NIOC Hawaii Commemorates 50th Anniversary of EC-121 Shootdown
By Lt. Juliann Gonzales, FCC/C10F
HONOLULU -- Navy Information Operations Command Hawaii (NIOC HI), held a remembrance ceremony on April 15 in honor of the crew of the U.S. Navy EC-121M, call sign Deep Sea 129.
This year marked the 50th anniversary of since North Korean fighter planes shot down Deep Sea 129 over the Sea of Japan, April 15, 1969.
In addition to a wreath-laying ceremony accompanied by the firing of three volleys in honor of the fallen, courtesy of an element from the Marine Corps’ Third Radio Battalion, NIOC HI Sailors had the opportunity to hear remarks from CDR Joe Overstreet, the son of LCDR James Overstreet, who was the officer in charge of Deep Sea 129.
“The U.S. amassed a substantial striking force,” said Overstreet, describing the aftermath of the shoot-down. “But they did not exact any retaliation, which was bitter for those of us on the front line. We had just lost 31 shipmates.”
The 30 Sailors and one Marine who perished in the attack were recognized during the ceremony by a roll call of the fallen. From a tight formation of Sailors in dress white uniforms, came the calls. Names were recited one by one as if the crew of Deep Sea 129 themselves had fallen into formation with the NIOC HI Sailors. Each name was accompanied by two peals of the ship’s bell.
The roll call and tolling of the bell were traditional of the annual remembrance ceremony, but this year’s anniversary held significance as surviving family members of many of the fallen crew were in attendance.
“This [ceremony] had a much bigger personal and emotional impact because the families were there,” said CTIC Kim Keating, who served as the master of ceremonies during the event. “They didn’t even know that we do this every year. I think that it was very meaningful to them that there’s this community remembrance.”
Many of the Sailors present at the ceremony felt a strong personal connection with the tragic loss of Deep Sea 129. Although an armistice was called between Russia-allied North Korea and U.S.-allied South Korea in July of 1953, tensions remain, and it is easy for those working in the Indo-Pacific area to put themselves in the shoes of the crew.
“We weren’t actively at war with North Korea,” said CTI1 Tony Betts. “Tensions were high but those Sailors and that Marine had probably flown that mission hundreds of times without incident. It reminds you that this isn’t just a job, it’s the military. You put yourself in the line of fire every day. It could have been your best friend; it could even have been you. And there’s something comforting, something cathartic about knowing that someday, if it is you, that you won’t be forgotten. You’ll be remembered and honored.”
NIOC HI/Commander, Task Force (CTF) 1070, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam with multiple locations on the island of Oahu and throughout the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, provides a wide range of Information Warfare support to the Fleet and NSA, to include SIGINT and cyber operations. NIOC HI/CTF 1070 is composed of more than 2,000 active and reserve Sailors and civilians and is a leader in integrating Information Warfare efforts across cyber, space, and electromagnetic domains.