Esequiel Martinez Encinas

United States Air Force
21 March 1940 - 17 June 1972
Wilmington, California
Panel 01W Line 043


A-1 Skyraider

USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Esequiel Martinez Encinas

29 Jan 2003


Just want you to know you're often thought of and fondly remembered. You were the focus of my Air Force retirement speech. Thanks for your inspirational leadership and kindness to an old Hobo crew chief. I still pick at that guitar a little bit...

From his Crew Chief,
Ken Smith

Byron Huckee, who was flying wing on "Zeke" Encinas that day, remembers a day in the life of a HOBO (1st ACS/SOS) pilot in the article "Down There Amongst Them". His recollection of Zeke's loss is reproduced below, taken from the Flight Journal sidebar.

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1st Special Operations Squadron (ex-1st Air Commando Squadron)

DATE: 17 June 1972
SORTIE #: 91
AIRCRAFT: A-1E-5 135-215
by Byron Hukee

My journal entry for 17 June 1972:

Hobo 43 wingie. Doz for a downed CH-53 north of Khong Sedone with Zeke as lead .... [This was not a SAR situation, as the crew had previously been recovered.] We replaced other Hobos who were working the area prior to our arrival .... We orbited over the CH-53 crash site while a team landed to check the feasibility of lifting it out..... We worked the Doz about 2 hours. Our plan was to get a quick strike, recover at Ubon to refuel and RTB [return to base]. Weather in the target area was about 6,500 broken. We worked a target east of the river near Khong Sedone. We did not observe any ground fire and were working from about a 6,000-foot roll in altitude. On Zeke's second rocket pass, he got hit as he was firing his rockets. I saw the heavy smoke trailing from his aircraft. He said nothing. The FAC asked, "Are you all right?" The only thing I could say was, "Are you all right, pull out." He went in with the plane. There was a large fireball. I went back to the Doz frequency and told the other Hobos what had happened. Jim Harding was leading that flight and he came down about 15 klicks to the south to run any possible SAR. I had to RTB because of fuel and started heading for Ubon but saw that I had enough fuel to make it home. I met the Sandys on my way home and told them there was no survivor. I was met in the de-arm area and was taken to the TUOC. I concluded that Zeke must have been hit in the cockpit and incapacitated. Airbursts would have been hidden above the clouds.

Obviously, this mission stands out in my mind today as much as any of those I flew 26 years ago. Sometimes I can't remember where I put my glasses five minutes ago, but this mission is as clear as if it happened yesterday. The first part of the mission was simply orbiting over the downed CH-53 and waiting, waiting, waiting. After what seemed like hours (because it was!), we were released to contact a Raven FAC as the next Hobos checked in on freq. We were about three and a half hours into the mission at this time. The FAC said he had a target near Khong Sedone. I had worked this area the day before. Zeke contacted the FAC, and he gave us the standard target brief to include the possibility of up to 23mm AAA in the area. Now, 26 years later, I do not recall whether or not the FAC had reported any active AAA positions, but I don't believe he did.

We had each made about five passes and had just switched to rockets. No ground fire had been observed by any of us. We were in a left-hand wheel and were generally rolling in from the northeast through the northwest. As Zeke was on his rocket pass, all looked normal. The smoke started coming out of the rear of the pod at about the altitude I expected, indicating that he was firing his rockets. The next thing I saw was much darker, heavier smoke coming from what appeared to be the same location as the rocket smoke. From the time I saw this until Zeke's Skyraider impacted the ground, it was probably fewer than five seconds. We were firing our rockets at around 3,500 to 4,000 feet and bottoming out at about 2,000 feet. Since I watched his plane the entire way down to the ground, I knew there was no extraction. This is not to say there was no attempt, but there was definitely no extraction. I immediately thought a hundred things at once - none of them particularly logical. I wanted the FAC to tell me where the gun was so I could roll in on it and kill it. The FAC saw no gun; only the result of its work. After about two minutes, I realized fully what had just occurred and began to act more rationally. I called the other Hobos and waited until they arrived on the scene. I briefed them on the situation and turned for Ubon. I passed on my black assessment of the possibility of Zeke's surviving the crash; I was that sure. We didn't need any more A-1s downed while making low passes over a crash site that was not survivable. I had never in my life felt such a sheer and utter sense of despair. Mostly, I felt a great deal of helplessness. It was not easy to concentrate on flying the plane during these moments. I realized there was no need to land at Ubon, as I had enough fuel to make it back to NKP. The 45 minutes it took to get back seemed an eternity. I met the Sandys en route to the possible SAR and again gave them my negative assessment. Was I wrong in doing so? To this day, I believe my decision was correct. There was no hope of survival.

I had heard the phrase "Golden BB" in reference to the round that has your name on it. This situation fit that to a "T." The round had to have hit the plane for this to happen. Had it missed, the airburst would have been well above it and would have exploded harmlessly.

Much later, a ground team located the crash site and recovered Zeke's remains. Shrapnel damage to items in the cockpit indicated that Zeke had been incapacitated when a round of high-explosive AAA detonated very near the cockpit. Maj. Encinas was the final American A-1 pilot to die in SEA. The name of Maj. Esequiel M. Encinas on the Vietnam Memorial Wall is on panel 01W, line 043, reference number 148.

God bless you, Zeke.

Copyright Oct 1998
Flight Journal, Mt. Morris, IL
Reproduced under 17 USC 107

20 Apr 2005

In 1968, the Marine Corps sent me to Randolph AFB for flight training. Zeke quickly targeted me ... something about us minorities sticking together. He flew my first T-37 flight, during which I puked into my glove. We pressed on and Zeke flew a GCA recoveery, all of which overwhelmed me. Zeke's patience and expertise got me through "Tweets". One weekend he invited a few of us to his apartment where he introduced us to his wife. On Dec. 28, 1968 he attended my wedding at the Naval Air Station Los Alamitos Chapel, CA. I graduated in 1969 and returned to the Corps. Six years later I flew a Harrier back to Randolph and the base ops officer told me Zeke had died. I cried.

From his flight student,
LtCol Andy Boquet, USMC

A Note from The Virtual Wall

Major Encinas was flying A-1E 52-133857 when he was shot down. The exact circumstances of his recovery are unclear, but it is known that a ground team was inserted into the enemy-controlled area for the specific purpose of recovering his body.

The 1st Air Commando Squadron was activated on 17 June 1963 and was redesignated the 1st Special Operations Squadron on 01 August 1968. During almost eight years of combat operations the squadron served with five different wings at three different primary locations. Its last move was to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand, where it served with the 56th SOW until withdrawal on 15 December 1972.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his A-1 Crew Chief,
Maj (Ret) Ken Smith
29 Jan 2003

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 04/21/2005