8. Gulf of Tonkin Pilots Reunited after 55 years

by Rich Rodriguez | Tuesday, September 17th 2019- Fox26 News Fresno

Three Vietnam era Navy fighter pilots based in Lemoore were reunited Tuesday after 55 years.

The trio includes retired Captain John Nicholson and retired Commanders Ronald Boch and Everett Alvarez.

They were stationed in Lemoore but it was the Gulf of Tonkin incident off the coast of Vietnam on August 4, 1964 that drew them closer.

All three were flying retaliatory strikes on the North Vietnamese. Navy pilot Alvarez was shot down.

“I made my last pass with my machine gun but then coming out. No wonder I got hit they had so much triple A there. I was real low.”

Alvarez was rescued and jailed by the North Vietnamese. He was considered a prize catch.

“And he said oh they shot down many airplanes and we captured one. And he said that’s you. And I said oh yeah.”

Alvarez was the first pilot shot down over Vietnam. He’s also the longest held prisoner of war in North Vietnam…. 8 and a half years.

“Well spirituality in my case had a lot to do with it. A lot of fair and I have to say common sense.”

All three former pilots received drawings of the fighter jet they flew over Vietnam. Tuesday morning in Porterville a newly painted A4 Skyhawk plane was dedicated to honor Commander Alvarez. A day of tributes 55 years in the making.

Commander Alvarez is a former deputy director of the Peace Corps and former deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration.







  1. Captain Nick,

    The honor was all mine. I always knew you were a good man; I did not realize how great a man you were (are). It was a privilege to shake Everett Alvarez’ hand and finally thank him for his service. A wonderful day with wonderful memories. Great to see you. Take care and best of everything to you and yours.


  2. Captain Nick,

    It was so great to see you and all the Sanger High Alumni. So very proud to be part of that incredible NJROTC program. Thank you for investing in our lives and the lives of so many others. I am so grateful.

    And, I’m happy to share, that every young Naval Aviator that comes through Corpus Christi and receives their wings hears my rendition of the Gulf of Tonkin incident to hear about you and Everett Alvarez. It is part of my “Giants of Naval Aviation” speech to each Winging class. The remarks conclude as only appropriate…With a Press On to each new aviator.

    With the greatest respect,

  3. Capt Nick,

    I double checked my DD-214 and I had remembered right. You swore me in on September 15, 1989. So it will have been 30 years +2 days when I’ll see you at the commemoration.


  4. Hi Captain
    I wish too that we would have had a little more time to visit but we can always do that on the phone too. It was such an honor to be there. I did get to have a brief visit with Ron Jones and I enjoyed that too.
    We are making our way north and east, in north east Utah tonight, still a ways to go to South Dakota. Thank you for all you have done for us.

    (Larry and his wife drove all the way from South Dakota for this reunion – true shipmate!)

  5. Author

    CAPT Nick,
    Thank you again for joining us in Lemoore to commemorate your time in service, the events of 4-5 August, 1964, and LTJG Alvarez’s time as a POW…your presentation exceeded all expectations!
    Saturday my wife and I attended a Beer Fest at Harris Ranch with stations that paired specific foods with beer samples.  The focus brewery was Riley Brewing from Madera.  While discussing his business with the owner, Dan Riley, we figure out that he was one of your ROTC students at Sanger.  He graduated in 1989 and went into the Army as an MP.  When I mentioned that you were in the area 10 day prior his eyes light up with pure joy, but he was sad to hear that he missed you.
    Truly a small world that you have had a profound impact on!  A copy of his business card is attached if you would like to reach out.
    v/r – Goat
    CAPT James “Goat Boy” Bates
    Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet
    NAS Lemoore, CA 93246

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