28 June 1965 – U.S. forces launch the first major offensive in the Vietnam War. “In the first major offensive ordered for U.S. forces, 3,000...Read More
Our newest SSS member, then-1st Lt. Hayden J. Lockhart, was the first USAF Pilot to be shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. He was shot down March 2, 1965, while flying an F-100 Super Sabre with the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron on flak suppression on a North Vietnam ammo dump. Hayden’s element Lead was young Capt. Harv Damschen, who saw 40 feet of flame coming from Hayden’s F-100 and transmitted “better get out” to Lt Hayden.
Lockhart’s F-100 was hit by Automatic weapons fire described as a “solid hit”. After ejection, his chute was spotted on the ground. Forty-five minutes later a rescue helicopter recovered his chute and helmet but there was no sign of Hayden. Haden evaded capture in dense jungle for 10 days until March 12, 1965.
He spent his time in captivity at several POW locations: New Guy Village 1965; Heartbreak Hotel 1965; The Briarpatch in August 1965; Zoo 1966; Zoo Annex 1967; Unity (Hanoi Hilton); Dogpatch (9 miles south of the Chinese border) May 1972; and Unity again in Jan 1973.
Hayden was the 3rd American captured in North Vietnam, and the 1st Air Force pilot captured in the North during the Vietnam War. He was released during “Operation Homecoming” on February 12, 1973.
After his ordeal, he was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Travis AFB, California, and then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles to complete his graduate degree. Hayden got to Fly the F-4 and F-15 at Holloman AFB as Ops Officer of the 8th TFS “Black Sheep”. His final assignment was on the staff of the Air Force Inspection and Safety Center at Norton AFB, California, from February, 1980, until his retirement from the Air Force on December 31, 1981. See CBS Tribute to Hayden Lockhart
His Silver Star Citation Reads
This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions and propaganda materials. This American resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty.
Lt. Col. Lockhart, USAF (Retired) currently resides in Punta Gorda, FL.