January 30, 1935 (Paris, France) – February 1, 1966; 31 years old; married to Marilyn J. Prevost; 2 sons, Albert and Michael
Last local address: 40 Wilton Avenue, Norwalk
MOS: 7308, Pilot
Tour Start Date: June 16, 1963
Service number: 083622
III MAF, 1ST MARINE AIR WING, Marine AERIAL REFUELER TRANSPORT SQUADRON VMGR-152, MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP MAG-15
Casualty Location: Off the coast of North Vietnam over the Gulf of Tonkin; plane and bodies not recovered
Awarded the Air Medal and the Purple Heart Medal
Final Mission of 1Lt Albert M. Prevost
On January 30, 1966, a United States Marine KC-130F Hercules aircraft #804, the “DASC” tanker, was returning to Da Nang airbase after a refueling mission over the Gulf of Tonkin for Marine and Navy F-4B Phantom jets enroute to bomb the Haiphong area was “scrubbed”. The aircraft held over 70,000 gallons of aviation fuel in its “bladder” in the fuselage. The aircraft radioed a transmission that it “saw some unusual ‘flashes’ on ‘Tigre Island’ as it flew over it enroute south, and that it was going to make another pass to “take a look-see.” This was simply a routine effort by the aircraft commander to contribute perhaps some extra intelligence with the mission, since Tigre Island (North Vietnamese territory) was classified “unoccupied.” That was the last transmission received, and shortly thereafter, the aircraft disappeared from the Da Nang radar scope. It was determined later that the NVA had secretly moved several radar-controlled anti-aircraft 37mm guns onto Tigre Island just for the purpose of trying to down American aircraft that regularly flew over or near the island. Apparently, #804 was hit and exploded in midair when the aviation fuel was ignited, killing all aboard. Extensive searches of the sea, the island, and the near-by North Vietnamese Coastline yielded not one shred of neither the aircraft nor any of the six marine crewmembers on board: pilot 1Lt Albert M. Prevost, crew chief SSgt Peter G. Vlahakos, navigator GYSgt Galen F. Humphrey, and crew members Maj Richard A. Alm, SSgt Donald L. Coates, and SSgt Russell B. Luker. All were declared “Killed in Action, Bodies Not Recovered”. [Narrative from marinestogetherweserved.com]
Posted on vvmf.org August 13, 2000 by Art Benjamin, Maj, USAF-retired
Al Prevost and I grew up in Norwalk, CT and attended high school (Fairfield Prep) together, graduating in 1953. Al was an outstanding high school football player and athlete. I went on to college and Al joined the Marines. I graduated and went into the Air Force, initially flying fighters on Okinawa after flight school in 1958. Al worked his way up in the Marine Corps and eventually attended flight school and was commissioned. I was in Vietnam in 1966, flying in the 5th Air Commando (later called Special Operations) Squadron at Nha Trang when I received a letter from home telling me Al was missing up north. Al, Old Friend, we never had the opportunity to meet again after high school, but I’d like to be your wingman in that final formation to come. – Art
Posted on vvmf.org November 2, 2003 by Michael Prevost (son)
Albert Michael Prevost is my father. I hope that the man I strive to be is the kind of person Al would have appreciated, understood and loved. I was 9 years old when he was lost in the war over the sea. I live with brief memories of how we spent time together, the things he liked, and the places we visited together. Albert Michael Prevost is my son. I hope that the man I strive to be is the kind of person Al will appreciate, understand, and love. Al is 10 years old and he is named after my father. Al and I will visit the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial for the first time this week. I wish to give my son, rich memories of the things we do together, like our trip to Washington to honor Albert Michael Prevost.
The following letter along with some pictures after the letter, were provided via e-mail by Dee Resnick Forlano, who has worn a POW/MIA bracelet with Lt Prevost’s name on it. Many thanks to her for her contribution
Ruth M. Reynolds
69 Whitney Street
THE KNOWN SOLDIER
A Short Biography
“The war down there in Vietnam is just short of Hell.” This was Al’s first real letter to Marilyn (his wife) since his assignment to duty in Vietnam. The date was November 7th, 1965.
“The V.C.s (Viet Cong = enemy) are a sneaky, dirty, devil-may-care- about-dying type of enemy. The children are walking booby traps with bombs attached to them. School kids are grenade throwers. Women, both old and young, walk around with T.N.T. charges strapped to them and blow up while G.I.s are talking with them.”
He thanked God this wasn’t his tour of duty. Twenty-nine years old at the time, Albert Prevost was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Air Force, having joined the Corps when he was nineteen. He had always wanted to fly and that’s exactly what he was doing — often a twenty-hour work day.
All too often Lieutenant Prevost went into his tent in Vietnam or his quarters in Futema, Okinawa and plopped on the bed, and into a dead sleep. He had to fly twice as much as a pilot should because his outfit was badly under-staffed.
The letter went on to describe some of his routine to Marilyn. “I’ve carried some 200 wounded with every-thing missing imaginable — from fingers to hips on down.
“I’ve carried 47 V.C. prisoners in a cargo compartment in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. area. Just a stack of dirty — literally with a quarter of an inch of mud all over them — small statured people with a look on their faces of fear, hate and despair. We threw a steel cargo net over them and strapped them down to the deck in 2 heaping mass of human flesh.
“I carried 83 dead, both Vietnamese and Americans, with a smell I can’t describe or forget.
“I’ve carried tons and tons of cargo and moved men from place to place. Down there we live in tents, eat chow outside when available and walk around with loaded pistols.
“When we fly at night, we fly without lights for fear of being shot at from the hillsides. I’ve done quite a bit of aerial refueling both in North and South Vietnam.
“I love the flying but I hate the reason,”
He touched on things that were personal and important to Marilyn and himself … his need to love and to be loved … of their life together.
Al had met Marilyn in Memphis, Tennessee shortly after he was stationed there with the Marine contingent at the Naval base. They were both nineteen when they married despite objections on both sides because of their youth.
By 1965 the Prevosts had two sons. Ray, who was now nine, favored his mother with her hazel eyes and auburn hair. Mike, who was seven, had his father’s deep blue eyes and dark brown hair. The family had been based at Cherry Point, North Carolina but when Al was assigned to duty in Vietnam, they decided it would be best for Marilyn and the boys to move back to Memphis — to her mother’s home until this thing was over.
On November 19th, 1965 Al wrote to the foster mother he called Mom. He described his duties briefly but wanted to know about her. Was she taking care of herself? He didn’t want to be worrying about her, the letter said in Al’s easy, bantering way. Mom had apologized for her writing paper. He wrote, “I like the baby-blue paper so don’t give any excuses. And don’t worry about me, Mom. I don’t need anything over here. Thank you anyway. But tell me — what would you like from the Orient?”
Mrs. Rorke, or Mom, lived alone in Connecticut. She and her husband, Ray, had brought Al up from the time he was six years old. The boy came to their home on a wet, cold day in March, 1941, an engaging child with a quick, illuminating smile. He wore his little navy-blue beret at a jaunty angle but didn’t speak a word of English. The Rorkes knew little or no French.
Papa, as Al called his real father, had become an American citizen at some point in his life. He managed to get out of France just before the Nazi invasion. With the help of the Red Cross and the American Legion the father got his boy and himself to Lisbon and passage on a boat to America, Al’s mother was apparently dead. Papa never spoke of her.
Because Papa could find no one to mind Al while he looked for a job, a mutual friend thought of the Rorkes, who had no children of their own, and asked if they’d mind the boy for a few days. The few days turned into years. Papa found a job out west in electronics, but Al stayed on with the Rorkes and everyone was happy with the arrangement.
Ray Rorke died when Al was in his senior year at prep school. After graduation the young man decided to seek further education and a career in one of the services, He enlisted in the Marine Corps. In the course of time he became a flying instructor and a First Lieutenant. His captaincy — through on February 1st, 1966. But it was never conferred.
On that day Al Prevost took off on a refueling mission over the Gulf of Tonkin. It was the first day out at the end of the thirty-seven-day Christmas truce. He failed to return from the mission.
On February 2nd, a chaplain and an officer from the base in Memphis came to Marilyn’s home to break the news to her. They reassured her that extensive search operations were in progress.
As the days went by with no further word Marilyn felt she could accept any news rather than no word at all. Ray and Mike were so trusting that everything was going to be all right it hurt her to watch them.
On February 16th she received word that the extensive search operations for the missing aircraft had been unsuccessful. Albert Prevost’s status remained the same. Missing. She would be kept informed.
She wrote to Mom. “I feel we will know just what happened, Al had so many friends over with him. I do want to know the truth no matter how bad it may be. Do you?”
It was from a member of Al’s squadron that Marilyn learned the detailed story.
On February 1st, just after crossing the border into North Vietnam, Al reported to Danang that he was observing flashes on a small speck of land called Tiger Island on the navigation charts. The Navy had been using it to dump their remaining bombs before returning to the carrier. They can’t land aboard with bombs.
Al observed the flashes but didn’t see any of the Navy’s 4 A-4’s. Thinking they might be coming from downed pilot the Marine flyer told Danang that he was going down for a closer look. Then Danang lost contact with him.
Neither Al nor any of the Navy pilots were aware that, during the thirty-seven-day truce period, the North Vietnamese had moved a radar-controlled anti-aircraft gun onto the island. It was well fortified and dug in so it could be rolled underground when not being used.
This gun fires a high explosive round — quite accurately Al’s C-130 made a nice, big target. He must have flown down the barrels of the gun and never known what hit him.
The search planes failed to find a single piece of his plane.
On March 1st, the status of First Lieutenant Albert Prevost was officially changed from missing to dead — as of February 1st.
Marilyn felt that she had known it all along.
The fact was confirmed by First Wing Intelligence. They had picked up a coded message sent to Hanoi reporting that the plane had been shot down while circling Tiger Island. The North Vietnamese further reported that the plane had exploded in the air when it was hit.
Al was carrying 65,000 pounds of fuel aboard. The plane must have disintegrated into a million pieces.
Al’s friend wrote, “Two days later (February 3rd) the Navy bombed hell out of the island. There has been nothing from Tiger Island since then. We have moved our refueling areas also and we’re getting fighter escorts now — so maybe Al wasn’t lost for nothing.”
Early that June Marilyn arranged a service for Al in her church in Northport, North Carolina — near the base at Cherry Point. The minister, who knew the family well, paid Al a moving tribute as father, husband and soldier.
Marilyn had a tight grip on herself. Ray sat next and let the tears fall. She told him, “Tears and heartaches go with this and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Mike sat next to Mom who was crying. He held back his tears but the first of the migraine headaches he would suffer started that day.
Taps sounded. But it was only when they presented her with the folded American flag that Marilyn broke down for the first time.
Papa was there. The memory of his flight from Paris in 1941 with the six-year-old boy was somehow ironic now — the flight to safety. But he would glimpse forever that little boy in his red jacket, leaning against the boat railing with the sunset shining on his hair.