|Name:||Erwin Bernard Templin, Jr.|
USS Hornet (CVA-12)
|Date of Birth:||24 December 1940|
|Home of Record:||Houston, TX|
|Date of Loss:||22 January 1966|
|Country of Loss:||North Vietnam/Over Water|
|Loss Coordinates:||193958N 1072159E (YG481761)|
|Status in 1973:||Missing In Action|
|Other Personnel in Incident:||Edmund H. Frenyea; Robert R. Sennett and William S. Forman (all missing)|
REMARKS: LOST AT SEA
SYNOPSIS: During the Vietnam War, the US Navy conducted continuous, large scale sea and air operations throughout the Tonkin Gulf. Part of those operations consisted of using anti-submarine warfare aircraft to patrol and protect the US fleet from North Vietnamese gunboat attack. Under the cover of darkness, the enemy would probe US defenses by using small high speed gunboats. The S2E Tracker, sometimes referred to as a "Stoof," would be called in by a US ship when it believed its position was being probed by enemy boats to use its electronic technical equipment to pinpoint the location of enemy activity and provide air cover for our surface ships.
The usual procedure was for the Tracker's crew to drop a parachute retarded flare from about 10,000 feet over the target, then circle back around at approximately 300 feet to investigate the area. If the target proved to be unfriendly, the Tracker would engage and destroy it. There was a certain amount of risk involved in these operations because the North Vietnamese patrol boats were equipped with radar which enabled them to strike without visual contact.
On 22 January 1966, Lt. Cmdr. William S. Forman, pilot, then Lt. JG Edwin B. Templin, co-pilot, Aviation Mechanic-Airman Apprentice Robert R. Sennett and Aviation Mechanic-Airman Edmund H. Frenyea comprised the crew of an S2 Tracker. At approximately 0245 hours the aircraft launched from the deck of the USS Hornet on a routine search mission in the Gulf of Tonkin. During this time their aircraft was under the advisory control of the US destroyer, USS Berkeley (DDG-15). In the first four hours of the mission, the crew reported no unusual circumstances nor had they seen anything of interest. The control center aboard the USS Berkeley reminded them that their mission should be concluded shortly and they were to return to the USS Hornet.
Receipt of this information was acknowledged by Lt. Cmdr. Forman. He also advised the control center they had a surface contact to investigate before departing the area. Shortly after their last transmission, the Stoof disappeared from the radar scope and was thought to have gone below the radar. At 0645 hours and after being off the radar scope for five minutes, an extensive search and rescue (SAR) effort was initiated. During the initial search no contact could be established with the aircrew, and no trace of the aircraft or its crew was found.
Within a few hours of the aircraft's disappearance, Radio Hanoi reported that an aircraft was shot down near Bach Long Vi Island. That island is located approximately thirty miles from the last known position of the Tracker which was in the Gulf of Tonkin about halfway between the major coastal city of Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam and Hainan Island, China.
A close friend of Lt. Templin's was part of the SAR effort. According to him, the weather was clear with absolutely no wind. In fact, the Gulf of Tonkin was so calm that there was not a ripple on the surface, so objects floating great distances could readily and easily be seen. The search parties found no trace - no oil slick or debris indicating where the aircraft went down. According to Erwin Templin's friend: "Our squadron was uniquely qualified...we had the right kind of airplane and were working in the immediate area (of the loss) and more importantly...we cared. We found nothing."
Additionally, Lt. Templin`s friend stated that before he rotated off the USS Hornet, one of the Intelligence Officers took him to a secure area of the ship and told him that some very high-level intelligence had been forwarded to the ship identifying one or more of the crew members from that aircraft were positively seen as prisoners in North Vietnam. The Intelligence Officer would not elaborate further on what that high level information was. The friend fully expected at least one of the Tracker's crew to be returned during Operation Homecoming, and was surprised when none were returned.
On 1 February 1966, the aircraft's four-man life raft was spotted off the coast of North Vietnam by other search aircraft roughly 152 miles from the last known position of the downed aircraft. This location is consistent with the winds and currents that existed during the ten day period they had been missing. The raft showed no sign of damage by gunfire.
On 14 March continuing search efforts found and recovered the helmet of one of the crew members. Damage to the helmet indicated the aircraft impacted the water in an uncontrolled manner rather than in a controlled ditching in a light sea. Based on available information, it is believed that helmet probably belonged to Edmund Frenyea. When nothing else could be found to shed light on the fate of the crew, Bill Forman, Erwin Templin, Edmund Frenyea and Robert Sennett were all listed Missing in Action.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, over 21,000 reports of American Prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.
Erwin B. Templin, Jr. is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.