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In Memory

Mike Confer (Confer) - Class Of 1960

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01/12/10 10:05 PM #1    

Don Skoumal (1960)

Michael Steel Confer

Mike was born and raised in McCook and attended grade school, Junior High and McCook Senior High. He was all-conference in football for his junior and senior years. He was the 1960 Class President. After graduation from MHS, Mike went on to college at the University of Colorado in Boulder,CO. He enrolled in the NROTC program and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. Following basic training he entered Navy flight school and received his wings after training at bases in Arizona, California and Florida. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade and was assigned to a carrier based squadron of A-4C aircraft known as the "Skyhawk". He flew multiple missions from the USS Coral Sea based in South Vietnam. This squadron flew mostly night missions in groups of 2-6 aircraft. Information released by the Navy stated that Mike's aircraft was on a typical night mission on October 10, 1966 and was likely struck by a surface to air missile and crashed with no evidence that Mike had been able to eject and was assummed to be killed in the crash. Mike was posthumously awarded several medals and commendations including; the Air Medal with Gold Star, the Navy Commendation with Combat V, the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon.

He was shot down just two days after receiving the Navy Commendation Medal for "Courage and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service." The award was based on a mission when Mike was wingman and he assummed the lead when his leader experienced a radio failure. It reads in part; "Despite determined enemy opposition in the target area, he successfully delivered his ordinance in a well-executed, two-plane attack. Safely conducting his leader back to the ship, he made an instrument approach in darkness and adverse weather, detaching from his leader when the ship was in sight".

Note: the following is taken from a report from a Joint Task Force For Full Accounting. The JTFFA attempts to follow-up on missing in action personnel and gives additional information from eyewitnesses.

SYNOPSIS: Date of loss: 10 October 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over water
Aircraft: A-4C Skyhawk

The Douglas A-4C Skyhawk was a single-seat light attack jet flown by both land-based and carrier squadrons, and was the US Navy's standard light attack aircraft at the outset of the war. It was the only carrier-based aircraft that did not have folding wings as well as the only one that required a ladder for the pilot to enter/exit the cockpit. The Skyhawk was used to fly a wide range of missions throughout Southeast Asia including close air support to American troops on the ground in South Vietnam. Flying from a carrier was
dangerous and as many aircraft were lost in "operational incidents" as in combat.

On 10 October 1966, Lt. JG Michael S. Confer was the pilot of an A-4C Skyhawk (serial #151150, tail number NE# 340) that launched from the deck of the USS Coral Sea as the #2 aircraft in a section of two conducting a routine night road reconnaissance mission. The briefed flight path covered a waterway system formed by the Song Hong Ha River, better known as the Red River, south of Hanoi, Nam Ha Province, North Vietnam.

The Red River Delta region was a large area roughly in the shape of a triangle and was a densely populated coastal plain laced with rivers, waterways and roads
of all sizes crisscrossing it in all directions. It was also dotted with villages, towns and cities throughout the area that supported a wide variety of industry, much of which was geared toward their war effort. Rice fields
flourished everywhere making the Red River delta the major food supplier for North Vietnam.

Near the end of the mission, the flight leader dropped flares over a pre-brief target located in the Red River Delta southeast of Hanoi near the coastline. The target was well illuminated and Lt. JG Confer rolled into a dive to deliver rockets on the target. Lead observed his wingman fire his rockets. He also continued to watch as Michael Confer did not pull out of his dive, but continued downward until he crashed into the very shallow water approximately ½ mile south of the shore.

The flight leader saw no ejection in the light of the flare before the aircraft impacted the water, nor did he see a parachute. The flight leader initiated an immediate visual and electronic search for LT. JG Confer and continued it until other aircraft arrived onsite to assist with the search and rescue (SAR) operation. At no time were electronic emergency beeper signals heard emanating from the area of loss. At the time the search effort was terminated, Michael Confer was listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

While the wingman's description of the crash site being approximately ½ off shore, the loss location coordinates indicate the crash site was actually in a rice field just west of Kien Hanh village and roughly ½ mile north of the shoreline. The confusion in determining whether the crash site location was over water or over land could be attributed to the chaos of battle at night with the aircraft crashing into a flooded rice field. The reflection of flare light off the rice paddy water would look generally the same as the reflection off the shallow water just off shore.

During November 1993, a team of US investigators from the Joint Task Force for Full Accounting (JTFFA) interviewed a witness who provided information
concerning an A4 that was shot down by his militia on the night of 10 October 1966. According to the witness, this aircraft exploded in the air and crashed at sea approximately 1 kilometer off shore. Even though the witness indicated the A-4 was shot down a year before Michael Confer's loss, JTFFA personnel believed
the information correlated to this aircraft loss.

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