Gordon Ross Nakagawa began his service in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of California, Berkeley. He later commissioned as an officer in February 1958. After undergoing aviation training in Florida, Nakagawa became a Naval Aviator in August 1958. Later, he became an anti-submarine warfare officer. He contributed to the development of effective tactics for carrier task groups against nuclear attack submarines. Nakagawa also served in California as the Pacific Missile Range program manager, where he helped improve the ballistic missile capability for penetrating anti-missile defenses.
In December 1966, Nakagawa served with the A-6 squadron on the USS Yorktown. He completed two combat deployments, which included Sea of Japan operations following the capture of the USS Pueblo. His squadron was also the first to conduct a successful night attack on a surface-to-air missile in October 1967.
After his deployment, Nakagawa taught guided missile design at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland. He also trained flight crews in Washington before serving with an attack squadron on the USS Enterprise in 1971. Nakagawa participated in Operation Linebacker II. Enemy forces shot down his aircraft over the Tonkin Gulf coastline in North Vietnam Dec. 20, 1972. He and two other men were picked up by a North Vietnamese militia and taken to Hỏa Lò Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton. The enemy later moved them to “The Zoo” in southern Hanoi. His captors blindfolded, interrogated and beat Nakagawa while in captivity from December 1972 to March 1973.
After recuperating, Nakagawa became the skipper of the attack squadron for the USS Enterprise. He participated in the evacuation of Saigon on April 20, 1975. He escorted U.S. military and civilian personnel to the USS Midway. During his service, Nakagawa received two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts and two Meritorious Service Medals.
Nakagawa retired from the Navy in 1989. He died in August 2011 at the age of 76.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Sarah Concepcion
Graphic artist: Deanna Cannon