Richard Haven Van Dyke
24 January 1944 – ????
Richard Haven (Rich) Van Dyke entered Officer Training School (OTS), Medina Annex, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, on 22 May 1966 and was a Distinguished Graduate on 16 May 1966 with Class 66G. He then attended Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Williams AFB, Arizona, with Class 67H and received his pilot rating on 14 Jun 1967. He attended upgrade training and flew in the back seat of the F-4D Phantom II. Eventually, he was assigned to the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron (Warhawks) at DaNang AB, South Vietnam.
On 11 Sep 1968, Rich’s F-4D Phantom II (tail number 66-8752) was hit twice by 37mm flak while attacking trucks on a road near Van Loc, 10 miles northwest of Dong Hoi in North Vietnam. The aircraft was on fire. The back cockpit filled with smoke and Rich lost communication with the forward cockpit. This was a mandatory ejection situation and Rich punched out, receiving a compound leg fracture somewhere in the ejection sequence. Ironically the pilot, Major Larry E. Bustle, nursed the jet over water, punched out also with leg injuries, and was rescued by U.S. Forces.
Rich was captured by the local militia. Instead of turning him over to the NVA, as required, the militia had a cast put on his leg, but the bone was not set. He was held in a hole in the ground in An Vinh. Two other U.S. captives were put in the hole, also. Heavy rains came and the hole flooded. Rich was delirious and his buddies kept him from drowning. Their cries for help were heard by the NVA, who took them out of the hole. Rich was taken to a hospital where it was determined that he had gangrene. His leg was amputated in an attempt to save his life, but he died on approximately 22 Sep 1968. His remains were repatriated on 8 July 1981.
Rich was my roommate and cadet commander of Squadron 1 at OTS, a squadron composed entirely of guys headed for pilot training. He was an intelligent, athletic, good-lookin’ guy, and had a great sense of humor. At a formal parade, when the Adjutant brushed past Rich, who was standing in front of Squadron 1, at Adjutant’s Pace, Rich stage-whispered, “Your fly is open.” I forget who was the Adjutant, but he almost fell over when he looked down while walking at that fast pace. It was hilarious.
I’ve searched for years for Rich’s family and have concluded using genealogical data that his parents are deceased and that he may have had no siblings or first cousins. Thus, I have assumed the responsibility for placing this biography out where folks can appreciate one more ultimate sacrifice made in the service of our country.
James C. Miller, Ph.D., CPE
San Antonio, Texas, 2012
Click HERE for Captain Van Dyke’s entry at the Virtual Wall at The Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.