmes' name but no returning POWs ever reported him alive in the northern Vietnamese prison system.

In April 1975 Lieutenant Commander Holmes case was submitted for a casualty review at the request of his next of kin. He was declared dead/body not recovered.

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