AUSTIN, ELLIS ERNEST
Name: Ellis Ernest Austin
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 85, USS KITTY HAWK
Date of Birth: 06 January 1922
Home City of Record: Vermontville MI
Date of Loss: 21 April 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 184900N 1054200E (WF754824)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Jack E. Keller (missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 from one or more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with
POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
REMARKS: POSS DEAD/ IR 1516031772
SYNOPSIS: On April 22, 1966, a two-plane flight of A6A aircraft left the
aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk to strike a coastal target near the mouth of
an inland waterway in North Vietnam. The target, an enemy supply area, was
heavily defended by anti-aircraft artillary, automatic weapons and small
During the flight, the wingman broke away to investigate a barge, and
notified Cdr. Jack E. Keller, the pilot of the other A6A, that he was having
an ordinance malfunction and was proceeding to Hon Mat Island, less than 15
miles away, so that he could dump the remainder of his bombload safely.
While the wingman was discharging his bombload, he heard a missile warning,
but had no knowledge that a missile had been fired. Keller conducted a radio
check with both his wingman and the E2 Command and Control aircraft to
confirm that the E2 held them on radar. The wingman advised Keller that he
would hold clear of the target and wait for Keller to finish his bombing
run. Keller acknowledged. Keller and his backseater, Ellis Austin, continued
on their run.
That was the last anyone heard from Keller and Austin. The wingman later
stated that he saw a bright flash as he was heading away from the beach
which he assumed to be a bomb explosion. Both he and the E2 tried to contact
Keller and his backseater, but were unsuccessful. The E2 had lost Keller
An aerial search was conducted immediately with no visual or radio signals
received by any of the search aircraft. Both men were carried in MIA status
until June 1974, when their status was changed to killed under a presumptive
finding of death.
Austin was a 25-year career Navy officer, and had only two weeks left before
he was scheduled to return home to his wife and three children.
Nearly 10,000 reports of Americans relating to Americans missing in
Southeast Asia have been received since the end of the war. Many officials
who have reviewed this largely classified material have reluctantly
concluded that hundreds of Americans are still alive in captivity. Whether
Austin and Keller could be among them is unknown. But what is certain is
that many are still alive, waiting for their country to bring them home.
Austin and Keller, if dead, rests in enemy soil. If alive, what must they be
thinking of us?
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