BILLINGSGATE POST: If you have ever visited Arlington National Cemetery, or any of the other hollowed places where our veterans are buried, looking at the countless white monuments that mark the final resting place of these men and women, there is a story to be told for each of those buried beneath. The following is but one:
Lt. Commander Michael W. Doyle was a pilot assigned to Fighter Squadron 161 onboard
the aircraft carrier USS MIDWAY. On August 25, 1972 he launched with his Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), Lt. John C. Ensch, in their F4B Phantom fighter aircraft. Their mission was a MiG Combat Air Patrol over North Vietnam.
At approximately 24 miles southwest of Haiphong the aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). Doyle and Ensch ejected immediately and were sighted by their wingman on descent. An emergency radio beeper was heard for approximately 10 seconds. Search and rescue efforts were initiated without success, and were terminated two days later.
The U.S. received information quickly that John Ensch had been captured. Although Doyle was at first listed Missing in Action, he, too, was ultimately listed as Prisoner of War.
John Ensch was released in Operation Homecoming in 1973. Mike Doyle was not. Ensch had suffered a broken left arm and hand which had been poorly set, leaving him disfigured and disabled. Several returning POWs had information relating to Doyle. Doyle's flight helmet had been seen with a pile of gear at the "Hanoi Hilton" prisoner of war complex in Hanoi. Also, Doyle's name was scratched on a pre-interrogation cell wall in the complex.
The Vietnamese denied any knowledge of Michael Doyle. However, in July 1985, the Vietnamese "discovered" the remains of Mike Doyle and returned them to U.S. control. Doyle had been missing for 13 years.
On a personal note: I last saw Mike a few weeks prior to his final deployment on the USS Midway. He was a friend of mine. Most of us returned from Vietnam to go on with our lives. Many didn’t. It has been a long time, and to some, a war best forgotten. But he is still remembered, especially on this day.