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John William Frederick Jr.
Born December 13, 1923
Died July 19, 1972(1972-07-19) (aged 48)
Place of birth Manito, Illinois
Place of death Hanoi, North Vietnam
Buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Tremont, Illinois
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942–1972
Rank USMC CWO4.svg Chief Warrant Officer 4
Battles/wars

World War II

Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star w/ Combat "V"
Purple Heart (2)
Prisoner of War Medal

John William Frederick Jr. (December 13, 1923 – July 19, 1972) was a highly decorated United States Marine Corps chief warrant officer 4. Frederick was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross during the Vietnam War, where he spent over six and a half years as a prisoner of war before he died in captivity.

Early life and service[edit | edit source]

John W. Frederick Jr. was born on December 13, 1923, in Manito, Illinois. On May 7, 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and subsequently attended Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, California. During 40 combat missions in World War II, Frederick served as a tail gunner and radar operator on Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo bombers.[1][2]

After the war, Frederick flew reconnaissance missions in China during Operation Beleaguer. Frederick often flew over Communist Chinese camps, although the rules of engagement did not allow him to fire at the Communists unless fired upon.[3]

During the first year of the Korean War, Technical Sergeant Frederick flew 90 combat missions as the co-pilot in Grumman F7F Tigercats with Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 542 (VMF(AW)-542). He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service before rotating home in July 1951.[1][4]

After the war, Master Sergeant Frederick was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, and Naval Air Station Atsugi, Japan. He was assigned to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in August 1961, where he worked on the F4H-1 Phantom II project. On October 25, 1961, Frederick was promoted to warrant officer. In December 1964, he was assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 533 (VMA-533) at Cherry Point. In May of the following year, Frederick transferred to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323).[1]

Vietnam War[edit | edit source]

On December 1, 1965, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frederick deployed to Vietnam with VMFA-323. On the night of December 7, Frederick was the radar intercept officer of an F4B Phantom during an escort mission out of Da Nang Air Base when his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam. Although he severely burned his hands when his part of the cockpit was enveloped by flames, he successfully ejected from the aircraft. The pilot, Major John H. Dunn, also survived the crash and was captured six days later.[1][2][5]

The next morning, Frederick accidentally walked into an enemy gun emplacement and single-handedly attacked the position. He managed to kill a few North Vietnamese soldiers before he was overpowered and captured. Frederick was subsequently beaten and taken to a prisoner of war camp in Hanoi.[2]

As one of the first Marines to be taken as a POW during the war, Frederick helped set the standard for conduct of other captured Marines, unifying the men and increasing morale. Frederick strictly adhered to the code of conduct and refused to take part in North Vietnamese propaganda programs. Frederick's resistance to the enemy also caused him to be routinely tortured and beaten during countless interrogations.[4] Frederick also faced extended periods of solitary confinement for refusing to bow and refusing to provide biographical information. In 1972, he was held in solitary confinement for 90 days and contracted either typhoid fever or meningitis.[2][3] Falling into a coma, Frederick was likely being transported to a hospital in Hanoi when he died on or about July 19, 1972, after more than 2,400 days in captivity.[1]

While other American prisoners of war were released between February and April 1973 during Operation Homecoming, Frederick's remains were returned to the United States on March 13, 1974. He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Tremont, Illinois.[4][6]

Posthumous honors[edit | edit source]

Frederick was posthumously promoted to chief warrant officer 4. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor, however this award was downgraded to the Navy Cross. Frederick was also awarded the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, and the Bronze Star for his actions while a prisoner of war; making him one of the most decorated warrant officers in Marine Corps history.[1][3][4]

In 1999, a study lounge at The Basic School in Marine Corps Base Quantico was dedicated in Frederick's name.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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