Name: Donald Richard Hubbs
Rank/Branch: O5/US Navy
Unit: Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23, USS Yorktown
Date of Birth: 19 February 1926 (Riverton NJ)
Home City of Record: Palmyra NJ
Date of Loss: 17 March 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 191759N 1062269E (XG453344)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident:
Lee D. Benson; Thomas D. Barber; Randall J. Nightingale (all missing)
Compiled by Homecoming II Project (919/527-8079) 01 April 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Copyright 1991 Homecoming II Project.
LOST O/W - SEARCH FAILED - J
Cdr. Donald R. Hubbs (pilot); LtJg. Lee D. Benson (co-pilot); AX2 Randall J. Nightingale (Antisubmarine Warfare Technician 2nd Class); and ADR Thomas D. Barber (crewman) comprised the crew of an S2E aircraft assigned to Air Antisubmarine Squadron 23 aboard the USS YORKTOWN.
As submarine action in Vietnam was virtually (if not completely) unknown, a wide variety of activities were conducted by Anti-submarine units in Vietnam. Because Anti-submarine warfare involves the use of magnetic detection gear or acoustic buoys in conjunction with "listening" devices, anti-submarine aircraft and their crews' training proved especially adaptable to reconnaissance and tracking missions.
On March 17, 1968, Hubbs and his crew launched from the YORKTOWN on a night surveillance mission over the North Vietnam coast in the area of Vinh. Weather was bad with zero visibility. Approximately one hour after launch, the aircraft reported radar problems. No other transmissions were heard, and the aircraft disappeared from the ship's radar scope. All efforts to make contact were unsuccessful. However, five hours after the last contact, radio signals were heard, and North Vietnamese fishing boats were spotted in the area the next day. The last point of contact occurred about 30 miles off the shore of North Vietnam about 25 miles east southeast of the island of Hon Me.
On July 2O, 1968 a section of the starboard wing was found. During the period of July through September 1973 an overwater/at-sea casualty resolution operation was conducted to determine the feasibility and desirability of such water loses. These operations were terminated when it was determined to be unfeasible and nonproductive in such cases. Commander Hubbs and the rest of his crew are still carried in the status of Presumed Dead/Remains nonrecoverable.
When considering a personnel loss at sea, the criteria for survival involves both the location and the cause of the loss. In the case of the S2E, no reason for loss was ever determined. Therefore, it was either shot down or went down due to mechanical or weather difficulties.
If mechanical difficulties resulted in the downing of the S2E, in an entirely non-hostile environment, then there can be little chance of survival for the crew of the S2E unless they managed to cross 25 miles of ocean. If enemy activity was present, however, there can be ample room for speculation that the crew might have been captured by one of the fishing boats in the area.
The crew of the S2E is among nearly 3000 Americans who remained prisoner, missing, or otherwise unaccounted for at the end of the Vietnam war. Since that time, cases have been resolved by the return of remains and by other means. Since the end of the war, over 10,000 reports relating to these Americans have been received by the U.S. Government, convincing many authorities that hundreds of Americans remain alive in enemy hands today.
Whether the crew of the S2E survived to be captured can only be speculated. It would be kinder to them and to their families if they died on March 17, 1968. It is impossible to imagine the agony they must feel to have been abandoned by their country. It is heartbreaking to consider that Americans still await rescue by the country they proudly served.