Air Force pilot, Lt. David Dinan III
last township war casualty, MIA over Laos
By Anthony Buccino
Lt. David Dinan III, 25, of Hawthorne Avenue, was killed March 17, 1969, in Laos, Southeast Asia, after he was forced to bail out of a F105 jet that had been hit by ground fire.
Lt. Dinan was a pilot from the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Korat Airbase, Thailand.
During the combat mission, Dinan’s aircraft was hit by enemy fire and he ejected. His parachute was shredded when it hit trees, however, and he sustained what were believed to be fatal injuries from falling through the trees and down an embankment.
Dinan was declared killed in action/body not recovered.
After attending St. Mary’s grammar school, where he was in the Drum and Bugle Corps., and participated in Little League baseball, he entered Seton Hall Prep School. At Seton Hall, he wrote for the newspaper and lettered in track. He earned an engineering degree, with a major in physics at MIT and Stevens Institute of Technology. At MIT, Dinan was a member of Phi Kappa Beta Fraternity. He earned his commission in ROTC at Stevens Institute of Technology, where he majored in physics. He joined the Air Force in 1966.
In addition to his parents, Mrs. and Mrs. Charles Dinan, he is survived by a brother, Marine Lt. Charles Dinan, a sister Mary, and a brother John.
His fiancée, Lt. Valerie Gallulo, who he was to marry the following month, served in the Women’s Air Force. Stationed in Thailand, she served as an intelligence officer. She wrote to his parents: “David is truly a son to be proud of. I only knew him for nine short months but every moment we had together was a cherished one. He was a man and a gentleman in every sense of the word. No higher compliment could have been paid to my womanhood than when he asked me to be his wife.”
In a July 18, 1968, letter to his brothers, Johnny and Charles, Dinan wrote: “I’m sitting in a little shed on the end of the runway with a pair of binoculars and three radios to keep me company while I sit here and watch (supervise) the flying operations. Mostly it’s just boring as the dickens ‘cause most of the time there isn’t anyone landing or taking off. What I do is check the H105’s to make sure everything is normal before they take off and while they’re landing. Thank God for small favors.
“Things are really getting Mickey-Mouse around here, with a whole bunch of new regulations on what is proper behavior for officers and gentlemen on base – and what is ten times worse – they’re telling us how to fly the airplanes in combat. Of course, I have a tendency to develop a short memory when this nonsense is going on. The way I figure it, if I want to go hang my (tail) out going after a target, that’s my decision, and no one else’s.
“I’ve gotten 8 missions in over the North so far, and I’ve got another one this afternoon. So I guess I’ll have 10 counters or maybe 11 by the time I’ve been here a month. If the war keeps up, I could have my 100 in around the middle of March. On the other hand, if the war ends, I’ll probably have to stay here an extra 6 months past the maximum of one year that they can keep me here in a combat zone.
“… Well, John and Charles, that’s about it for now. I’ve got to go get the good words on the target I’m going to strike this afternoon. Good luck to all of you, Mom, Dad and Mary also.”
Lt. Dinan was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-105 Thunderchief pilot over North Vietnam on July 14, 1968. On that date, Lt. Dinan was a member of a flight diverted from a preplanned mission to support the rescue of a fellow pilot downed in a fiercely defended area of North Vietnam. In a constant barrage of deadly anti-aircraft fire, Lt. Dinan, without thought of his own personal safety, made repeated passes in close proximity to the survivor, successfully silencing the fire and halting the advance of hostile ground forces attempting to capture the downed airman. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Lt. Dinan reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
In an Oct. 9, 1968, letter to his parents, Dinan wrote:
“I’m on Okinawa, at Kadena AFB, taking an R&R. I have to go back to Korat either tomorrow or the next day, but I’ve really enjoyed my stay here.
“… As of now I have 43 counters under my belt – almost halfway through. Nothing exciting has happened for the last several times I’ve flown – it’s been a real piece of cake.
Later that month, on Oct. 29, he wrote his parents: “I guess it’s been a sizable time since I wrote. The big reason I didn’t was that I’ve been busy as a beaver since I got back from R&R. We’re short on pilots again, and carrying an increased rate of sorties – so I’ve flown every day but one since I’ve been back. Which makes it kind of rough. I’m always exhausted after I fly – probably half physical and half mental. Also hasn’t been much happening here that’s exciting or interesting.
“… we’ve been saddled with so many restrictions the past couple of months (presumably in an effort to save airplanes) that it’s almost impossible to do an adequate job. I’m sure more stuff gets through now than did a couple of months ago. And, of course, every truckload of stuff we don’t blow up in NVN is a truckload the groundpounders are going to have to face sooner or later.
“… There are really about four different wars going on – three in Laos that you never hear about, and South Vietnam. By the way the rest of this stuff about Laos is supposedly classified – so if you tell anybody, say you read it in Time magazine. They’ve printed most of it.
“Right now we’re flying more missions in Laos than we are in Vietnam. There is a full scale war between the nationalist Lao and Pathet Lao up in northern Laos (Where Dr. Dooley was). The Pathe Lao headquarters is at Sam Neue – and that is always an exciting mission. There are more guns there than anyplace in Pack 1 – or at least they shoot more. The Laotian army desperately needs air support, however, and we provide it. The Air Force calls them “armed reconnaissance” missions – but they are out-and-out raids, and probably the most dangerous we fly.
“I’m in fine shape – just griping more and enjoying it less. And I still can’t spell. I’ve got 53 counters now, and 66 combat missions. A real old pro. But the way, I got my absentee ballot. I just might burn it in effigy. Not too much choice there.
“I have to close now. It’s now 9:30 p.m. – and I have to get up at 0330, I’ll try to write more regularly in the future.”
Lt. Dinan was awarded the Air Medal (Eighth and Ninth Oak Leaf Cluster) for meritorious achievement from Nov. 16, 1968 to Jan. 8, 1968. He was awarded the Air Medal (Tenth Oak Leaf Cluster) for meritorious achievement from Jan. 9 to Feb. 23, 1969.
Lt. Dinan was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (Second Oak Leaf Cluster) for extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight on March 17, 1969. On that date, Lt. Dinan’s flight struck a heavily defended, vulnerable interdiction point and troop encampment under marginal weather conditions.
Lt. Dinan was posthumously awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service from July 1, 1968 to March 17, 1969. Lt. Dinan distinguished himself by meritorious service as Assistant Awards and Decorations Officer while assigned to the 469th and 34th Tactical Fighter Squadrons at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.
Lt. Dinan was awarded the Purple Heart. It is awarded to service personnel who received wounds in action against an armed enemy of the United States during periods of war or armed conflict or who were wounded or lost their lives as a result of action by hostile foreign forces.
Lt. Dinan is among nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos. His remains have not been recovered.
Adapted from the NUTLEY SONS HONOR ROLL – Remembering the Men Who Paid For Our Freedom, The Nutley Sun; John Dinan; Letters home by Lt. Dinan; Herb Hirsch, Herald-News; New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial; Homecoming II Project; National Vietnam Memorial: Panel 29W - Row 062