BEN A HUGHES - ATN3
- DATE OF BIRTH:
- December 25, 1948
- DATE OF CASUALTY:
- March 16, 1970
- BRANCH OF SERVICE:
- South Vietnam
Ben A. Hughes, Jr. was born on December 25, 1948. His home of record is Washington, NJ. His nickname was "Rusty" because of his red hair. He attended Hackettstown High School and would have graduated as part of the Class of 1967, if his family had not moved to Texas. He enjoyed playing football and baseball.
Hughes enlisted in the US Navy and attained the rank of Aviation Electronics Technician Third Class (ATN3). He was in the VQ-1, 7th Fleet unit.
Hughes was killed in action on March 16, 1970 at age 21. Hughes was aboard the U.S. Navy EC121 spy plane with 31 crewmen aboard which faltered during its landing and crashed in flames into a hangar, killing him and 21 others. The four-propeller aircraft slammed into a building and burst into flames. A $2.9 million F4 Phantom fighter-bomber inside the building was destroyed. The EC-121 contained electronic equipment for its aerial reconnaissance mission. Military authorities attributed the crash to a "mechanical failure." The craft broke in two on impact. Only the white tail section and part of the fuselage were distinguishable amid the scattered wreckage. Debris from the plane heavily damaged a nearby hut used as a makeshift snack bar for mechanics on alert status at the Da Nang Air Base on South Vietnam's northern coast.
It was one of the worst air mishaps of the Vietnam War involving American troops at the time of the accident. U.S. spokesmen said the EC121 crashed about 300 yards east of the runway at 11:30 a.m. near a busy road leading to a large American mess hall. Some of the wreckage ripped into a hack stop on a softball field near the hangar, but the field was deserted. The plane also missed a row of revetments concealing sleek, multi-million dollar jet aircraft. The EC121 carries a 31-man crew, all skilled technicians needed to operate radar equipment and other listening devices aboard the converted Constellation. U.S. spokesmen refused to discuss where the plane had been flying Monday. Military sources said the EC121 is used on aerial spying missions, listening in on guerrilla radio activity or plotting North Vietnamese radar positions.
He was posthumously awarded the National Defense Medal and the Vietnam Service and Campaign Medals.
Sources: Ted Glover (friend), various websites, and NJVVMF.
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