Roger Gene Lerseth – Commander, United States Navy

From a contemporary press report:


Comander Roger Gene Lerseth, United States Navy (retired), age 57, 24 year Oak Harbor resident and former Vietnam prisoner-of-war, died at his home on Saturday, March 27, 2004, following a brief illness.

Designated a Naval Flight Officer in 1970, he qualified in the A-6 Intruder at Naval Air Station, Oceana, joining VA-75 aboard the USS Saratoga (CV-60) for a 1971 Mediterranean deployment followed by a 1972 combat deployment to Southeast Asia. On September 6, 1972, Lieutenant Lerseth was shot down over North Vietnam. Seriously injured from his ejection, he was captured and held by the North Vietnamese in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison.

Upon release in February 1973, after a lengthy hospitalization, Lerseth returned to flight status in 1976 with Squadron VA-35. In 1979, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy as an instructor and academic advisor. In 1981, he served as VA-95 Operations Officer aboard the USS America (CVA-66) and the USS Enterprise (CVN-65). In 1982, following recurring medical problems from his combat injuries, he was reassigned as A-6 Plans and Program Manager at COMMATVAQWINGPAC. He then served as Officer in Charge, Naval Support Activity, Gaeta, Italy, followed by assignment at the Naval Center for Cost Analysis. His last active naval assignment was as a faculty member of the Strategy and Policy Department, Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, from which he retired in August, 1994. He received a Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston University in 2001.

His decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross (five awards), the Bronze Star with Combat V, the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), five individual and seven Strike/Flight Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V (two awards), and the Naval Achievement Medal, among other personal and unit citations.

A patron of naval aviation, he was Vice-President of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association; Commanding Officer, Whidbey Island Squadron, Association of Naval Aviation; and a member of the NAMPOWs, 4th Allied POW Wing.

Roger is survived by his wife of twenty-three years, Christine Picchi, Captain, Nurse Corps, United States Navy (retired) of Oak Harbor; his mother, Lillian Lerseth of Spokane, Washington; and two sisters, JoAnn Lerseth of Spokane and Lauretta Rozell and husband Eric and their children Cameron and Kelsey, all of Kalispell, Montana. He was preceded in death by his father in 1972.

A Memorial Service will be held Friday, April 2, 2004, at 2 p.m. at the Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island Base Chapel. Full Military Honors and Inurnment will take place at a later date at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association Air Warrior Courage Foundation, PO Box 882, Boothbay Harbor, Maine 04538.

RIP -27 March 2004

  • Name: Roger Gene Lerseth
  • Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy
  • Home City of Record: Spokane Washington
  • Date of Loss: 06 September 1972
  • Country of Loss: North Vietnam
  • Loss Coordinates: 204610N 1063800E (XH700972)
  • Status (in 1973): Released POW
  • Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: A6A
  • Other Personnel in Incident: Donald F. Lindand (remains returned)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 1 April 1991 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.



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. 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 by a single A6. Their missions
were tough, but their crews among the most talented and most courageous to
serve the United States.

Donald F. Lindand was the pilot of an A6A sent on a combat mission near Haiphong, North Vietnam on September 6, 1972. His bombardier/navigator on the flight was Lieutenant Roger G. Lerseth. During the mission the aircraft was shot down and both crewmembers ejected. Lerseth was captured by the Vietnamese and taken to Hanoi. Lindand was seen running on the ground with Lerseth after ejection, and is known to have evaded capture for 24 hours. Hanoi radio reported that the “aggressor pilots” had been captured, but Lerseth was told by the Vietnamese that Lindand was dead.

In February 1973, Lerseth was released with 591 Americans from Vietnam. He had been a “guest” in the Hanoi prison system for the relatively short period of five months.

Since the war ended, over 10,000 reports relating to Americans missing, prisoner or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. Many authorities who have examined this largely classified information are convinced that hundreds of Americans are still held captive today. These reports are the source of serious distress to many returned American prisoners. They had a code that no one could honorably return unless all of the prisoners returned. Not only that code of honor, but the honor of our country is at stake as long as even one man remains unjustly held. It's time we brought our men home.

On June 3, 1983, the Vietnamese “discovered” and returned the remains of Donald F. Lindand to U.S. control. Alive or dead, Lindand was a prisoner of war for eleven years.

As you know, Rog has been quite ill. We hoped we had the issue resolved, however, the balancing act between liver and kidneys never worked.  Despite all efforts, nothing could be made to work.  It grieves me deeply to tell you that this  morning, Roger  “…slipped the surly bonds of earth.” Chris

Roger Lerseth retired from the United States Navy as a Commander. He resided
in Whidbey Island with his with Chris until his death. He will be buried in
Arlington. The NETWORK had the distinct pleasure of meeting Roger in 1998. We extend our deepest sympathy to the family.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 07/05/1969 – 07/31/1994
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/24/1946
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/27/2004
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 05/04/2004

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