Randolph Wright FordCommander
VA-86, CVW-6, USS AMERICA
United States Navy
19 July 1935 - 20 June 1968
Panel 55W Line 005
The database page for Randolph Wright Ford
USS AMERICA's second loss
A shipmate from VA-85,
My mother somehow got ahold of a silver bracelet with the name of CDR Randolph Ford. The date on it is 6-11-68 - At the time Missing in Action...
Going through one of her boxes, she found this bracelet and wondered what became of the young man. It brought tears to my eyes to see that he has passed away. I am 24 years old, and was not here when CDR Ford went missing, and then passed away, but know that I will wear the bracelet with pride and honor... This man gave the ultimate sacrifice, and even though I did not know him, I can calculate that he was a wonderful man, and I will never forget the sacrifice that he made for his country...
Dad had a compound fracture to his left arm, not to his leg. He went down around midnight and he was in constant contact till just prior to sunrise. He had landed on a hill top 1/4 mile away from the beachline. The Air Wing Commander, CDR L. Wayne Smith, told me that there were over 80 aircraft involved in the attempt to rescue him, the largest amount of assets used in an rescue attempt that cruise. There were two rescue attempts, the first resulted in the helicopter crew taken under fire with one crewman getting seriously wounded in the leg. The second attempt was called off by my father after he learned of the fate of the previous helo crew. This decision was meet with some dissension. His best friend and roommate LCDR Ken Webb, who was on station at the time for SAR support, demanded that the helo get in there to get him out. But, the decision was dad's. He also reported that the NVA were so close that he could smell them on several occasions, so he destroyed his radio just prior to his capture. Out respect for my father, the men of VA-86 saved one bomb after each mission to drop on the hilltop to let the VC know that they had taken one of their own. I've seen pictures of that hilltop, there wasn't one tree left standing at the end of that cruise!
My dad's return was a closure for my family that we needed. Only God could have made that happen. That's because the North Vietnamese never admitted that he was ever captured (because they allowed him to bleed to death). His name was brought up at the Geneva talks many times. His return got the men and ladies of VA-86 back together after a 17 year separation. Now they have reunions amost every few years, in which we are always involved.
He was survived by his wife Emma F. Ford, who raised three children on her own (the two oldest were quite a hand full). Daniel W. Ford is a graduate of Samford University with a law degree and presently is the Director of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Leslie A. Ford was for many years a self-employed contractor for Tupperware (she designed the calenders for them) and is presently at the University of New Mexico getting her Masters in architecture. She has already won many awards to include having one displayed in the Smithsonian. I am a Naval Reserve helicopter pilot (14 of those years active) with HT-8 at Naval Air Station Whiting Field and my full time job is as a contract simulator instructor pilot at NASWF. Our father was a Christian man who left a great legacy for his children to follow.
Two side notes: Commander Smith's son-in-law turned out to be my first skipper in HS-9. We realized this during one of my first flights in the squadron at the begining of Desert Storm. The wounded helo crewman was on his last flight in the Navy and he had to rehab in Japan for few extra months.
From his son,
You may view pictures of the "Hero's Walk and Freedom Trees" located at Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida where a permanent memorial is constructed for this brave man and others who were stationed there.
From a historian,
A Note from The Virtual WallOn the night of 10/11 June 1968 a section of A-7A aircraft from Attack Squadron 86 conducted an armed reconnaissance mission along Highway 1 southeast of Vinh. The flight lead, LCdr Randolph W. Ford, in A-7A BuNo 153265, made a flare run in order to light up road traffic for his wingman. Moments later the wingman saw a large explosion on the ground and found himself talking to his flight lead via Ford's survival radio. Ford was descending by parachute but reported that he was injured. LCdr Ford was captured and information later received indicated that he died of his injuries on 20 Jun 1968.
Although the North Vietnamese had his remains, they were not repatriated until 14 August 1985 with the government announcing positive identification on 04 November 1985. He was buried with honors on 21 November 1985 in Plot E31A, Saint Augustine National Cemetery, St. Augustine, Florida.
The point-of-contact for this memorial is|
Curtis A. Ford
E-Mail may be forwarded via the
24 Nov 2003
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 02/25/2006