Lost Back End Crew Families Come Together at The Wall

Walter Allan Linzy lied about his age and enlisted at 16-years-old. He served in Europe, the North Atlantic and the Pacific during World War II, served in Korea and in Vietnam. He joined the U.S. Navy during WWII as a seaman recruit. He rose through the enlisted ranks to master chief petty officer, continued through the four warrant officer ranks that existed at the time and then received a commission as a limited duty officer. He was on the list to become a lieutenant when he bailed out over the South China Sea.

“Dad was a square shooter, as reliable and dependable and career oriented as they get,” said Al Linzy, Walter Linzy’s oldest son. “As a military man myself, I am particularly cognizant of his accomplishments. It illustrates his strength of character.” Al Linzy turned 16 on May 1, 1966. His father went missing on May 26, 1966. The next year, Al Linzy enlisted and also served in Vietnam.

During the assignment in the Philippines, Linzy was pulled onto an emergency mission in response to unusual activity in Vietnam. The mission aircraft encountered a typhoon, and due to severe turbulence, experienced a rare flame-out of both engines at 15,000-18,000 feet, losing all instruments. The pilot ordered the crew to bail out and Linzy, along with crewmates ATR3 Richard Hunt, ATR3 Richard Stocker and ATC Joseph Aubin evacuated the aircraft. Stocker’s body was recovered on May 31, 1966. Linzy’s life vest was found with a note he had written on it: “We are in the water and OK.” The other three crewmen were never recovered.

Tragically, the pilot was eventually able to restart the engines near 8,000 feet, pull the navigator and captain back to their seats and return to Cubi Point.

The families of those four men spent years researching and working to get their names added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That finally happened earlier this month and they were honored during a ceremony on Mother’s Day. The families will all be in Washington, D.C. on Memorial Day to again honor what they call the “Lost Back End Crew.”

Jay Aubin was 13 when his father died thousands of miles away. His father had been stationed in Rota, Spain, but the family stayed behind in Connecticut. His mother was devastated but had to carry on for her family.

The 13-year-old didn’t really understand what was happening, but spent most of his life wondering what had happened to his father.

“He was to the max a family man…that he would move the oceans to get home if he could,” Aubin said of his father. “For years, there was always that one percent in the bottom of your mind that maybe, what if? But that went away and knowing what happened to him was my own personal closure.”

Richard Stocker spent his childhood in Iowa with his three brothers and two sisters. He helped his stepfather with his job and was always picking up bicycle parts until he had enough to build his first bike. His sister, Linda Newton, remembers him riding it for the first time when he ran into the house and tore siding off. When the family moved to Arkansas in the early 1960s, Stocker worked at the local grocery store and made friends wherever he went, Newton said.

Stocker joined the Navy and headed to basic training on July 14, 1964 at San Diego.  From there he was assigned to several naval stations and eventually to Spain where he was able to explore Europe. While stationed in Spain, he volunteered to go to Cubi Point in the Philippines, replacing a sailor whose wife was about to give birth. He was only scheduled to be there for 94 days before returning home on leave. Newton said her brother was very excited about his 21st birthday in April 1966.

Richard Hunt was the second oldest child of nine. A popular young man, he was named prom king before graduating from high school in 1960. He spent two years at Indiana University of PA (IUP), but despite his intelligence, didn’t focus on his studies. Figuring he would be drafted, he enlisted in the Navy in 1964 and a year later he was assigned to Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 2 in the Philippines.

Robert Feiklowicz was deployed with Hunt on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) and the two adjusted to life at sea. The two often found themselves in trouble for not knowing proper protocol, but figured it out together. They became fast friends and during their free time, Hunt taught Feiklowicz to play Pinochle and proved to be a patient partner.

“We had a lot of laughs and shared a lot of talks about our early years and what we wanted to do after the Navy. I know Rich was planning on going back to college because I think he realized he needed to settle down and was getting a feel for what he wanted to do the rest of his life,” Feiklowicz said. “I always envied that, but since I was younger and hadn’t been to college, I was still searching for my direction. Rich seemed to have found his and I regret that he didn’t get the chance to pursue it.”

Every American who has ever donned a uniform has a story to tell. It’s up to us to hear those voices. We must ensure their stories become a part of our collective national memory. Millions visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial each year. Tens of thousands gave their lives during the many years of conflict and their names are etched into the black granite. But they are more than names and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s next mission, 30 years after building The Wall, is to tell the story behind the names—the legacy of the fallen.

Learn more. Get involved. Visit http://www.buildthecenter.org.