New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial






Branch of Service:
Air Force

Country of Incident:

Date of Casualty:
Sep 30, 1965

Date of Birth:
Oct 26, 1938

Michael D. Chwan was born on October 26, 1938.  He was the youngest of five children. His home of record is Bayonne, NJ.  Chwan was an altar boy at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Churh. He graduated from Bayonne High School, where he was an excellent student. He also attended the Stevens Institute of Technology where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering.  He enjoyed classical music, chess, sketching and puzzles. He also like to fish, build model airplanes and whittle.

Chwan met his future wife, Dana, an English teacher from Georgia, in October 1964. She was won over by his “wit and shy smile.” They married on Valentine’s Day in February 1965.

Chwan entered the US Air Force and underwent pilot training at Reese Air Force Base in Texas. He then completed Officer Training School at Lackland Air Force Base and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Chwan was stationed with the 47th Tactical Fighter Squadron and attained the rank of Captain (CAPT). He was sent to Vietnam in July 1965. 

On September 30, 1965, at the age of 26, Chwan’s F-4 jet fighter was shot down over North Vietnam. After his death, his wife learned that she was pregnant. He was survived by his wife, daughter, father (George) and siblings (Mary, George, Joseph and John). His story is remembered in Dana Chwan’s book The Reluctant Sorority.

For the next 20 years, Chwan was listed as missing.  The remains of Capt. Michael D. Chwan were repatriated on March 20, 1985, and positively identified on April 8, 1985, 20 years after he was shot down during a bombing raid over what was then referred to as North Vietnam.  There was no funeral until April 1985, when a box with 42 pieces of bones, including a 3-inch section of jaw with two teeth, was returned. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Chwan was awarded the Purple Heart and a Silver Star. 

This remembrance was written by Dana Chwan:

Forty-eight years ago, July 1965, a caring, gentle, 26 year old Air Force pilot left  for assignment in Southeast Asia – certain that by his service, he was helping one of America’s allies fight for its freedom and right to self-determination.

Nineteen and a half your later, a handful of bones, a small section of jawbone and two teeth were returned and positively identified as the only mortal remains of this once tall and proud American. He rests in peace, at last, in his native soil in Arlington.

Through the beautiful daughter he never saw, born six months after his death, his artistic talent, smile and personality live on. Memories of him are forever a part of my heart.

I share this with those of you who come to this special memorial and hallowed wall of names – remembering and seeking comfort and solace for the losses we all suffered as a result of the Vietnam War. Know that others share your sorrow and pray for you and those you knew and love who are named here forever on these sparkly beautiful panels.

Touch the names you remember and release the pain in your heart held so long. Pray that our government leaders and high-ranking soldiers will finally come to see the futility and insanity of wars, especially those in other parts of the world. Let others fight and settle their own problems without our men, money and weapons. In war, there are no winners, only those who serve and return with mental and physical scars and heartache, or those who die in battles and leave behind their mourning and bereft survivors.

The pathways and grounds around these memorials have been deep-watered by tears of thousands of Americans who remember and who care. God bless you all, especially those who served in Vietnam. 

Sources: Newspaper clippings, Dana Chwan and NJVVMF.

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