James Lloyd Griffin

United States Navy
27 December 1932 - 21 May 1967
Gates, Tennessee
Panel 20E Line 043

Naval Aviator

DFC (2), Purple Heart, Air Medal (8), Navy Commendation (2), Navy Achievement, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for James Lloyd Griffin

19 Jan 2006

On Ho Chi Minh's birthday, May 19 1967, Jim Griffin, piloting an RA-5C, and his Recon-Attack navigator, Jack Walters, were flying a reconnaisance mission over downtown Hanoi when their plane was downed over Sword Lake. They were captured nearby a short time later, but died one and two days later of injuries received in the shootdown. A plaque has been erected on a downtown streetcorner telling about the event and depicting their plane.

Jim graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1955 and attended the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He served in VA-83, deploying to the Mediterranean and flying missions in Lebanon in 1958 aboard the aircraft carrier USS ESSEX and during 1959-60 aboard USS FORRESTAL. He joined RVAH-13 in 1964, serving in Vietnam on two combat cruises during 1965-1967. By April of 1967 Jim Griffin and Jack Walters had completed 100 combat missions over North Vietnam.

Commander Griffin's awards included the Distinguished Flying Cross with gold star; Air Medal with bronze star (eight awards), Naval Commendation Medal with gold star and combat distinguishing device, the Navy Achievement Medal, the Purple Heart, Navy Unit Commendation Medal with bronze star, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross with Palm), Vietnam Service medal with three bronze stars and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.

He was survived by his wife Dora, his son James and his daughter Glyn Carol. After the war Dora was remarried to Captain James F. Bell, who was a POW in Vietnam for seven and a half years.

Dora Griffin Bell
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

Plaque in Hanoi commemorating the 19 May 1967 shootdown

15 Nov 2006

I was one of the plane captains that sent Mr. Griffin and Mr. Walters out on their last mission. The other plane captain was Arlie Fund. Mr. Walters was our Division Officer.

I still remember Arlie coming to the crew's compartment to inform me we had lost the crew and aircraft. If memory serves me correctly it was our last day on the line prior to the Kitty Hawk returning to the states.

Both men were excellent officers.

From a shipmate,
Carl L. Wilkins
124 North Fields Circle, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The RA-5C VIGILANTE began life as a heavy bomber but found its real niche as a reconnaissance aircraft. A truly beautiful aircraft in flight, the RA-5C was capable of Mach 2+ at altitude ... but its mission required low-altitude operations. At those altitudes it still could approach or surpass Mach 1, usually outrunning its F-4 Phantom fighter escorts. Still, it was vulnerable to barrage antiaircraft fire and its relative lack of low-level agility increased its vulnerability to surface-to-air missiles.

On 19 May 1967, LCDR James Griffin, pilot, and LT Jack Walters, Recon Attack Navigator (RAN), launched for an over-the-beach mission in the Haiphong/Hanoi area. While overhead Hanoi the aircraft was hit by enemy fire and both crewmen ejected. A radio broadcast from Hanoi announced that both men had been captured. As a result, the Navy placed Griffin and Walters in POW status.

As time passed, both Griffin and Walters were promoted, Griffin to Commander and Walters to Lieutenant Commander.

In January 1973, shortly before the POWs were released (February 1973), Hanoi announced that Griffin and Walters had died of injuries sustained during the shootdown/ejection, Walters on 20 May 1967 and Griffin on 21 May 1967. On 16 January 1974 the Secretary of the Navy verified their deaths. Hanoi returned their remains on 13 March 1974, and positive identification of both men was announced on 17 April 1974. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam offered no explanation for the five and a half year delay in announcing the deaths of the two men.

From the POW Network pages for CDR Griffin and LCDR Walters.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his widow (now remarried),
Dora Griffin Bell
E-Mail may be forwarded via the

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 19 Jan 2006
Last updated 01/01/2007