Biographical / Historical
The materials in this collection document the role played by Naval Intelligence Liaison Officers (NILOs) during the Vietnam War. The collection is named after Lieutenant Commander John (Jack) Graf, the only NILO killed in the Vietnam War.
LCDR John George 'Jack' Graf was born on 20 October 1927 in Los Angeles, CA. He was enlisted in the Naval Reserves, in 1945, at the close of WWII, and reenlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1946, initially serving with Weather Reconnaissance Squadron One in Guam, as a Photographer. He also served in China, Korea, the Phillipines, Hawaii, and Antarctica. In 1956, Graf became a Chief Photographer's Mate, and went to serve at Little America, Antarctica between 1957 and 1958. He was promoted to Ensign while there, and was the first serviceman to have that honor in Antarctica.
In 1961, Graf became a Bombardier Navigator. Later, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam for two tours. The first tour was from 1966-1967, and he served with the 22nd Tactical Air Support Squadron, as a Tactical Observer and a Naval Intelligence Liaison Officer. In 1967, while on a recon mission, his pilot was shot and killed, and Graf had to fly the plane back to the base from the second seat, having no prior pilot experience. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as a result.
Graf's second tour was from 1968-1969, where he served as a Third Coastal Zone Intelligence Officer (3CZIO), where he flew reconnaissance missions with a pilot. On 15 November 1969, he and his pilot were on a mission 20 miles south of Vung Tau, Cuu Long Province, when the plane was shot down by local VC guerrillas. Graf and the pilot, White, were seen ejecting from the aircraft, and were discovered to have been captured by the VC shortly after landing in the marshes. Events are unclear beyond this date, but White, who was the last POW repatriated in Operation Homecoming, in April 1973, related that Graf had made at least one escape attempt, and as many as three. On his final attempt, in late January 1970, he was reported as drowned swimming down a river near the prison camp. The VC allegedly recovered the body days later and buried it on a river bank that was later flooded, making recovery of the body by the U.S. impossible. Graf was declared deceased in 1978 by the military. He had been awarded the rank of Commander in 1976.
Graf received many awards and citations through his career including, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with Silver Star, the National Defense Service Medal, the UN Service Medal for Korea, China Service Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, POW Medal, Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Gold Star device, Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960 device.