Christmas ’72 Stories: (7) A Gentlemen’s Gentleman

Linebacker II was halted on 29 December 1972.  The North Vietnamese agreed to come back to the negotiations in Paris.

Having enjoyed Christmas, Midway left Singapore and celebrated New Years Eve at sea on the way back to the Gulf of Tonkin to continue combat missions into both North and South Vietnam.  Missions were restricted above the 20th Parallel – no flights into Route Pac 6, the Red River Valley, Hanoi or Haiphong.  Still it was wartime footing and operations off of a carrier are always problematic. Within days of recommencing we were to learn that lesson twice more.

On a clear day mission 6 January 1973, Lt.  John Lindahl of the Champs was catapulted off Schoolboy for another combat mission. Barely clearing the bow, something went wrong and he ejected- apparently safely right beside the ship. The SAR helo was on top of him in 45 seconds with a swimmer in the water. John sank before the swimmer could grab his parachute. Flotation gear didn’t work… who knows??? It’s not supposed to happen that way. Learning how to deal with the water begins almost Day 1 in Flight School, so as to make reaction almost second nature.  Based on all our survival training multiple times in the pool and  in San Diego Bay including being hoisted into a helo, John should have set a record for shortest time from pulling the handle to being back in the ready room telling his story… but he was gone… absurdly gone.

Great high school athlete, Naval Academy graduate, superb husband and father … we lost one of the best and nicest guys on the ship – epitome  of “Fly Navy, the BEST Always Have”

… truly a Gentleman’s Gentleman.

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