SUMMARY OF ACTION OF 17 MARCH 1967
Friday afternoon, after completion of conducting destructive fire against shore installation, the two (2) spotter aircraft were taken under fire and hit, STODDARD in attempting to close the pilot who ditched, received heavy fire from the shore batteries and sustained some light shrapnel damage to one life raft, port side of bridge, and one hit in the Engineering Berthing Compartment, just above the water line. Fortunately, no one on the STODDARD received wounds. The prompt action taken by all hands was outstanding. Repair parties rapidly
shored the hole and the gun crews left behind about 125 rounds "STODDARD SPECIALS",
when they returned the fire.
The downed pilot was sighed by other aircraft and the helo. The helo was just over the pilot, ready for pickup when he received heavy small arms fire from small craft closing. His abrupt change of position in clearing the area of small arms fire caused two aircraft to maneuver violently to clear the helo and the aircraft concerned evidently had a mid-air collision. Now 3 pilots were known to be in the water, the playmate of the spotter who first ditched was unaccounted for.
STODDARD & INGERSOLL were joined by 2 other DD's, the GRIDLEY and MANSFIELD to conduct a search. Numerous aircraft, shipmates of the downed pilots, also were
on the scene. The picture became cloudy; for a short while we thought a rescue helo and crew might also have went down enroute to the scene. We received the "good word" that the helo was O.K., he was still on board the Carrier awaiting the call.
Two pilots were finally located and retrieved. The flare ship lighting the way for the helo as the helo closed in and sighted the pilot's light.
After the 2 pilots were recovered, a sweep of the area was conducted by the aircraft. No further signs of the remaining 2 pilots and the search was discontinued.
About 0150 Saturday morning CIC heard a pilot's distress "beeper" in the water, STODDARD and INGERSOLL immediately started a search and were joined by aircraft and a helo. No contact was made. The weather closed in and we temporarily abandoned the search until day light hours.
Saturday morning a message was received stating a third pilot had been picked up by the Ponchatoula, approximately 100 miles from the scene of action. He was identified as the pilot of the second spotter aircraft originally with STODDARD.
In summary, the missing pilot was one involved in the mid-air collision.