JENKINS, HARRY TARLETON JR.
Name: Harry Tarleton Jenkins, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Squadron Commander, Attack Squadron 163, Attack Air Wing 16, USS
ORISKANY (CVA 34)
Date of Birth: 24 July 1927
Home City of Record: Washington D.C.
Date of Loss: 13 November 1965
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 171500N 1064400E (XE842078)
Status (in 1973): Released POW
Category: Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4E
NOTE: Served in Korea
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 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. NETWORK.
REMARKS: 730212 RELSD BY DRV
SYNOPSIS: CDR Harry T. Jenkins, Jr. was a pilot assigned to Attack Air Wing
16 onboard the USS ORISKANY. Jenkins was a respected seventeen-year aviation
veteran. Jenkins had grown up in Washington D.C. and graduated from high
school in 1945. In 1948, he earned his wings and reached the pinnacle of
operational success, command of a carrier-based squadron, the Saints of
Attack Squadron 163, on December 30, 1964. He flew many combat missions from
One such mission was flown September 9, 1965. A major strike had been
scheduled against the Thanh Hoa ("Dragon Jaw") bridge, and the weather was
so critical there was a question whether to launch. Finally the decision was
to launch. Halfway through, weather reconnaissance reported the weather in
the target area was zero, and the CAG, CDR James B. Stockdale, had no choice
but to send the aircraft on secondary targets. Stockdale and his wingman,
CDR Wynn Foster, circled the Gulf of Tonkin while CDR Harry Jenkins took his
strike element to look for a SAM site at their secondary target. Had
anything been found, Wynn and Stockdale were to join Jenkins' group.
After fifteen minutes or so, Jenkins' group came up empty. The group made
the decision to hit a secondary target, a railroad facility near the city of
Thanh Hoa. It was here that CDR Stockdale's aircraft was hit by flak.
Stockdale ejected, landing in a village and was captured. The villagers
brutally beat Stockdale as they took him captive, all within sight of the
aircraft above. Stockdale was held captive for seven and one-half years, and
he was to see Jenkins again before he was released, and CDR Wynn Foster
would eventually assume Jenkins' position as squadron commander of VA-163.
Jenkins carried a Bible with him on the ship, letting in fall open somewhere
to read, and one night the passage said something about, "and he shall fall
into his enemies." Jenkins wondered at the time if that was a premonition.
He also dreamed about becoming a prisoner. He was worried about losing his
men and agonized over planning, of finding the best way to a target. He
confided to another fellow officer that he was tired, not only physically,
but emotionally as well.
On one particular mission Jenkins had narrowly escaped death when an
anti-aircraft shell hit his aircraft, blowing off the canopy and destroying
the instrument panel. Jenkins guided the crippled aircraft safely back to
the ORISKANY, and when he landed on the deck of the ORISKANY, he discovered
that shrapnel had penetrated his G-suit, but hadn't reached the inner
lining. These sorts of missions sapped the strength of the best of pilots.
On November 12, 1965, Jenkins launched in his A4E Skyhawk fighter aircraft
on his 133rd combat mission on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam.
He was two weeks short of leaving Vietnam for home. Then on November 13,
1965, Jenkins and his wingman launched in their A4E aircraft on Jenkins'
133rd combat mission. The target area was Dong Hoi, a quiet area where
nothing much happened, because of reports that the river southwest of the
city was passing traffic. The two pilots went around the river but
determined it was not navigable. On their return, they decided to crater a
road junction in case traffic was going through there at night. They planned
to slow down the traffic then return at night and check traffic again.
On the way to the junction, about ten miles from the coast, they passed a
clump of trees where it appeared that a lot of traffic had driven, possibly
a truck park. The wingman orbited while Jenkins went down to investigate. He
flew very low, ten to twelve feet off the ground, and at fairly slow speed,
looking under the trees. Nothing was around, and the area was quiet.
Pulling off and heading toward the coast, Jenkins heard a gun start firing.
He looked back and could see two streams of tracers from a 37-millimeter
enemy anti-aircraft gun, a twin mount, nearly dead astern from him. He
quickly pulled back on the stick of his Skyhawk and sought the safety of
cloud cover overhead. But the aircraft had been hit dead astern, in "the
hell hole" just aft and under the seat where the control junctions,
electrical busses are. The controls of the aircraft were immediately
disconnected, the stick wouldn't function, and all electrical gear was down.
A second explosion followed. Jenkins continued to climb and headed toward
water, still some six to eight miles away. The aircraft started rolling very
rapidly and began to drop, so Jenkins was forced to eject below twenty-five
The wingman circled above, and below, the Vietnamese were all around howling
and yelling. Jenkins landed on a rise approximately 12 miles south of Dong
Hoi, North Vietnam. The rise was covered with short brush and no place to
hide. He had no time to assemble his emergency radio and ran up the hill and
slid under the brush. His ejection and progress were intermittently
monitored by his wingman as low clouds allowed. The Vietnamese approached
him, swinging a sickle on a stick and slashing through the brush. Another
came right to his feet, poking with a stick. Jenkins gave himself up.
In Jenkins' words, "...if that had been one of my earlier missions, there is
no way that gunner would have gotten me. I'd just seen so much flak, and had
been hit several times. I was just tired, I guess, and not thinking."
Meanwhile, Jenkins' wingman had been joined by nine other aircraft within
five minutes of the initial bailout. A1s circled overhead looking for
Jenkins. The Vietnamese were all armed and began shooting at the A1s,
evidently for Jenkins' benefit, as with each shot came a glance towards
Jenkins. Search and rescue aircraft reported observing over 100 troops and
other personnel in Jenkins' vicinity. They remained on station looking for
Jenkins for about two hours, but the Vietnamese successfully hid him from
A Radio Hanoi broadcast on November 14th indicated that an American pilot
was shot down and captured on November 13th in the Dong Hoi District.
Jenkins was moved toward Hanoi, traveling at night. During the trip, Jenkins
was amazed by the large numbers of trucks that moved through the night in
North Vietnam. While he had seen only a few trucks from the air at night and
never in daylight as a pilot, he was astounded to see the tremendous numbers
of trucks moving under low light, guiding by reflective painted stripes or
plastic strips on the road about every thirty feet.
Jenkins arrived at the Hoa Loa Prison in Hanoi in the early morning hours of
November 23. He was taken first to the "Meathook Room" for interrogation,
then later to a cell where his ankles were manacled and locked together by a
long steel bar topped by a heavy piece of lumber. His wrists were tied
behind him, upper arms laced tightly together from elbows to shoulders.
Jenkins was the fifty-fifth American POW and the first senior officer to be
tortured upon arrival in Hanoi. For two years and one month, from late 1967
through most of 1969, CDR Jenkins, the third ranking senior naval officer in
a North Vietnamese prison camp, was put into leg irons at five o'clock each
evening and stayed in irons until seven the next morning. As special
punishment for communicating with another prisoner on one occasion, Jenkins
spend eighty-five consecutive days in irons.
In early 1969, Jenkins became ill and was in great pain at a camp known as
Alcatraz, located some ten blocks from the Hanoi Hilton. He was receiving no
medical care, and fellow prisoners, led by Jenkins' former wing commander,
Jim Stockdale, put the pressure on. What ensued might be called a prison
riot. The effort did bring a doctor to Jenkins' cell, although the doctor
did nothing to ease his pain. The next morning, Stockdale organized a
forty-eight hour fast to demand medical attention for Jenkins. The next
evening each prisoner was interrogated and on the morning of January 27,
Stockdale was taken away to another prison center.
While the Vietnamese clearly had the upper hand on controlling their
American captors, the POWs found many ways to "slip one over" on the
Vietnamese. Jenkins one day discovered a loose wire in an extension cord and
secretly shorted the wire, so that when guards turned the lights on that
evening, three or four fuses were blown before the lights could be made to
work. Jenkins carried the fun from camp to camp. In one camp, the lights
were all in a series. Jenkins bared the wire in his room and alternately
shorted and restored the lights, so that the camp was totally dark or
completely lit, at his whim. He also broke some wires in a radio speaker
causing all the speakers in the camp to go out. He manipulated the wires in
a radio, and, using the POW tap code, sent messages around the camp by
turning the Vietnamese music on and off in code.
During the years Jenkins was a prisoner of war he was taken across the
infamous Thanh Hoa bridge. A girder that he had hit on a strike mission
prior to his capture was, to his great satisfaction, still wide open.
CDR Jenkins was held as a prisoner of war until he was released in Operation
Homecoming in 1973. He had been held for over 7 years. He was among 591
lucky American prisoners who came home at the end of the war.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing,
prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S.
Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified
information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive
today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned
American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return
unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the
honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly
held. It's time we brought our men home.
Harry Tarleton Jenkins Jr. was promoted to the rank of Captain during the
years he was a prisoner of war. He lived in Coronado, California
and worked for a defense contractor.
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
HARRY T. JENKINS
Captain - United States Navy
Shot Down: November 13, 1965
Released: February 12, 1973
Born: 24 July 1927.
Married: 4 March 1949.
Military Service: Entered Navy in March 1945. Designated Aviator in August
1948. Commissioned Ensign in December 1948. Served in: Attack Squadron 84.
USS Fred T. Berry, DDE 858. Flight Instructor, Pensacola. USS Point Cruz,
CVE 119. Airborne Early Warning Sqd. 11. Naval Post Graduate School,
Monterey, California. Naval Air Turbine Test School, Trenton, New Jersey.
Air Wing Sixteen Staff. X.O. and C.O. of Attack Sqd. 163.
I was C.O. of VA-163 flying the A4E when shot down 13 November 1965 near
Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. During my stay in North Vietnam, I spent four years
in solitary confinement. During this time I did much reflection on my life
and my faith. While I hope never to repeat the experience, I feel I gained a
certain insight into things I might never have obtained otherwise. Since
I've returned I've been asked many times "was the war right, was it
worthwhile?" There is no doubt in my mind we were right in fighting. I don't
think we had to fight to preserve America but it was necessary in order to
preserve American honor.
A free people were threatened with the yoke of Communism being imposed by
force, I fought to prevent that and I feel that fight was successful. Our
belief in freedom of choice for all required that we help the South
Vietnamese or any other nation that needs our help.
We owe our independence to foreign help, mainly French, and our honor
dictates that we stand ready to offer help to others when they need it to
Many men invested their whole lifetime to this cause. I invested only seven
years. Though I hope never to have to, I'm ready to invest more if it is
I wish everyone could understand the gratitude I feel for their thoughts and
prayers during those long years and I'd like to ask everyone to continue
their prayers until all those not yet home have been properly accounted for.
Captain Harry Jenkins died in the crash of a homemade aircraft 2 Aug 1995.
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