- AFHF Member Authors
Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin: A Story of the U.S. Military's Commitment to Leave No One Behind
by Eileen Bjorkman
On November 18, 1965, U.S. Navy pilot Willie Sharp ejected from his F-8 fighter after being hit over a target in North Vietnam. With a cloud layer beneath him, he did not know if he was over land—where he would most certainly be captured or killed by the North Vietnamese—or over the Gulf of Tonkin. As he ejected, both navy and air force aircraft were already heading toward him to help.
What followed was a dramatic rescue made by pilots and other airmen with little or no training or experience in combat search and rescue. Told by a former military flight test engineer, Eileen A. Bjorkman, this story includes nail-biting descriptions of air combat, flight, and rescue. Bjorkman places Sharp’s story in the larger context of the U.S. military’s bedrock credo—No Man Left Behind—and calls attention to the more than eighty thousand Americans still missing from conflicts since World War I. She also explores the devastating aftershocks of the Vietnam War as Sharp struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Woven into this gripping tale is a fascinating history of combat search-and-rescue missions that officially began in World War II. Combining the cockiness and camaraderie of Top Gun with the heroics of Sully, Unforgotten in the Gulf of Tonkin is a riveting tale of combat rescue and an unforgettable story about the U.S. military’s commitment to leave no man behind.