Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)

For a larger image click on the photograph.

Website maintained by his son, Larry James Blakeley (larry@larryblakeley.com)

22 July 1965, a Thursday at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam:

“This was my 10th combat mission. I was originally scheduled to be spare, but at the last minute Major Seb Arriaga took himself off the schedule and I replaced him. The original line-up was John Olson, Lead; Larry Shassetz No.2; Seb Arriage No.3; Jack Gale No.4, Harold Alston as Spare. The change put me in as No.3 and Roy Blakeley as Spare with Seb dropped. We took off as a flight of 4 carrying 2 each MK117, 750 GP bombs and the 20 mm gatling gun.

After take-off Larry Shassetz had a hung landing gear and aborted back to DaNang. Roy took off to replace Shass and joined up with us in the No.2 position, over Chu Lai. Roy was flying the aircraft that I had originally been scheduled in before Seb dropped out.

The target was a VC build-up west of Chu-Lai, South Viet Nam. We dropped the bombs on two successive passes and made one strafe pass. Coming off the strafe pass Roy reported he had lost the left, leading edge flap. I had a tally-ho on Roy so I went into afterburner and joined on him quite quickly. I confirmed the loss of the flap, and some skin torn off the fuselage on the upper, left side. The tail was intact with no damage. After my confirmation of damage to Roy, he reported a loss of oil pressure.

We were in a turn to Chu Lai, about 20 miles east. It was a newly constructed, austere runway of pierced-steel-planking (PSP), built by the Marines. I went to Guard frequency and declared an emergency and that we were inbound for an emergency landing. Roy flew a good pattern for a straight-in landing to the north. I stayed in close formation with him from the time I joined up until about 50 feet above the runway when I slid about 100 feet out, on Roy's right wing. Gale stayed out of the way, wide to the right. Roy did not have his landing gear down so I called, on Guard, to put it down. Nothing happened. I called several more times to ‘Get the gear down, Roy.’ It never happened. Roy landed smoothly on the PSP on his pylon racks. As the aircraft was skidding, it veered to the left slightly, went off the left side of the runway into a sand dune that was about as tall as the refueling probe. The aircraft exploded catastrophically. We probably had approximately 3500 pounds of fuel remaining at the time. I knew immediately Roy could not have survived. Jack and I rejoined on Olson.

John led the three of us back to DaNang where we landed and reported the loss. I felt sick, even though I had seen other aircraft crashes. I respected Roy a lot, he treated me well and had confidence in me from the outset as a new F-104 pilot. I was going to miss our Flight Commander.

The AAA damage to Blakeley’s F-104C (56-0908) after he had expended 750 rounds of 20 mm cannon fire in his strafing pass had knocked out the jet’s hydraulics, preventing landing gear extension.

He was awarded the DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross] posthumously for attempting to recover the aircraft rather than ejecting and risking casualties on the ground.”

- Harold Alston, Lt Col, USAF, Retired

Last photograph taken of my father in July 1965 sitting at a table with then Lt. Harold Alston: