Larry Duthie KIA ’67

Larry Duthie KIA ’67
Larry Duthie KIA ’67

Larry Duthie is a long-time friend from college/fraternity days at Arizona State University in the early 60’s. I recently discovered him alive and well after spending the past 40 years believing him shot down and KIA. Fortunately, the KIA part was incorrect!

I found Chuck Walling on The Wall, but I couldn’t find my pal Larry Dutie. ATΩ fratenity brother, Chuck Walling and his backseater were blown out of the skies of North Vietnam by a SAM (surface to air missile).   A vibrant warrior one minute nearly vaporized the next.  …and for what?

The progeny of my story, another ATΩ named Larry Duthy, was shot down and KIA in ’67 flying an A-4 Skyhawk off the carrier Oriskany. In fact, John McCain joined Larry’s sister squadron just a week after Larry was shot down. Then, as we know, McCain was shot down and ended up POW.

Duthie and I along with several other ATΩ brothers joined the Navy’s short- lived Naviator Program. Larry ended up in Attack Squadron 163 and we lost touch shortly before his deployment.  Chuck Walling was an Air Force F-4 “Phantom” pilot.  His remains were recently recovered and interred in Arlington.

Just a few years ago I received a interesting e-mail about a Major Glenn York who had flown some very heroic rescue missions in a CH-53 during our SE Asia War Games… York’s story was fascinating, but it was the photos at the bottom of the e-mail that were astounding! There was a couple of pictures of my buddy Larry Duthie sitting in York’s helicopter all smiles having been rescued.

HOLY SMOKE!  Dooth wasn’t dead after all! I set to work tying to locate him. There was a Larry Duthie, publisher, in Walla Walla, WA. I called and asked to speak with him. He answered and I asked “are you the Larry Duthie who went to Arizona State University?” He admitted this and asked who I was. I said “Billy Walker and you’re dead!”

Ol’ Dooth tried to debate my accusation that he was dead.   “…then get your sorry ass out here and prove to us otherwise!” He did. Dooth and his lovely wife Roz came out and you can imagine the party! It was a wonderful reunion. Later, Cheryl and I would travel to Walla Walla and do some more catching up which we did last summer.

All but a couple of us had thought Duth had been KIA for over 40 years! ATΩ Frank Conn knew.  However, Frank had moved to Atlanta and was off our radar. Of course none of us had tried to contact Duthie and we didn’t know his family since he was from California and most of the other’s hailed from here in The Salt River Valley.

On that fateful day in 1967, Duthie had been trying to protect his flight lead who had been shot down. The same 37mm gun got Duthie as well.  Warning lights and bells along with fire told ol’ Dooth he was in trouble.

Screaming thru the skies over North Vietnam Dooth ejected at over 500mph!  This caused a big problem as A-4 doesn’t have leg restraints. One of Duthie’s legs was caught in the violent slip-stream and torn-up badly, but he made it down OK. Hunted by the enemy, he evaded for over 4 hours.  Duthie was nearly rescued by a Navy SAR helicopter. Suddenly the helicopter was taking serious damage and door gunner was killed. So, the Navy SAR left the scene.  Duthie was all alone.   Shortly, he would be as dead as his flight leader (killed by angry enemy civilians) or would become a POW.

Fortunately for Duthie, USAF Maj. York was on channel and he succeeded where the Navy guys didn’t. Duthie was then air-lifted to hospital after hospital for a year or so. When he was finally rehab’d to flight status he then tried making contact with some of us. We were all young bachelors then and had blown to the four winds. Life went on and Duthie stayed dead in our minds until the serendipitous e-mail about his rescuer arrived.


Duthie looks pretty good for a guy “dead” for 40 years!


Above Dooth 2016 at the “Lady Jessie” dedication.

More on Lady Jessie to follow….



They had to carry Duthie and prop him up for the photo above… It doesn’t show, but the CH-53 “Jolly Green” helicopter was shot-up badly. Note how it is squatting on the nose gear…

Below – the reunion last year…

L-R:  The late-great Rick McDonald; Bobby Meyer; Eddie Nunez; Billy Walker; Carl Givens and Duthie at far right…


Below is a photo of Navy A-4 pilot, Larry Duthie, at Lima 36 with the SAR helicopter crew who saved him. Duthie is 2nd from the right. The smaller photo was picked off the internet.




Dooth in ’67 goin’ to war flyin’ the ubiquitous Douglas A-4 “Skyhawk”

fullsizeoutput_4faa     a-4-shipboard-pics-007

Below:  Dooth’s grandmother.   He came by his aviation urge honestly.  The Ercoupe was her airplane.


Billy & Cheryl visiting Dooth and Roz at their farm and winery near Walla Walla, Washington.


ROZ   Billy   &  Cheryl


Billy & Dooth after his resurrection

Blue Skies & Tailwinds…

Billy Walker

October 1, 2020:  “Gruff’s” book is out and available on Amazon!

“Gruff’s” Memoir


Here we are at Thanksgiving time in 2018.  I hope you enjoy the following banter betwixt Duth and his squadron mates and a bit of me thrown in.  If Duth had been KIA, as many thought back in ’67, you woulda missed out on all that follows!

And it starts:

From The Duth, 22 NOV 2018 – A few appropriate quotes:

If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.

          –W. Clement Stone

I am thankful to be breathing and on this side of the grass.

           –Ron Perlman (actor)

Gratitude is like electricity. It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.

          –William Faulkner

I am thankful for laughter. Except when milk comes out my nose.

          –Woody Allen

In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I am thankful I am not a Republican.

          –H.L. Mencken

+ In this world of sin and sorrow, there is always something to be thankful for.  As for me, I am thankful I am not a Dumocrat.

— W.D. “Billy” Walker

From Don Purdy 22 NOV:  Nice, but don’t forget the humble words of POTUS, Thanksgiving 2018…

I’m thankful for the difference I’ve made.

From Mule Mullane 22 NOV:  Every Thanksgiving I pause and give profound thanks that no one ever called me “Fluff”. Here’s where the true colors come out.  The beginning!

More from Purdy:  Perhaps that’s why he’s so messed up. As I recall, there were several names being bandied about. We gave him Fluff because he hated it. He’s had enough torture. I say we go back to his favorite, Poofy. 

The Duth 25 NOV (reader note it takes a couple of days to conjure up a retort) Aging is so terrible. Your joints ache in the mornings, you move through the day without as much purpose as you once did, but the worst is when you learn some of your best friends have begun to lose their marbles–the first sign of which is when they begin calling you by the wrong name. Ah, I am grateful that my mind remains sharp–yes, I am so thankful for that.

Billy:  Yup,  I’d love the back story on the “Fluff” and “Poofy” thingy🧐

Purdy:  26 NOV:  Duthie was fond of wearing fluffy pink bunny slippers on the ship. At first it was just in “Alice’s Restaurant” (our stateroom). But as the cruise went on, he became less and less self conscious about them and was often seen wearing them with his flight suit or his uniform in the ready room or the wardroom. Once he even forgot to switch into flight boots for a launch and was called out by the Air Boss over the 1MC as he was parading across the flight deck all geared up to fly but with fluffy pink slippers. He was known as Fluffy from then on. Swear to God. You can’t make this stuff up.

Billy: OMG that’s hilarious 🤣. I’ll add this to Duth’s story on my website…

The Duth 26 NOV: I rest my case. Purdy’s mind has gone so mushy he now conjures stories from disparate facts–somewhat like our current CIC. I this case, it was Purdy who owned the fairy shoes (there was a embroidered image of Tinkerbell on them). Someone–his first wife, maybe?–had sent them to him. I doubt he ever did wear them anyplace other than Alice’s and the head down the passageway. But he was known for them, and teased.

As for my moniker. It was given to me by Mick Cael, who got mixed up on the name I had been known for: The Gruff One. I of course objected, and because of that it stuck. Prior to that I had been called Bull’s Eye for my bombing prowess. Alternately I was called On Yer Six, for the position I could be found flying shortly after entering aerial combat maneuvering exercises (dog-fighting).

Purdy’s other name was Slow Boy–and this was well before the aging addled his brain.

Purdy 26 NOV:  Fluffy’s tale is a high and mighty fiction

Like nothin’ I can recall

It’s full of fibs ‘n lies ‘n indelicate diction

Never been a tale so tall

This is war, Mr. Fluff


The Duth 26 NOV: 

Mr. Purdy,

War, you say?

Do you remember (a chore, I know, this business of remembering) that you once abandoned a truck, a tequila-fueled hot rod, one of our out-buildings, a building with a rather high rent-rate per sq. ft.? Recall? 

If not, search eBay and you’ll find it for sale with an “abandoned title.” Should bring enough for Roz and me to enjoy a fine holiday season.

Duth (the proper nickname)

Billy 26 NOV:  Well ol’ Duth, I’m proud to have known you when you were nuthin’😳

Purdy 26 NOV: 

My liege Fluff the Gruff,

A thousand pardons, sir. I must have overlooked my medication and should not have spoken in an impaired state. Please disregard any of my rash pronouncements regarding your noms de guerre. You are right. I do remember that you were a mighty warrior of a thousand names. 

Please do not resort to petty threats on my person or on my meager holdings so graciously housed in a serldom used outbuilding of your estate. Such talk only demeans your stature as a noble Knight of the air. I beg your forgiveness. Please. Just a few more months.

Most Humbly,

Tinker Bell

Billy 26 NOV:  ’Liege!’  Isn’t that is a Germanic connotation of our not so vavasour yet salubrious friend!  Regardless, for me to have been included in this utterly delightful exchange has allowed me to escape the mental stress of retirement.   I thank you all for that.

On Nov 27, 2018, Larry Duthie wrote:

Okay, to clear this up, my call-sign was Hoser Four. Alternately, it was Magicstone whatever, depending on whether I was flying with a two-plane section or a larger unit. The day I was shot down I was Magicstone Five. The Fluff name came this way.

The real story behind that nickname started with a guy named Mick Cael. One day he flipped the Duff moniker to Fluff. I made a massive mistake by reacting, which other guys in the ready-room picked up on. They of course pounced. Don has a big nose, so at times he was given various names to irritate him for that. We also had a guy in the squadron whose last name was Duter. Guys who serviced the planes invariably referred to either of us as Mr. Duther. Efficient. And at times we were both called that in the ready room. Worst name in the squadron was Dirty Bill, which was an upgrade from a name we learned he had been called in a previous squadron: Fly Face. He was a terrible pilot, worst in the outfit. He got out and was flying for Continental–until, that is, he crashed his Mooney into a mountain just outside Aspen. He and his brother spent two nights in deep snow in a cave he dug under the wing. His brother died and he lost all his toes to frostbite. Which finished his airline flying career and likely save many lives. 

Finally, our skipper had a rather large posterior, so of course his nickname was Basket Ass (alternately Yellow Bird, because he was afraid of night flying). From this you see there was none of that Hollywood glamour, with names such as Maverick. Nope, Schnoz, Fluff, Basket Ass, Yellow Bird, Dirty Bill and even BFB (for Bly Fucking Bly, an exasperating fellow named Bob Bly). And of course we all responded to, “Hey Asshole!”

There you have it. Because there was not quite enough stress flying combat over NVN and Laos, we had to generate a little for each other in the ready room. All in the spirit of doing our part for . . .  well, for what? We never knew.

Billy’s reply 11/27/18:

Ah ha, I see you neglected to copy those other malcontented miscreants who loosely use the term “Duth’s friend.”   So, I will keep this missive safely tucked away on my not too secret website.    I haven’t updated it yet but plan to properly embellish the Duth Story soon…   I absophuquunlootley LOVE this stuff!   Mordacious as it can be it is all truly delightful!

I’m sitting here sippin’ my coffee suffering under azure blue skies warmed by the late mornin’ sun thinkin’ “Billy, ol’ boy, you are truly blessed!”  I flew 964 yesterday for 1.3 hours and, t’day, get to read fascinating typography by The Duth!  Life is good!

Be a good fellow and gently surround Miss Roz with your once muscular arms, squeeze in a caring way, and tell her, “This one’s from BnC!”  I have taken the liberty to perform the same task in your honor with Miss C!

I love getting in the last word…  I thought I had.  Alas, Mr. Purdy sent this stinger:

Ah, I see that Fluffy Gruffy McDuthie (there’s a fine children’s story in there somewhere) has resorted to his usual backhanded tactics and sent his final retort to you without copying anyone else in hopes of getting in the last word.  You are to be commended for exposing his deceit. Note the biblical length of his “simple” reply about his stupid names. If I may offer a short explanation:

Off duty hours aboard ship, in the ready room or Alice’s Restaurant or out on the loo’rd catwalk, were often given to the ancient seafarer’s art of “spinning yarns”– telling sea/war stories. Whenever Poofy McDoothy would pipe up, wave his hands wildly and shout, “Oo, oo. I have one. Ooo. Can I please tell my story, please, guys?” a collective moan would go ‘round the gathering; eyebrows would raise, we’d all pop a fresh San Migoo and settle in, and Fluffduff would launch into what came to be known (and loathed) as a Doothie Epic. When it came to smithing words, Hoser McPoser was convinced that quantity far outweighed quality. The short, gripping tale was simply out of his wheelhouse. In fact (and Roz or any other sane person can attest to this), Mr. McDoodle cannot tell a joke. Period. He inevitably gets bogged down in mind-numbing details. When eventually ignored by his peers, McGruff the Wordy would find his way to the enlisted mess and “entertain” a captive audience of dog-tired sailors who felt duty-bound to listen to this @#^%ing lieutenant ruin the one 30 minute period of peace and relative quiet afforded to their otherwise brutal lives aboard a warship at sea.

So, take his latest “Fluff piece” for what its worth, and bear in mind the reputation of your website, before you publish anything.

Where was I? Oh yea… so in reply to Mr. Short Hoser, may I offer a less wordy retort:

Sir Dooth was a noble knight of the air

Who dispatched his foes without a care

But he failed at romantic quests
For unfortunately he was ‘blessed’
With a less than prodigious pair


Poor ol’ Duth saw this, threw in the towel and escaped to his shop where magical happenings often take place.  I envision his walking past the barn where Mr. Purdy’s frightening vehicle sits and likely ponders what might happen to that said contraption…

I’m very disappointed to see this diatribe come to a close.  Sad really!  But, a phone call to Duth was heartening.  “Don’t worry,” said my once dead friend, “there will be another such event soon.  There always is!”  This is as good as a kid waiting for Christmas!


  1. I finished reading Larry’s book just before Christmas. I can only describe it as “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” in terms of what he and his fellow navy pilots went through during that time….followed by “It’s a wonderful life” knowing the sacrifices all military personnel gave for us who never went. Page 35 was special to me as he described his “flummoxed” roommate who drove him to the west side of Phoenix and last saw him, with his thumb out, thorough my rear view mirror as i drove away. We remembered Duth during halftime at all the ASU football game as we did with our other fallen ATO brothers. My body quivered and tears welled when Duth walked into macDonald’s home that 2015 Super bowl sunday. what a great day that was.
    thank you, billy walker, for your help in bringing larry back to us. i only hope we can someday get together for another reunion.

  2. My husband Alan and I own and operate a B&B and Fishing Charter Business in SE Alaska. We have had the pleasure of hosting Larry and his lovely wife Roz. We had no idea of his past. While on a small tour around our property, I pointed out my “Salute To Service”. It is a statue with w soldier kneeling in front of a cross. It is a way for me to personally acknowledge and thank our American Veterans. Not just on Memorial Day but every day. Roz mentioned Larry is a Vet. He casually said, “Yes I was a pilot in the Navy. Of course, I thanked him for his service and let it go. He did seem a little uncomfortable. They have been here a week. Alan and I have completely become enamored with these amazing people. He calls himself a Ghost Geezer”, it’s an inside joke. You will have to read the book. On the second day or thereabouts, Larry gave us a signed copy of his “Memoir – Return To Saigon”. I too am a Journalism Major. I have an Alaskan library in the house. He picked-up on how much I love to read. This gesture was facilitated by Roz, and NOT about arrogance or bragging. He may be the most humble and gentle man I have ever met. I could not put the literature down. I cried, laughed and marveled throughout. WHAT AN AMAZING GUY. I particularly appreciated how he was real, honest and raw about everything. I felt like I could smell and hear the jungle. I was amazed at his descriptive qualities and was mesmerized by his experience. It was obvious to me that while I have read and studied the history, seen all the war movies, read several books and talked to vets, I really am clueless to what these young men (and women) went through over there. While I was somewhat obsessed and anxious to glean more from this amazing man, I quickly discovered that he did not really want to talk about it. Who could blame him? He politely answered my questions however was bashful when it came to the label, “Hero”. I feel so honored and blessed to have met this man. I am very impressed for the dialogue in the book about his brave and patient wife and life partner who has nudged, encouraged and stood by him through his journey to forgiveness. Dooths’ remarks, regarding the climate of our country at the time, his sincere respect and love for the Vietnamese people was touching. I never considered Vietnam to be particularly pretty location, however, through the eyes of Larry I gleaned an entirely new outlook, with possibly a desire to visit there. His return to the ridge, revisiting his old school, reconciliation and the ensuing healing that took place is indeed remarkable. This is well written, emotion evoking and a must read! THANK YOU TO ALL VETS, there are not enough words or time to articulate the deep and profound respect I have for you, and your families. The sacrifice and dedication to our country is extraordinary and poignant. I am very appreciative. To think, this was all accomplished by a college dropout!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *