- Full Name: ALTON CRAIG ROCKETT JR
- Date of Birth: 1/20/1932
- Date of Casualty: 6/2/1967
- Date of Death: 6/2/1967
- Home of Record: BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA
- Branch of Service: AIR FORCE
- Rank: LTC
- Casualty Country: NORTH VIETNAM
- Casualty Province: NZ
- Status: MIA
ROCKETT, ALTON CRAIG JR.
- Name: Alton Craig Rockett
- Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
- Date of Birth: 20 January 1932
- Home City of Record: Birmingham AL
- Date of Loss: 02 June 1967
- Country of Loss: North Vietnam
- Loss Coordinates: 175000N 1062700E (XE532722)
- Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
- Category: 3
- Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4C
- Refno: 0717
Other Personnel in Incident: Daniel L. Carrier (remains returned)
First Lieuetnant Daniel L. Carrier and Captain Alton C. Rockett Jr. were pilots of an F4C Phantom fighter/bomber assigned a mission over North Vietnam on June 2, 1967. The Phantom, used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings,
served a multitude of functions including fighter-bomber and interceptor, photo and electronic surveillance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2), and had a long range (900 – 2300 miles, depending on stores and mission type). The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. The F4 was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the “hottest” planes around.
At a point on the coast of North Vietnam's Quang Binh Province, about 5 miles north of the city of Ron, Rockett and Carrier's aircraft was shot down and they were declared Missing in Action. unknown.
The Defense Intelligence Agency further expanded the Missing in Action classification to include an enemy knowledge ranking of 3. Category 3 indicates “doubtful knowledge” and includes personnel whose loss incident is such that it is doubtful that the enemy wound have knowledge of the specific individuals (e.g. aircrews lost over water or remote areas).
On November 20, 1989, the Vietnamese returned remains to the U.S. which were subsequently identified as being those of Daniel L. Carrier. For his family, there can finally be a homecoming, a funeral, and long-delayed healing.
For Rockett's family, and for thousands of others, however, conclusions remain elusive. Over 2300 men and women are still maintained on “unaccounted for” lists. Further, since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports have been received by the U.S. Government relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia. Many authorities who have reviewed this classified material have reluctantly concluded that hundreds of Americans are still alive, held prisoner in Southeast Asia.
Whether Daniel L. Carrier and Alton Rockett were ever held prisoner of war is unclear. What is certain, however, is that as long as there is even one American held against his will in Southeast Asia, we owe him our very best efforts to bring him home.
NEWS RELEASES from the United States Department of Defense
No. 1007-07 IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 15, 2007
Air Force Pilot Missing From Vietnam War Is Identified
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a U.S. serviceman, missing in action from the Vietnam War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.
He is Lieutenant Colonel Alton C. Rockett, Jr., U.S. Air Force, of Birmingham, Alabama. He will be buried Monday in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
On June 2, 1967, Rockett and his co-pilot, Captain Daniel L. Carrier, crewed the number two aircraft in a flight of two F-4Cs flying an armed reconnaissance mission over Quang Binh Province, North Vietnam.During their bomb run, anti-aircraft ground fire was observed, but Rockett reported that his aircraft was not hit.When the lead aircraft completed its bomb run, the flight leader told Rockett to return to base, but moments later, he saw a large fireball in his rear-view mirror.He made several radio calls to Rockett, but did not hear or see anything from the aircraft.Due to the dangerous location, there were no further search and rescue attempts.
In June and July 1989, Vietnamese officials repatriated to the United States sets of remains of U.S. servicemembers.The officials also supplied documents identifying that three of the sets of remains were those of Rockett, Carrier and another serviceman, Colonel Samuel C. Maxwell. It was later discovered that the name associations among those remains had been confused. In October and November 1989, Maxwell and Carrier were identified after further analysis, but the third set of remains could not be attributed to Rockett at that time.
In 1993, a joint U.S./Socialist Republic of Vietnam (S.R.V.) team, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), investigated the incident and interviewed witnesses.One Vietnamese citizen said that Rockett and Carrier were buried near the crash site, but that their remains were exhumed in 1978 by Vietnamese officials.
In 2001, another joint U.S./S.R.V. team re-interviewed witnesses and surveyed the burial and crash sites.Small pieces of airplane wreckage were found at the crash site.
In 2003, a maternal-line mitochondrial DNA reference sample for Rockett was obtained.
In 2006, another joint U.S./S.R.V. team excavated the burial sites, but recovered no human remains.
Using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence and mitochondrial DNA, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory identified Rockett's remains, which were those previously repatriated to the United States in 1989.
For additional information of the Defense Department's mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO web site at www.dtic.mil/dpmo or call (703) 699-1420.
ROCKETT, ALTON CRAIG JR
- LT COL US AIR FORCE
- DATE OF BIRTH: 01/20/1932
- DATE OF DEATH: 06/02/1967
- BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 271
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard