James Joseph Connell

Lieutenant Commander
United States Navy
06 May 1939 - 14 January 1971
Wilmington, DE
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A-4 Skyhawk

Navy Cross POW Medal

Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for James Joseph Connell

James J Connell

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Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy

For extraordinary heroism as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam from April 1968 to June 1969. Under constant pressure from the North Vietnamese in their attempt to gain military information and propoganda material, he experienced severe torture with ropes and was kept in almost continuous solitary confinement. As they persisted in their hostile treatment of him, he continued to resist by feigning facial muscle spasms, incoherency of speech, and crippled arms with loss of feeling in his fingers. The Vietnamese, convinced of his plight, applied shock treatments in an attempt to improve his condition. However, he chose not to indicate improvement for fear of further cruelty. Isolated in a corner of the camp near a work area visited daily by other prisoners, he established and maintained covert communications with changing groups of POW's, thereby serving as a main point of exchange of intelligence information. By his exceptional courage, determination, and resourcefulness in this most difficult line of resistance, he reflected great credit upon himslf and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service and the United States Armed Forces.

Virtual Wall Notes

James J. Connell was graduated from the United States Naval Academy with the Class of 1961 and proceeded into the flight training program, qualifying in the A-4 Skyhawk light attack aircraft. On 10 Dec 1965, Lieutenant Connell deployed as a pilot in Attack Squadron 55 embarked in USS RANGER (CVA-61).

On 15 July 1966, LT Connell was flying A-4E BuNo 151024 as one of four aircraft conducting an "Iron Hand" mission along the Red River south of Hanoi. The flight encountered heavy conventional antiaircraft artillery and SAM fire as they attacked an SA-2 surface-to-air missile site. As the flight pulled off target one of the pilots saw a parachute on the ground and realized that Connell had been shot down. Shortly thereafter, Connell established radio contact with his squadronmates and advised them that he was OK, having sustained only minor injuries during the ejection. Rescue efforts were impossible in this high threat area and it was taken for granted that he would be captured. He was.

When the POWs were repatriated in February 1973, Jimmy Connell was not among them; he had died in captivity, reportedly on 14 January 1971. His remains were not repatriated until 06 March 1974.

Lieutenant Commander Connell's Navy Cross Citation speaks to both his treatment while a POW and his response to that treatment. He was kept in solitary confinement for several years and was subjected to repeated and severe physical and mental abuse by his captors. His fellow POWs were in a position to judge LCDR Connell's response, and it was their judgement and first-person testimony which led to the award of the Navy Cross.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his wife,
Jenny Robertson
27 Nov 2002

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 11/27/2002