The Mu Gia Pass area was one of the most heavily traveled sections of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that included some of the most heavily defended terrain in Vietnam. The area was dense with rural civilian villages and the bombing took a heavy toll if pilots did not drop their bomb load precisely.
If the pilots stayed “high and safe,” the bombs were less likely to hit military targets that would protect U.S. soldiers in the south and more likely to hit civilian villages. John O’Grady had a reputation for having the courage and nerve to drop in low, opening himself up to enemy fire to ensure his payload hit the military target.
He would fly low every time enabling him to drop his bombs in a careful and precise manner determined to never endanger or harm the civilian population. He served his country with honor and bravery, choosing to risk his own life rather than expose or inflict injury to innocent villagers.
The day he was lost his wingman saw his bombs land directly on a military target of opportunity – an unexpected battalion of enemy soldiers and equipment moving through the Pass to the south.
The Silver Star or Silver Star Medal is the third highest MILITARY AWARD for VALOR that can be awarded to any person serving in any capacity with the United States Armed Forces.
In less than 4 months in Vietnam, John O’Grady earned:
*A Silver Star
*Three Distinguished Flying Crosses.
* Two Air Medals with Valor.
*A Purple Heart.
On April 10, 1967, Colonel O’Grady went missing after being shot down over Vietnam and parachuting into enemy territory. He left behind a wife, grieving parents and seven lost and confused children. When the O’Grady Family lost John O’Grady the family disintegrated into utter turmoil, The stress and uncertainty of not knowing the fate of their father took a great toll on the children. An absent mother, who did not know how to live and raise seven kids without her husband just burdened the children’s lives further. The family fell apart eventually.descending into complete chaos and dysfunction.
The void that John O’Grady left behind in the family home was particularly large. “For he had been more than just the centerpiece of this family; he was the linchpin without which the wheels started to come off.” He was the glue that cemented the family together, without his large and heroic presence the family would eventually dissipate.
The circumstances that created the deep divisions among family members was the events that followed Colonel O’Grady’s disappearance. A terrible tragedy had occurred but it was exasperated by ongoing bitterness and grave resentments that stemmed from disagreements about how the family should proceed. . The uncertainty of O’Grady’s fate ignited a firestorm among family members which created a lot of discord. The mother was ill equipped to deal with the situation, she had relied on her husband for everything, he made all the decisions, she had depended on him since she was 16 years old, when her own parents had passed away.
The result was a family in complete and utter turmoil. It has been over 30 years since the family has united as a unit. Most members rarely if ever, see each other. The estrangement is complete and seems to be irreparable.
Family mattered to John O’Grady and it would have made him very disturbed and sad to see what happened to his family. If he can view the world below, it is certain a tear stain is embossed upon his face.
Yet, despite the difficult lives and unstable home environment in the children’s lives each forged forward carving out their own mark. In education and career choices each child has grown to exceed their father’s expectations. Yet, despite their individual career achievements each child has failed and disappointed their father greatly. The dysfunctional family unit,caused some siblings to inflict terrible emotional pain upon others just to attempt to gain love, approval and attention from their absent neglectful mother.. Many awful ordeals and vengeful actions ensued among the siblings.
Colonel John O’Grady does leave a legacy with his 19 grandchildren. Even though none of them knew their granddad and how amazing he was, each grandchild today reflects the courage, strength, discipline and commitment of their grandfather, Col. O’Grady. John would have been beaming with pride and amazed at what incredible adults each one became~
John O’Grady was born on August 31, 1929 in New Hyde Park, New York to Irish immigrants. He attended La Salle High School, a prestigious, private Military Academy. He attained the top ranking of his class, reaching the top ten of all students attending H.S. Military Academies across the country. His incredible academic achievements earned him an automatic appointment to Annapolis; “The United States Naval Academy.” He majored in Aeronautical Engineering and graduated with honors at the top of his class in 1952.
He served in the United States Air Force with excellence, and in addition to being an engineer he also became a jet fighter pilot. Later O’Grady earned his Masters Degree in Aeronautical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. O’Grady was a heavy weight champion boxer and a track star at Annapolis. He loved flying and earned his pilot license at 14 years old even before he was able to drive. He was a tall man standing 6’3″ in bare feet with curly brown hair and hazel eyes with a hint of Irish green. He was highly intelligent, very athletic and a devoted uncle, father, son and husband. He had high moral standards and lived his life with great integrity, and had a strong faith in God and his country.
He married his high school sweetheart, Diana Pascale, in 1952 and over the next 14 years they had seven children. As a father he embodied compassion and strength utilizing strict yet gentle discipline. He lived his life with honor, passion and integrity. He had an amazing zest for life and learning and instilled that fervor for life in his children. As an Air Force family the O’Grady’s relocated every couple of years, but the Colonel worked hard to ensure smooth transitions with as little disruption to the children’s lives as possible. They moved with the precision, discipline and strength of a typical military family. When the family would settle into their new neighborhood, he would encourage the kids to make the best of it, by making new friends, involvement in sports, school activities and by working hard to succeed.
Colonel O’Grady loomed large among his family as his career reached amazing pinnacles. In addition to his Masters Degree in Engineering, he had specialized training and expertise in the anti-ballistic weapons systems on the F-4 aircraft that he helped to design. O’Grady also worked on the Saturn and Jupiter rocket booster system at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, that put the first monkeys into space.
He could also be a free spirited child at heart, One childhood memory, I recall, that exemplifies this trait was when he dressed up at Halloween as the Great Pumpkin. Dressed in his homemade costume he’d venture out to surprise all the neighborhood kids. He interacted with us by playing games, nature walks, reading us stories and by listening. He taught us many lessons of life and living, manners, respect, loyalty and honor. He encouraged us to work hard, explore, learn, teach, achieve, question and seek answers. Most importantly he lived his life in an exemplary manner for his children to emulate.
Another memory is during Christmas he would lead all 7 children in wonderful rendition of the song “The Little Drummer Boy” using instruments, he would conduct the family orchestra. He taught us about family unity, community, strength and persistence. I recall every time it snowed he would take us and all the neighborhood kids on sleigh rides down the steep hills. He was a very loving involved, hands on Dad!
Colonel O’Grady was an aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot for the United States Air Force when his plane, a F105D, was hit by enemy rockets and caught fire over North Vietnam. On April 10, 1967, he radioed, ”I’m on Fire and I’m getting out.”
Forty five years ago, Col. O’Grady, was flying his 31st mission over, the Mu Gia Pass, when he realized he was off of his intended target. he did not want to drop the bomb
in a careless or reckless manner, endangering innocent villagers. So He decided to abort and make a second attempt at his target which made him vulnerable to enemy fire.
As a result his plane was shot down and his parachute was sighted deploying but with all the surrounding smoke O’Grady could not be seen. No rescued mission ensued and he was listed as Missing In Action. John O’Grady left behind grieving parents, a lost and lonely wife, seven confused and desperate children, and many friends and relatives that missed him greatly.
My name is Tara O’Grady and I am the youngest daughter of Col. O’Grady’s four daughters and three sons. For over 40 years I lived with uncertainty and hopelessness while I clung to embers of hope that he may come home. The only report ever provided to me was the original details of the day my father was shot down. His plane was on fire, he radioed for help, a parachute was seen and that was the end of the story, at least as far as I knew. I wondered for years about the specifics of my father’s journey. Had he been a prisoner and died feeling abandoned in some prison camp? Did he encounter the enemy and suffer a terrible death? Was he alive somewhere?
The feelings of uncertainty, helplessness, lack of information and knowledge I incurred for so many years exacerbated my feelings of despair and concern for what happened to my dad. Yet, during those years, our government had uncovered bits of new information culminating in a Detailed Report Investigation dated March 29, 2012, a report that contained critical information that I never received. That report contained details surrounding the capture, death and burial of my father. I did not receive any information about my dad until after I took the initiative and insisted with dogged persisitance. I received the report in June of 2012.
On May 22, 2012, just prior to Memorial Day, 45 years after my dad went missing, I received a phone call from a cousin in New York, she excitedly tells me ,”They may have found your dad.” She had just read an article in The Newsday Paper in Long Island New York. It contained a detailed story of the events surrounding my father’s capture and later death. The article detailed my sister Patty’s journey to find his grave and bring him home! I was shocked, saddened, elated, confused but mostly devastated. Mixed emotions swirled in my head, Why did I not know anything about this? Why did I learn about my father from a newspaper article.? The Air Force had not informed me, family members had not told me anything, and though I was in constant contact with my sister, she never mentioned her planned trip to Vietnam or relayed any information uncovered about our dad. Yet, earlier on April 10, 2012, on the 45th anniversary of my father’s plane being shot down we reminisced about him. How could she do this?
The following is the information contained in the reports;
Two villagers found and captured Major O’Grady, his hands were entangled in his parachute which rendered him helpless and unable to use his radio to call for assistance. O’Grady was bleeding from a scalp wound, and he had a broken leg. Later he was sitting up and trying to talk to Ho Huan and the group of five villagers.
Just outside the village – Ho Huan explained – they had no choice but to turn him over to two North Vietnamese engineers attached to the 152nd engineering unit to to transport him to the 280th air defense regiment field headquarters. Ho Huan said that when they transferred Major O’Grady to the engineers, he was alive and not seriously injured.
O’Grady was transferred from the the villagers to the Vietnamese soldiers. One of those soldiers, Thiet, recounts having to take away a photo from O’Grady, which appeared to be of his wife and daughters. Thiet stated O’Grady clung tightly to the picture and was adamantly refusing to give it up. Thiet took it from O’Grady’s hand, recalling the incident so vividly because of the great reluctance the American soldier demonstrated.
Vo Dinh An and Nguyen Huy Thiet, the two engineers with the 152nd regiment of North Vietnam were interviewed by US officials and they recounted how they were told to transport O’Grady’s to a hospital, The soldiers did not have a vehicle so they carried him on a litter. They told of how O’Grady’s condition worsened during the arduous trip to the hospital. As they crossed the stream outside Y Lenh, Major O’Grady gestured that he was thirsty. Ho Huan said they did not give him any water because they had no cup. Throughout the long journey across the mountainside, John O’Grady was sitting up, animated, and talking to Ho Huan, and the others, although they could not understand him. As they approached Y Lenh, he fell silent. He stated that later he lost consciousness and died ..
They carried him a short distance up a hill, at the top was a Star Fruit Tree, using it a as a reference point, they buried him in an old bomb crater. They buried him with his shorts, shirts and his ID dog tags so he could be identified later and someday be returned to his family. The Vietnamese soldiers were Buddhist and the believe if a person’s body is not returned to his family they will haunt the earth.
After the government received this information, Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) began excavation of the alleged burial site. Patty O’Grady travelled to Vietnam and stood vigil at the burial site and JPAC requested she please leave. Patty refused and remained, interfering with JPAC’s work. Finally, JPAC was forced to suspend the excavation process. It has been over a year since they stopped looking for his remains because of one person. The government knows where he may be buried, Please go get my Father. Our family awaits
Later, O’Grady would go on to have 19 grandchildren that sadly will never know how amazing their grandfather was. Yet, each O’Grady grandchild carries on his legacy by living their lives with great courage and inner strength. They inherited his great work ethic and have each achieved great success in their own lives.
Please help Bring Colonel John F. O’Grady Home! Col OGrady was shot down over Vietnam in 1967 and went missing, leaving behind a wife and seven children. I am the youngest daughter of the seven children and after over 30 years of not knowing the fate of my dad, and wondering if he was alive or dead or if he suffered; I finally received some answers on Memorial Day 2012.
The government interviewed two Vietnamese soldiers that recalled my fathers last day upon this earth. He had survived the plane crash with just a broken leg and and a small scalp wound and was captured after landing in a tree, he was entangled in his parachute rendering him helpless .The soldiers did not have a vehicle to transport him to a hospital so they carried him on a liter. Hours later after requesting water ,(which the soldiers did not have) he died before they reached the hospital. The soldier recalled O’Grady clinging to a photo of his wife and family and specifically remembered picture of at least two young daughters, and he vividly remembered O’Grady’s great relcutance to give up the photo, After O’Grady died the soldiers used A Star Fruit Tree as a reference point for burial so someday his body could be returned to the family and claimed they buried him with his dog tags.
JPAC started excavating the site, but had to suspend the operation due to interference by, Patty O’Grady. We should not let the actions of one unruly person stop the rest of the family from obtaining the closure we desperately seek. It has been over a year and still JPAC has not resumed the excavation It is Time to bring this Hero Home…
I was 6 years old when my father was shot down & the last letter he wrote, was to me;
here is a quote from that letter;
“”Daddy is flying a lot and the more he flies the sooner he will be home for good and that’s what he wants more than anything else in the world, so he can give out great big hugs and kisses to everyone, but especially to little girls in the first grade. who won’t be in the first grade much longer.”
Help Me fulfill his last wish & Bring him Home.
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is a group of dedicated volunteers that work tirelessly to account for all our missing soldiers. It is understandable that they were forced to suspend excavating O’Grady’s burial site. It has been over a year since JPAC suspended operations, we have information as to where he was buried we cannot in good conscience let him lie in an unmarked grave 8,000 miles away. Now it is time to begin the excavation process again. Send your email to