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First Name: Michael

Last Name: Estocin

Birthplace: Turtle Creek, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Akron, OH
Middle Name: John

Date of Birth: 27 April 1931

Date of Death: 26 April 1967 (Presumed)

Rank or Rate: Captain

Years Served: 1954-1967
Michael John Estocin

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Michael John Estocin
Captain, U.S. Navy
Medal of Honor Recipient
Vietnam War

Captain Michael John Estocin was a U.S. Navy officer that was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest Medal, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions in the Vietnam War.

Estocin was born on 27 April 1931, at Turtle Creek, PA. He was from Beaver Falls, PA, and joined the U.S. Navy from Akron, OH, in 1954. On 20 April 1967, he had reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was an A-4 Skyhawk pilot in Attack Squadron 192, operating off of the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) in the Gulf of Tonkin. On that day, he supported a bombing mission over Haiphong, North Vietnam.

Six days later, on 26 April, he supported another strike aimed at Haiphong's thermal power station, with John B. Nichols acting as his escort in an F-8 Crusader. Estocin and Nichols flew ahead of the main attack and were charged with suppressing any surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area. The strike on the power plant went off without incident, and the two pilots were about to head back to the Ticonderoga when Estocin detected an active SAM site. A single missile was launched from the site and exploded near his A-4, knocking it into a barrel roll. Estocin was able to regain control and pulled the aircraft, burning at the belly and wing roots, into a 30 degree dive.

Estocin's wingman, John Nichols, immediately called for a helicopter rescue. He flew beside the stricken plane, getting close enough to see Estocin in the cockpit with his head bent forward slightly, not moving. He tried to contact Estocin by radio but received no response. As the A-4 lost altitude and entered a cloud bank, Nichols continued to follow it, even as a second SAM exploded nearby. After reaching 600 feet he leveled off and watched as Estocin's plane impacted with the ground. He circled the area, looking for a parachute, but saw nothing. Nichols called off the rescue mission and returned to the Ticonderoga.

Although Nichols was certain Estocin had been killed in the crash, intelligence from Hanoi indicated that he had ejected and been captured. The U.S. military declared him a prisoner of war, causing Nichols to feel deep guilt for having called off the rescue mission. When the prisoners were released in 1973 and Estocin was not among them, it was presumed that he had died in captivity.

For his actions during the missions over Haiphong on 20 and 26 April 1967, Estocin was promoted to Captain in absentia and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 20 and 26 April 1967 as a pilot in Attack Squadron 192, embarked in USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14). Leading a 3-plane group of aircraft in support of a coordinated strike against two thermal power plants in Haiphong, North Vietnam, on 20 April 1967, Capt. Estocin provided continuous warnings to the strike group leaders of the surface-to-air missile (SAM) threats, and personally neutralized 3 SAM sites. Although his aircraft was severely damaged by an exploding missile, he reentered the target area and relentlessly prosecuted a SHRIKE attack in the face of intense antiaircraft fire. With less than 5 minutes of fuel remaining he departed the target area and commenced in-flight refueling which continued for over 100 miles. Three miles aft of Ticonderoga, and without enough fuel for a second approach, he disengaged from the tanker and executed a precise approach to a fiery arrested landing. On 26 April 1967, in support of a coordinated strike against the vital fuel facilities in Haiphong, he led an attack on a threatening SAM site, during which his aircraft was seriously damaged by an exploding SAM; nevertheless, he regained control of his burning aircraft and courageously launched his SHRIKE missiles before departing the area. By his inspiring courage and unswerving devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger, Captain Estocin upheld the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Captain Estocin's Medal of Honor was presented to his family, ostensibly posthumously, at The Pentagon by Secretary of the Navy W. Graham Clayton, Jr. on 27 February 1978. 

In 1976, Estocin's parents ran him as a write-in candidate for President of the United States to bring attention to Prisoner of War/Missing in Action issues.

In 1993, a committee investigating the cases of missing U.S. military personnel determined that Estocin was never captured and had indeed died in the crash of his plane. His disappearance and presumed death occurred one day before his 36th birthday.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Michael J. Estocin's name is inscribed on Panel 18E - Line 092.


• The Michael J. Estocin Award was created by the U.S. Navy to recognize meritorious achievement by a strike fighter squadron. The award, originally sponsored by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, is a trophy with a polished black stone base and an 18 inch (46 cm) stainless steel ribbon topped with a stylized model of a strike fighter aircraft. It is awarded annually to the strike fighter squadron with the greatest professional reputation, aggressiveness, and operational performance.

• The U.S. Navy named the guided missile frigate USS Estocin (FFG-15), launched in 1979, in his honor.

Death and Burial

Captain Michael John Estocin was (presumed) killed in action on 26 April 1967. His remains were never recovered. An 'In Memory' marker is located at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA, in Section MA, Site 112.

Honoree ID: 936   Created by: MHOH




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