Bell tolls for crew that perished in 1969

"On April 15, 1969, an EC-121 reconnaissance plane from VQ-1 squadron was on a surveillance mission in international airspace when it was shot down by a North Korean MiG fighter jet.All 31 crewmembers on the EC-121 perished.The 32nd anniversary of the incident eerily coincided with the events of earlier this month, when 24 crewmembers of an EP-3E surveillance plane, also from the VQ-1 squadron, was bumped by a Chinese F8 fighter jet and forced to make an emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan. This month's incident, however, ended happily when the 24 crewmembers returned home April 14 to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, just one day before the anniversary of their predecessors' death.VQ-1 remembered the 31 fallen sailors in a Two-Bell memorial service at Whidbey Island NAS' base chapel on Thursday afternoon. VQ-1 commanding officer, Cmdr. Bernard Lessard, and VQ-1 Command Master Chief David Wellsteadt officiated the ceremony.During the Two-Bell ceremony, the name of each fallen crewmember was read, one at a time, followed by two clangs of a Navy ship's bell. The solemn, poignant ceremony began with the National Anthem, and concluded with Taps.The ceremony served as a reminder of where we come from and what our sailors have done, and continue to do on a daily basis, Lessard said.Of the 31 fallen crewmembers, Lessard said, They gave their lives. Sailors perform their mission every day, Lessard said, so Americans can continue to enjoy the kind of freedom and democracy that we do today.The 31 crewmembers who lost their lives were: Lt. Cmdr. James Howard Overstreet, Lt. John Dzema, Lt. Dennis Baird Gleason, Lt. Peter Philip Perrottet, Lt. Robert Frank Taylor, Lt. John Halleck Singer, Lt. j.g. Joseph Richard Ribar, Lt. j.g. Robert Joseph Sykora, Lt. j.g. Norman Elbert Wilkerson, ATC Lavern Albert Greiner, AMC Marshall Harry McNamara, CTC Richard Earl Smith, AT1 Richard Edison Sweeney Jr., AT1 Steven Curtis Chartier, SSGT Hugh M. Lynch, AT1 Bernie Joel Colgin, CT1 John Howard Potts, AM1 Ballard Franklin Connors Jr., AT1 James Leroy Roach, AM2 Louis Frances Balderman, AT2 Timothy Harlin Micneil, AT2 Dennis Joseph Horrigan, AT2 Richard Henry Kincaid, CT2 Frederick Arthur Randall, CT2 Stephen Joseph Tesmer, AT3 Gene Kenneth Graham, AT3 David Monroe Willis, CT3 Gary Ray Ducharme, CT3 John Alexander Miller Jr., CT3 Philip D. Sundby and AN Richard Thomjas Prindle.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at or call 675-6611 "

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