Donald Arthur GerstelCommander
ATTACK SQUADRON 93, CVW-5, USS MIDWAY
United States Navy
23 June 1938 - 09 March 1978
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The database page for Donald Arthur Gerstel
I have worn Lieutenant Commander Gerstel's POW/MIA bracelet since October 2005.
From someone who wears his MIA Bracelet.
A Note from The Virtual WallShortly before 5 AM on 08 Sep 1972 two A-7 aircraft launched from USS MIDWAY, tasked with a merchant ship surveillance mission along the coast near Vinh, NVN. The section was to pay particular attention to anchorages near Hon Mat and Hon Nui islands. Section lead was then-LCDR Gerstel in A-7B BuNo 154393. The weather was not good, with low cloud bases and frequent thunderstorm cells moving offshore. An earlier flight in the Hon Nui area reported cloud bases at about 2000 feet.
After launch the section joined and proceeded toward Hon Mat/Hon Nui at 6000 feet. Gerstel's IFF transponder was inoperative, so the controlling ship tracked the flight using the wingman's transponder. As they neared the coast the two aircraft encountered heavy weather, and Gertsel directed his wingman to climb above the weather while he (Gerstel) went below to determine the cloud base and mission feasibility. Since Gerstel's transponder was bad, the controlling ship lost radar contact when the section divided.
A few minutes later, Gerstel reported that his aircraft had been hit by lightning but did not indicate any problems as a result. That was the last contact with him.
Search and rescue efforts began at once but were hampered by the weather. When nothing was found at sea, the search was extended inland along the coastline - but without results. Gerstal had simply disappeared.
Post-war investigations by the US and Vietnamese failed to uncover any evidence of a crash ashore, leaving the probability of an inadvertent water impact offshore - but in fact there is no evidence of where or why Gerstel went down. He was promoted to Commander in Sep 1975 and was declared dead on 09 March 1978.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 02 Jun 2008
Last updated 06/16/2008