Name: Donald Vance Davis
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 163, USS ORISKANY
Date of Birth: 08 November 1934
Home City of Record: Salisbury NC
Date of Loss: 25 July 1967
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 181259N 1055500E (WF828272)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project from one or more of the
raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
families, published sources, interviews.
Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK.
SYNOPSIS: The USS ORISKANY was a World War II-era carrier on duty in
as early as 1964. The ORISKANY at one time carried the RF8A (number
that Maj. John H. Glenn, the famous Marine astronaut (and later
flew in his 1957 transcontinental flight. In October, 1966 the ORISKANY
endured a tragic fire which killed 44 men onboard, but was soon back on
station. In 1972, the ORISKANY had an at-sea accident which resulted in
loss of one of its aircraft elevators, and later lost a screw that put
carrier into drydock in Yokosuka, Japan for major repairs, thus delaying
involvement until the late months of the war.
The ORISKANY's 1966 tour was undoubtedly one of the most tragic
of the Vietnam conflict. This cruise saw eight VA 164 "Ghostriders"
four in the onboard fire, one in an aerial refueling mishap, and another
three in the operational arena. However, the 1967 deployment, which
June and ended on a chilly January morning as the ORISKANY anchored in
Francisco Bay, earned near legendary status by virtue of extensive
suffered in the ship's squadrons, including among the Ghostriders of VA
and Saints of VA 163. One reason may have been that Navy aviators were,
this time, still forbidden to strike surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites
which were increasing in number in North Vietnam.
On July 18, 1967, LCDR Richard D. Hartman's aircraft fell victim to
anti-aircraft fire near Phu Ly in Nam Ha Province, North Vietnam.
from VA 164, ejected safely, but could not be rescued due to the hostile
threat in the area. Others in the flight were in radio contact with him
resupplied him for about three days. He was on a karst hill in a
recovery area. Eventually the North Vietnamese moved in a lot of troops
AAA guns, making rescue almost impossible.
One of the rescue helicopters attempting to recover LCDR Hartman on the
was a Sikorsky SH3A helicopter flown by Navy LT Dennis W. Peterson. The
onboard the aircraft included ENS Donald P. Frye and AX2 William B.
and AX2 Donald P. McGrane. While attempting to rescue LCDR Hartman, this
aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed killing all onboard. The
of all but the pilot, Peterson, were returned by the Vietnamese on
14, 1982. Peterson remains missing.
The decision was made to leave Hartman before more men were killed
rescue him. It was not an easy decision, and one squadron mate said, "To
this day, I can remember his voice pleading, 'Please don't leave me.' We
to, and it was a heartbreaker." Hartman was captured and news returned
that he was in a POW camp. However, he was not released in 1973. The
Vietnamese finally returned his remains on March 5, 1974. Hartman had
in captivity from unknown causes.
In July 1967, LCDR Donald V. Davis was one of the Saints of VA 163
the ORISKANY. Davis was an aggressive pilot. On the night of July 25,
Davis was assigned a mission over North Vietnam. The procedure for these
night attacks was to drop flares over a suspected target and then fly
beneath them to attack the target in the light of the flares. Davis and
another pilot were conducting the mission about 10 miles south of Ha
when Davis radioed that he had spotted a couple of trucks. He dropped
flares and went in. On his strafing run, he drove his Skyhawk straight
the ground and was killed immediately. Davis is listed among the missing
because his remains were never recovered.
LTJG Ralph C. Bisz was also assigned to Attack Squadron 163. On August
1967, Bisz launched on a strike mission against a petroleum storage area
near Haiphong. Approximately a minute and a half from the target area,
surface-to-air missiles (SAM) were observed lifting from the area
of Haiphong. The flight maneuvered to avoid the SAMs, however, Bisz'
aircraft was observed as it was hit by a SAM by a wingman. Bisz'
exploded, burst into flames, and spun downward in a large ball of fire.
Remnants of the aircraft were observed falling down in the large ball of
fire until reaching an altitude estimated to be 5,000 feet and then
to almost completely burn out prior to reaching the ground. No parachute
ejection was observed. No emergency beeper or voice communications were
Bisz' aircraft went down in a heavily populated area in Hai Duong
Vietnam. Information from an indigenous source which closely parallels
incident indicated that his remains were recovered from the wreckage and
taken to Hanoi for burial. The U.S. Government listed Ralph Bisz as a
Prisoner of War with certain knowledge that the Vietnamese know his
Bisz was placed in a casualty status of Captured on August 4, 1967.
The Navy now says that the possibility of Bisz ejecting was slim. If he
ejected, his capture would have taken place in a matter of seconds due
the heavy population concentration in the area and that due to the lack
additional information it is believed that Bisz did not eject from his
aircraft and that he was killed on impact of the SAM.
Classified information on Bisz' case was presented to the Vietnamese by
General Vessey in the fall of 1987 in hopes that the Vietnamese would be
able to resolve the mystery of Bisz' fate. His case is one of what are
called "discrepancy" cases, which should be readily resolved. The
have not been forthcoming with information on Ralph Bisz.
On August 31, three pilots from the ORISKANY were shot down on a
particularly wild raid over Haiphong. The Air Wing had been conducting
strikes on Haiphong for two consecutive days. On this, the third day,
aircraft launched in three flights; four from VA 164 (call sign
four from VA 163 (call sign Old Salt) and two from VA 163. As the flight
turned to go into Haiphong, one of the section leaders spotted two SAMs
lifting off from north of Haiphong. They were headed towards the Saints
section leader and the Ghostrider section leader, LCDR Richard C. Perry.
The Saints section leader and his wingman pitched up and to the right,
Old Salt 3 (LCDR Hugh A. Stafford) turned down, his wingman, LTJG David
Carey close behind him. Carey, an Air Force Academy graduate, was on his
first operational mission. The missile detonated right in front of them
aircraft pieces went everywhere.
The other SAM headed towards Perry's section, and he had frozen in the
cockpit. All three planes in the division pulled away, and he continued
straight and level. His helpless flightmates watched as the missile came
right up and hit the aircraft. The aircraft was generally whole and
for open water.
Old Salt Three and Old Salt Four, Stafford and Carey, had by that time
ejected from their ruined planes and were heading towards the ground.
were okay, but Stafford had landed in a tree near a village, making
impossible. Stafford and Carey were captured and held in various
war camps until their release in Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973.
Richard Perry had also ejected and was over open water. But as Perry
the water, his parachute went flat and he did not come up. A helicopter
on scene within minutes, and a crewman went into the water after Perry.
had suffered massive chest wounds, either in the aircraft or during
in his parachute and was dead. To recover his body was too dangerous
the North Vietnamese were mortaring the helicopter. The helicopter left
area. Richard Perry's remains were recovered by the Vietnamese and held
until February 1987, at which time they were returned to U.S. control.
Flight members were outraged that they had lost three pilots to SAMs
they were forbidden to attack. Policy was soon changed to allow the
to strike the sites, although never to the extent that they were
On October 7, 1967, VA 164 pilot LT David L. Hodges was killed when his
Skyhawk was hit by a SAM about twelve miles southwest of Hanoi. His
were never recovered and he is listed among those missing in Vietnam.
On October 18, 1967, VA 164 pilot LCDR John F. Barr was killed when his
Skyhawk was hit by enemy fire and slammed into the ground while on a
mission at Haiphong. Barr's remains were not recovered.
On November 2, 1967, VA 164 pilot LTJG Frederic Knapp launched as the
of a flight of two aircraft on an armed reconnaissance mission over
Vietnam. The wingman reported that during an attack run, the aircraft
appeared to have been hit by anti-aircraft fire. The wingman saw Knapp's
aircraft impact the ground and did not see the canopy separate from the
aircraft. There was no parachute sighted or emergency radio beeper
The aircraft crashed about 9 kilometers west-southwest of Cho Giat, near
route 116, in Nghe An Province.
A source later reported that people from his village had removed the
of a dead pilot from his aircraft and buried the remains nearby. These
remains are believed to be those of Knapp. On October 14, 1982,
officials turned over to U.S. authorities a Geneva Convention card
to Ltjg. Knapp. To date, no remains have been repatriated.
Six of the thirteen pilots and crewmen lost in 1967 off the decks of the
ORISKANY remain prisoner, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for in
Disturbing testimony was given to Congress in 1980 that the Vietnamese
"stockpiled" the remains of Americans to return at politically
times. Could any of these six be in a casket, awaiting just such a
Even more disturbing are the nearly 10,000 reports received by the U.S.
relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who
examined this information (largely classified), have reluctantly come to
conclusion that many Americans are still alive in Southeast Asia. Could
of these six be among them?
Perhaps the most compelling questions when remains are returned are, "Is
really who they say it is?", and "How -- and when -- did he die?" As
reports continue to be received which indicate Americans are still alive
Indochina, we can only regard the return of remains as a politically
expedient way to show "progress" on accounting for American POW/MIAs. As
long as reports continue to be received, we must wonder how many are
As long as even one American remains alive, held against his will, we
do everything possible to bring him home -- alive.
Defense POW/MIA Weekly Update
April 1, 1998
REMAINS OF U.S. SERVICEMEN FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA IDENTIFIED
The remains of three Americans previously unaccounted-for from Southeast
have been identified and will be returned to their families for burial
One is identified as U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander
Donald V. Davis, of Salisbury, N.C.
The other is Captain Carey A. Cunningham, U.S.
Force, of Collinsville, Ala.
The name of a U.S. civilian lost in Laos
be released at the request of his family.
On July 25, 1967, LCDR Davis left the USS Oriskany, flying an A4-E
on an armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. His wingman
LCDR Davis' aircraft crash as it was attacking a truck convoy. The
reported there was no chance for survival. No search and rescue was
In 1988 and 1996, a joint U. S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam team
probable location of LCDR Davis' crashsite and interviewed local
information on this loss incident. Witnesses reported finding a
burying the remains of a pilot found within the wreckage. Analysis of
wreckage determined it to be from an A-4 aircraft.
In 1997, a joint U.S./Vietnamese team excavated a possible burial site
identified by the villagers. The team recovered human remains, life
equipment, and aircraft wreckage. The remains were repatriated to the
Army's Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for analysis and
subsequently identified as those of LCDR Davis.
On August 2, 1967, Capt. Cunningham and his crewmember were flying a
photographic reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. Their wingman
that Capt. Cunningham's RF-4C Phantom banked into a hard right turn and
crashed. No parachutes were seen exiting the aircraft before it crashed.
In 1989, the Vietnamese government repatriated two boxes of remains, one
which they claimed belonged to Capt. Cunningham's crewmate. In 1992 and
a joint U.S./Vietnamese team interviewed villagers about a 1967 crash of
American aircraft in which both pilots died. The villagers reported that
remains of the pilots were turned over to central authorities.
Personal effects belonging to the Americans were examined in two
military museums. The remains repatriated in 1989 were subsequently
as those of Capt. Cunningham. His crewmember is still unaccounted- for.
With this identification, 2,093 Americans remain unaccounted-for from
June 2, 1998
After 31 years my brother's remains were returned and buried at
May 19, 1998 -- Lt. Commander Donald Vance Davis.
If someone wore a bracelet or had a license tag for him, I would like to
write them a note.
P.O. Box 5609
Pinehurst, NC 28374