Norman Edward Eidsmoe – Captain, United States Navy

Norman Edward Eidsmoe was born on May 2, 1933 and joined the Armed Forces while in Rapid City, South Dakota.

He served as a Naval Aviator and attained the rank of Commander. He began a tour of duty in Vietnam on January 26, 1968.

Norman Edward Eidsmoe is listed as Missing in Action (as of the date he was added to the Vietnam Wall).


Remains returned 12/09/99

Name: Norman Edward Eidsmoe
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 165, USS RANGER (CVA 61)
Date of Birth: 02 May 1933 (Bismark ND)
Home City of Record: Rapid City ND
Date of Loss: 26 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 184400N 1054000E
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 4
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A
Refno: 1004
Others in Incident: Michael E. Dunn (missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 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 1998.


SYNOPSIS: The Grumman A6 Intruder is a two-man all weather, low-altitude, carrier based attack plane, with versions adapted as aerial tanker and electronic warfare platform. The A6A primarily flew close-air-support, all-weather and night attacks on enemy troop concentrations, and night interdiction missions. Its advanced navigation and attack system, known as DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack Navigation Equipment) allowed small precision targets, such as bridges, barracks and fuel depots to be located and attacked in all weather conditions, day or night. The planes were credited with some of the most difficult single-plane strikes in the war, including the destruction of the Hai Duong bridge between Hanoi and Haiphong. Their missions were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to serve the United States.

LCDR Norman E. Eidsmoe was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 165 onboard the aircraft carrier USS RANGER. On January 26, 1968, Eidsmoe launched with his Bombardier/Navigator (BN) from the carrier in their A6A Intruder attack aircraft on a low-level, single-plane, night strike mission into North Vietnam. Two A4 Skyhawk and two A7 Corsair attack aircraft were scheduled to provide mission support if required.

The flight proceeded normally to the initial run-in point at the coast. The flight was tracked inbound to approximately 5 miles from the target at which time radar contact was lost due to low altitude and distance from tracking stations. Support aircraft remained on station about 30 minutes, waiting for the attack aircraft to regain radio contact at the designated time and position upon egress from the target area.

The support aircraft neither heard no saw the strike aircraft again. No radio contact of any kind was heard from the aircraft. The UHF radio “guard” frequency was monitored by all the support aircraft until low fuel states  required their return to ship. No surface-to-air missile (SAM) launches were received and no anti-aircraft fire was noted by the support aircraft, even though there were known enemy defenses in the target area including automatic weapons, light and medium anti-aircraft artillery and one known SAM site.

The search and rescue (SAR) expanded the following day with the sortie of two RA5C Vigilante reconnaissance aircraft. The electronic and photographic search produced no significant findings. It was later determined that the aircraft had crashed approximately 7 kilometers north of the city of Vinh, Nghe An Province, North  Vietnam.

Eidsmoe and Dunn were declared Missing in Action. When 591 Americans were returned at the end of the war, Dunn and Eidsmoe were not among them. Unlike “MIAs” from other wars, many of the over 2300 who remain missing for can be accounted for. And, tragically, thousands of reports have amassed indicating that some are still held prisoner against their will.

Whether Dunn survived the downing of his plane that day in January 1968 is unknown. What is clear, however, is that someone knows what happened to him. It's time we learned his fate, and brought all our men home.

Michael E. Dunn graduated from Texas A & M in 1963. He was advanced to the rank of Lieutenant Commander during the period he was maintained missing.

Norman E. Eidsmoe was promoted to the rank of Commander during the period he was maintained missing.

No. 188-M


December 9, 1999

The remains of four American servicemen previously unaccounted-for from the Vietnam war have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial in the United States.

They are identified as Navy Captain Norman E. Eidsmoe, Rapid City, South Dakota; Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael E. Dunn, Naperville, Illinois; Army Captain David May, Hyattsville, Maryland; and Army Chief Warrant Officer Jon E. Reid, Phoenix, Arizona.

On January 26, 1968, Eidsmoe and Dunn were flying a night low-level bombing mission over North Vietnam off the carrier USS Ranger.  Approximately 30 minutes after takeoff, their A-6A Intruder disappeared from the carrier's radar, as expected.  Accordingly, they radioed that they were six minutes from the target, but no further radio contact was heard.  The plane did not return to the carrier, and a search and rescue mission was initiated, but without results.

In 1992 and 1993, four separate investigations led a U.S.-Vietnamese team to a Vietnamese farmer who described the crash, gave investigators a pilot's flight bag with Dunn's name inscribed, and described his burial of some remains in an unmarked grave.  Then in 1997, a joint team conducted an excavation in a flooded rice paddy, where they recovered remains and pilot-related items.  Another team continued the excavation in 1998 where they recovered additional materials.

On February 20, 1971, May and Reid were flying their UH-1C Huey helicopter on an emergency resupply mission over Laos when they were hit by enemy ground fire and crashed.  A search and rescue mission was repulsed by hostile fire.

In 1994, 1996 and 1998, U.S. and Lao investigators interviewed villagers in the area of the crash, then initiated an excavation which recovered human remains as well as portions of an identification tag with the name “May, David M.”  Analysis of the remains and other evidence by the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii confirmed the identification of each of these four servicemen.

The U.S. government welcomes and appreciates the cooperation of the governments of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic that resulted in the accounting of these servicemen. We hope that such cooperation will bring increased results in the future. Achieving the fullest possible accounting for these Americans is of the highest national priority.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Saturday, December 11, 1999


DNA tests establish identity of a Whidbey pilot shot down in 1968

By:  Ed Offley

After a near lifetime of uncertainty and sorrow, a Western Washington family is preparing to bury a husband and father who vanished over North Vietnam more than 30 years ago.

The Pentagon announced this week that its search for the crash site of a Whidbey Island-based A-6A Intruder had ended with the positive identification of the remains of Navy Captain Norman E. Eidsmoe and Lieutenant Commander Michael E. Dunn.

Eidsmoe was the pilot and Dunn the bombardier-navigator of the Intruder, which took off from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger on a nighttime, low-level bombing mission over North Vietnam on January 26, 1968.

(Eidsmoe was a lieutenant junior grade when he was shot down.  The Defense Department routinely promoted servicemen missing in action as the years passed to provide income and benefits to the families, officials said. Eidsmoe's final rank was that of Navy captain.)

About 30 minutes after takeoff that night in 1968, the two officers radioed that they were about six minutes from their target.  That was the last anyone heard from them.

Eidsmoe's wife, Betsy, was at home in Oak Harbor with her five preteen children when Navy officers came to her door to tell her that her husband of 10 years was missing in action.  She remained a resident of the Navy town on Whidbey Island, raising their five children and running a gift shop until her retirement last year.

“For years, it was just an unsure status, not knowing one thing or another,” said son Ken Eidsmoe, 40, a stores supervisor for Alaska Airlines at Sea-Tac airport.

Norman Eidsmoe's fate remained a mystery for years.  In 1993, a search team found what it thought was the wreckage site of their plane, his widow said yesterday.

It was a false alarm.

“The time frame was close by when my husband went down, but (later research showed) the circumstances did not fit,” she said.

Pentagon searchers returned to the region in 1997 and found a Vietnamese farmer who said a second aircraft had been shot down in the same area.  He took them to the site, produced a charred air crew bag with Dunn's name on it, and led them to an unmarked grave.

Military search teams returned last year and recovered both remains and shreds of flight gear.

Although the Pentagon made its announcement just last week, the family learned of the pilot's fate earlier this year.

Eidsmoe's sister and niece had provided blood samples to the Pentagon. The U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii in July called Betsy Eidsmoe to inform her that DNA testing had confirmed her husband's identity as well as Dunn's. A team of forensic experts visited the Eidsmoe family in September to provide a detailed briefing on the crash excavations and analysis of the evidence, Ken Eidsmoe said.

Betsy Eidsmoe said the passage of time helped blunt the shock of learning that her husband had been found.

“For me, when they identified the aircraft wreckage back in 1997, I sort of felt that was it,” she said.  “But I didn't expect them to get that far” to actually locate his remains, she added.

Everett resident Tom Eidsmoe, 37, was 6 years old when his father disappeared.

“It wasn't an event that really hit me,” Tom Eidsmoe said of the discovery.  “If anything I was more relieved for my mom.”

Ken's twin sister, Katherine Eidsmoe Nienhuis, is a high school teacher in Oak Harbor. Two of the children are currently serving in the military. Steven Eidsmoe is a 37-year-old Marine major and helicopter pilot based in San Diego, and Robert Eidsmoe, 35, is a Navy lieutenant commander and helicopter pilot currently attending the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Betsy Eidsmoe said the family — including 12 grandchildren who never knew their Navy grandfather — is planning a formal funeral ceremony next April at Arlington National Cemetery.

Dunn's family will bury the Navy flier at a private ceremony next month in Illinois, she said.

“I think the closure will be good for all the children and  grandchildren,” she said.

Tom Eidsmoe said his mother has always avoided “any public scene” regarding her emotional ordeal although it has been a heavy burden for her.

“I think she's taken this very well,” he said.  “She's been terrific, very positive and is relieved to finally have some closure to it.”

Family members said they have been gratified to hear from a number of Eidsmoe's former shipmates and fliers in the weeks since the Pentagon's formal determination that his remains had been identified.  Word of the decision had circulated within the naval aviation community and was the subject of a Veterans Day column by military commentator Tom Philpott.

Eidsmoe and Dunn were two of three Whidbey fliers who had been listed as missing in action in Vietnam.  The remains of a third Oak Harbor pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Gerald Ray Roberts, were retrieved in Vietnam in 1994.  His family held a burial at sea ceremony from the USS Carl Vinson in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 1997.

Twenty-three other Whidbey Island fliers died in Vietnam, said base spokesman Howard Thomas.

Since the restoration of diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1993, the remains of 551 missing U.S. military personnel have been found and identified, according to the Defense Missing Personnel Office.  This includes 12 servicemen listed as Washington state residents.

Coincidental link

Some 30 years ago, long before I went to Vietnam or became a journalist, I had a bracelet inscribed with the name of a missing American pilot.

The name was Norman Eidsmoe.

I wore the POW/MIA bracelet in college as a reminder that the conflict, which had torn apart my country, was still measured in individual lives.

I can't remember where I got it.  My parents may have seen an article about an organization encouraging people not to forget the hundreds — later thousands — of servicemen who had died or lingered in POW camps.

I wore the bracelet to several anti-war demonstrations.

I wore it to Navy boot camp.

I wore it aboard the carrier USS Midway when we deployed in the Tonkin Gulf in 1971.

I wore it when I returned from the war and began working as a reporter.

In 1973, when the POWs came home from Hanoi, I put the bracelet away.

I had not thought of the name on the bracelet until yesterday, when I saw the Pentagon announcement and began writing this story.

— Ed Offley

From: Mike Sloniker
Subject: Buzz Eidsmoe Funeral 0900 07 Apr 00 Ft Myer/ANC

82 folks attended the funeral. God put me  in charge of  Halsan, Turf and Tom Murphy.  It was an honorable duty.

Buzz Eidsmoe had 4 children at the time he was lost.  The oldest was a daughter followed by three boys. The daughter, quite attractive, in my view, is a school teacher.  The oldest boy is a Marine Major, the second oldest son is a USN Lt Cdr, SH-60 helo driver attending the Naval War College, and the youngest is a civilian.  Betsy Eismore has God smiling on her for her work in turning out four outstanding adults.

This was my 40th attendance of a funeral at Ft Myer beginning with my first one in 1988; 27 were Vietnam Vets that were MIA/BNR.  Those 27 funerals were for deaths that were at least 20+ years, this one being 32 years since the death. The other 13 were 11 aircraft accidents, one terrorist act, and one cancer death.  I remember each vividly.

The funeral inside the church started out slow until the three sons got up to read tributes to their Dad.  NOT ONE could get thru their message, but the Chaplain, God Bless him, read it for them.   As with all tributes there is some humor.  The first son to attempt to read was the LT Cdr helo driver. He could not overcome his grief and had the chaplain read his notes….. until the chaplain read the part about crawling back to the BOQ in PI. After we laughed, he had regained his composure and finished his notes. Very, very touching tribute.

Next was the oldest son, the Marine Major.  He did a bit better, but the note he wrote just hurt too bad, so the Navy Chaplain read the Marine's notes also.   It is one thing to write from the heart, it is quite another to speak from the heart standing 10 feet from the casket that contains the 32 year old remains of your father with the Flag of your country over it. God Bless those two boys. Their lives honor their father and mother's efforts in bringing them into the world.

The youngest son read a letter from ret RADM Lyle Bull that was a tribute to CAPT Buzz Eidsmoe.   He did quite well and then he too had to be assisted by the Chaplain….

We made the trek from the chapel to the gravesite….

After Taps, and after the firing party fired,  the first two people at the casket were Murf and Turf who after placing nickels on the casket, saluted the casket.  I have them doing that on videotape and will cherish that act forever. Next the grandchildren put long stemmed roses on the casket while assisted by their parents.  Very touching.

Dell Bull, one of Lyle's off spring, lead a formation of 4 F-14s from East to West over the Potomac, over the Pentagon and then directly over us, Bull went Vertical right over the grave as they did the missing man.  POWERFUL. Afterburners lit are the sound of freedom.   Naturally, I messed up the flyby with the video camera,  because I tend to tremble when I see, hear, witness the missing man formation.

While enroute to the reception at the Officers Club, I detoured to Timberlake's gravesite and recalled how it was 11 months ago when we attended his funeral. Murf and Turf were at that one also.

As I neared the Ft Myer gate from the grave site, still in Arlington Natl Cemetery, I see what looks like to big bears over by the Confederate monument and the fallen Confederates who are buried in a circle.  On closer inspection, I recognize the bears as the two Halsan boys, honoring the Confederate fallen…..

It was a Great Day to be an American.

Eidsmoe, Norman E.
Born:2 May 1933
Died: 26 January 1968
Section: 60, Grave7826
Bburied  7 April 2000

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