Peter Fransson Russell

United States Navy
12 March 1940 - 23 May 1969
Wharton, NJ
Panel 24W Line 090

(Photo courtesy of Harry Gann)


Naval Aviator

DFC (2 awards), Purple Heart, Air Medal (9 Flight), Navy Commendation w/ Combat V, National Defense, Vietnam Campaign, Vietnam Service

The database page for Peter Fransson Russell


Pete's brother Ken was Skipper of VA-35 1971 - 1972. I flew with Ken as his Bombardier/Navigator in the A-6 Intruder. I felt like I knew Pete from all the stories Ken had to tell. I could also tell he missed him very much.

The photo, taken from the Skyraider Association website, shows Pete (doing Aviator Talk with his hands) and Tom Patton (also later in VA-35) discussing their MIG kills.

True American Heroes!!!

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SKyraider Association


MiG-17 FRESCO While flying a RESCAP mission over North Vietnam from the carrier USS Intrepid on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf, four VA-176 A-1 Skyraider pilots were engaged by four North Vietnamese MiG-17s. During this encounter, one MiG 17 was confirmed downed, another was probably downed, and a third was damaged.

A-H Skyraider LCDR Leo Cook and his wingman LTJG Wiley were the lead section of Skyraiders working to locate and hopefully rescue a downed US pilot in North Vietnam. While maneuvering at low altitude between ridges and cloud layers, they were jumped by what turned out to be two sections of MiG 17s. Calling out the attack on their common radio frequency, Cook and Wiley fought for their lives. LT Pete Russell and LTJG Tom Patton soon arrived in the area and immediately gained a position of advantage on the MiGs. The details of this encounter were taped by the intelligence officer on board the Intrepid after the incident.

The tape was provided to the Skyraider Association by Walt Darran (pilot, VA-165, a sister Skyraider squadron on the Intrepid) and can be downloaded in RealAudio format at


Pete graduated from Columbia University in l962 with a major in International Relations. He spoke fluent Russian and Chinese (Mandarin). He went directly into flight training, receiving his wings in 1963 as Naval Aviator #V-20873. He spent a short tour in Willie Fuds (WF-2) aircraft before transitioning to the A-1H (affectionately known as the SPAD or AD). Following two deployments in Spads, to Viet Nam aboard the Intrepid and to the Med aboard Saratoga, he went to VA-45 as an instrument instructor. He did not like jet aviation and longed for the propeller days. When the call came from his former skipper of VA-176 to form up VAL-4, Pete jumped at the chance. He was part of the nucleus that formed VAL-4 and then deployed to South Viet Nam in March 1969.

Pete was an outstanding aviator and naval officer for his short seven years the Navy. His outstanding career was cut short when he was killed in action on 23 May 1969 while providing air cover to a riverine patrol in his OV-10 Bronco. Pete was attached to VAL-4 flying out of Binh Thuy at the time. He was the first aviator lost in VAL-4 during their almost three year deployment.

On 19 October 1966 while flying an A-1H off the U.S.S. Intrepid as section leader of a flight of four VA-176 A1H's, Pete was credited with a possible MIG shootdown when four MIG's jumped first one section and the the other section of A-1H's. The final score was one confirmed, one probable and one possible MIG.

Pete was a highly decorated young officer at the time of his death, having been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with gold star, Purple Heart (posthumous), Air Medal with numeral 9, Navy Commendation Medal with combat V, National Defense Service Medal with gold star, Viet Nam Service Medal with 4 bronze stars, Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal with 1960 device and Republic of Viet Nam MUC Gallantry Cross (I don't have any record of the Silver Star award though that might have come posthumously). He is sorely missed by his family especially his brother and comrade in arms, Cdr. Kenneth B. Russell, USN (Ret) and Ken's wife Tudy. Pete was responsible for their meeting, though he didn't live to see that meeting take place.

Ken Russell
Commander, USN (Ret)

Pete Russell is remembered by his squadronmates of the
VAL-4 Black Ponies

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
another Naval Aviator,
Michael Munson 
15 May 2001

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 09/16/2003