SD Vietnam War Memorial Dedication Please Support the Memorial Soldiers, Heroes, and teachers information



In Memory of U.S. Navy Captain

Donald Deane Aldern

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Minnehaha County

 May 5, 1930 – June 29, 1970

Missing in Action, Declared Dead in Southern Laos

Donald Deane Aldern was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on May 5, 1930. His parents were John and Emma (Dahl) Aldern. Deane, as his friends and family knew him, attended Washington High School in Sioux Falls and graduated from there in 1948. On June 11, 1952, Deane was married to Marjorie Louise Elmen. They had four sons:  Thomas, Scott, Christopher, and Randall.

 After graduation from high school in 1948, Deane was accepted into the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. Shortly after his commission as an Ensign in 1952, Aldern completed flight training and took on the role of Naval Aviator in March of 1954. He first served with Utility Squadron Seven and was later transferred to Fighter Squadron Ninety-Four where he served aboard the attack carriers USS Yorktown and USS Hornet in the Pacific. Captain Aldern then returned to the Air Force Academy as an instructor in air navigation and military studies.

 In 1961, Captain Aldern served as a flight deck officer on board the USS Enterprise on an extended deployment during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1964, he reported to Fighter Squadron One Hundred Seventy-Four and then Fighter Squadron Eleven before being assigned as operations officer of Air Wing One aboard the USS Roosevelt  in the Mediterranean. In 1966, Captain Aldern became executive officer and commanding officer of Fighter Squadron One Hundred Ninety-One aboard the USS Ticonderoga, where he completed two combat tours in Southeast Asia. After further training at the Air War College in Alabama, Captain Aldern became the commander of Air Wing Nineteen aboard the USS Oriskany.

 On June 29, 1970, during a night bombing run, Captain Donald Deane Aldern’s plane crashed in southern Laos. A letter to Deane’s wife, Marjorie, from Vice Admiral C.K. Duncan was “received by phone” at 2:20 PM on July 30, 1970:


Text Box: I regret to confirm on behalf of U.S. Navy, your husband, CDR D. D. Aldern, USN, 548071310, is missing in action in Southern Laos. During the first bombing run his aircraft impacted with the ground while on a night controlled strike 29 June 1970.
 Your husband was not observed to leave the aircraft. No ground fire was observed. 
 You may be assured that every effort is being made with personnel and facilities available to locate your husband. Your great anxiety in this situation is understood and when further information is available concerning the result of the search now in progress you will be promptly notified. 
 I wish to assure you of every possible assistance together with heartfelt sympathy of myself  and your husband’s shipmates at this time of heartache and uncertainty. If I can assist you please write or telegraph.









 In a later document entitled “Summary of Loss” further details were supplied about the bombing mission where Captain Aldern presumably perished. Included in those details was the fact that his wingman had attempted unsuccessfully to make radio contact after he saw a “large explosion and fire just beyond the bomb impact area.” A search was delayed due to “darkness and the monsoon weather conditions.” The next day the Joint Personnel Recovery Center said that a “ground search party was in the vicinity of the reported crash site and had to depart the area prior to examination.” Later searches produced “negative results” in part due to ground fire which hindered the aerial reconnaissance that was attempted. It was thought that Captain’s Aldern’s bombing mission was normal up to the “bomb release point” which in turn reinforced the initial report that he probably did not eject from the aircraft. The summary ended with the line, “In the unlikely event that egress prior to ground impact was accomplished, the probability of pilot survival in such a hostile environment would have been extremely low.”

 Captain Aldern was carried as missing in action until February 16, 1978, when he was declared dead. Because his body was never found, he has no grave marker in the United States.

 Captain Aldern was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross as well as numerous other air medals plus the Bronze Star Medal with Gold Star with Combat Distinguished Device, the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Navy Unit Commendation with Bronze Star (USS Ticonderoga) the Meritorious Unit Commendation (USS Oriskany), the Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, the Vietnam Service Medal with Silver Star, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

 Captain Aldern is survived by two of his brothers, John, of Ft. Collins, Colorado, and Robert Aldern, of Sioux Falls, SD, as well as his widow, Marjorie, San Diego; and four sons, Thomas, Ramona, California; Scott, Leucadia, California; Christopher, Escondido, California; and Randall, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. 

 This entry was respectfully submitted by Cali Rose Ewing, 9th grade, Spearfish High School, Spearfish, South Dakota on May 10, 2005. Information for this entry was provided by Robert J. Aldern, brother, and Marjorie Aldern, widow. Profile approved by Ms. Marjorie Aldern, San Diego, California.


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