Anthony J. Piersanti Jr.

Lieutenant Junior Grade, U.S. Navy


Carrier Onboard Delivery Squadron Fifty

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: December 15, 1970
Buried at Sea: 

LIEUTENANT JUNIOR GRADE ANTHONY J. PIERSANTI JR.  was born May 26, 1946. His father was an Army veteran of World War II where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He grew up in Pennsauken, NJ where he and his twin brother Tom graduated from Pennsauken High School in 1964. While in school both boys played on the school baseball, football, basketball and wrestling teams.

After high school Anthony Piersanti attended Drexel Institute in Philadelphia PA on an ROTC scholarship. He played football and baseball at Drexel, graduating in 1968. Reporting to the United States Navy to fulfill his ROTC commitment he trained as a naval pilot, and was awarded his wings at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola FL. Before going overseas he married Margie Milner, a student nurse. He was sent overseas early in 1970, three months after their wedding.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Piersanti was sent to Southeast Asia where he was assigned to Detachment B, Fleet Tactical Support Squadron 50 based on the Japanese mainland. This unit among other tasks was involved in shuttling personnel between ships at sea and land bases. His wife joined him in Japan after graduating from nursing school.

On December 15, 1970 Lietenant Junior Grade Piersanti's plane, a Navy C-2 transport, crashed into the Gulf of Tonkin, 90 miles northeast of Da Nang, South Vietnam, approximately 10 seconds after takeoff from the USS Ranger. An intensive search was commenced immediately by USS RANGER and accompanying ships and aircraft.  The loss occurred approximately 80 nautical miles from the nearest point of land. 

SYNOPSIS: LT Meril O. McCoy, Jr. was the pilot of a C2A "Trader" cargo plane launched from the USS RANGER about 90 miles north-northeast of Da Nang, South Vietnam on December 15, 1970. He carried a total of six individuals onboard, including himself, on the flight. They were on a logistics support mission from the carrier to the Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines.

Approximately 10 seconds after takeoff, the aircraft apparently stalled and crashed into the Gulf of Tonkin. An intensive search was conducted immediately by the RANGER and accompanying ships and aircraft. As a result, the remains of two of the personnel on board the aircraft were recovered. Still missing were the pilot, LT Meril O. McCoy, Jr.; the co-pilot, LTJG Anthony J. Piersanti Jr.; crewman Petty Officer Clyde C. Owen; and Master Chief Petty Officer Carroll J. Deuso, a passenger. Deuso was a boiler technician assigned to Mobile Support Unit Detachment, BRAVO. The C2, sometimes called "Greyhound" frequently carried passengers from multiple units on their way to and from duty assignments. 

The aircraft and crew were not necessarily assigned to any of the points of embarkation or disembarkation. Thus, it cannot be said that this C2 had any relation to the USS RANGER other than loading or unloading passengers onboard that carrier. 

(NOTE: There is some confusion in the U.S. Navy version of this incident in that it states that the aircraft carried "a crew of four" and that there were "six passengers," leading one to guess that there were 10 souls on board the aircraft. However, as only four Americans are missing on this date, and the U.S. Navy states that two remains were recovered after the crash, it can only be assumed that the Navy account was hastily written and that there were a total of six personnel onboard the aircraft -- two who were recovered, and four who were not.) 

During the period of July-September 1973, an over water/at sea casualty resolution operation was conducted to determine the feasibility of performing recovery operations on such cases as the loss of the C2 on December 15, 1970. Because this operation ended with no results whatsoever, it was determined that the men lost at sea could not be recovered. Deuso, Piersanti, McCoy and Owen were declared Deceased/Body Not Recovered. The incident is listed as non-battle related.

Anthony Piersanti Jr. was 24 years old at the time of his death. Piersanti Drive in Pennsauken, which runs north from Union Avenue between Park Avenue and Route 130 Northm was named in his memory.

is honored on Panel 06W - Line 123 of
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

by his brother Tom and sister-in-law Susan

Frank Duffy
Both played in Pennsauken's Little League & Babe Ruth League


Tony: 29 years after you died, apparently on your first combat mission as a Navy aviator, I found your listing on the Wall. I have strong memories of you & your twin brother Tommy as fearsome baseball players, both in Little League & Babe Ruth League. I recall once when my Babe Ruth League team (Pennsauken Phillies) played yours & I was playing left field. You came to bat with men on base & two outs. Steve Budd (our shortstop) knew your batting prowess well, so he kept telling me to back up in left field to the point where I was only a few strides from the fence. You connected on a low-inside pitch & knocked it high & deep. I backed up the few steps to the fence, saw it was gonna be over my head, put up both hands & jumped as I banged into fence & didn't yet know whether I'd caught it or it had exited the park. Brought my glove to eye level & there was the ball. Steve Budd began immediately busting your balls, as pals do. I got a hero's welcome as I returned to our bench, and recall after the game Steve telling you, "Here's the dude who robbed you of a homerun, Tony!" You smiled and said, "Nice catch." And you've been dead almost 30 years. .apparently lost-at-see when flying your first combat mission. Your body not recovered your family deprived of a gravesite where they can visit & tell you how very-very much you're loved & missed. I sit in Hawaii early this sunny May morning (1999) typing this message to a guy who was a better ballplayer than I could ever hope to be. Even though you had many others, I wish I hadn't caught your homerun ball. .We both know it was a lucky catch on my part, although you were too decent a guy to say so at the time. I hope your twin, Tommy Piersanti reads this someday, to learn that he & his beloved brother, Anthony, are much respected. Much loved. Much honored. Much missed. Frank Duffy

Saturday, May 22, 1999

Frank Duffy
Played in same baseball leagues
P.O. Box 25752
Honolulu, HI 96825-0752 USA


This is an update of my prior posting (May 1999) re Tony Piersanti. My email addy has changed since then. Want to update it as via prior one I received some very-very touching email from relatives of Tony, after they read my initial post. My current email addy: Don't believe I mentioned in that initial posting that I also served in Nam (Oct. 66~June 69), at Danang and ChuLai airbases while with the USMC. Hence, I know of Tony's sacrifice all the more. Have started and maintain a website where other former Marines (all generations) can post their memoirs, anecdotes (which I edit and illustrate for them). Nothing fancy, but its addy:

Friday, October 11, 2002

Mike Navarro
Friend and fellow Navy Pilot


I first met Tony back in 1969 when we were both completing advanced flight training at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas. We graduated at the same time and were both ordered to report to Replacement Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron One Hundred Ten (RVAW-110) at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego. RVAW-110 was the replacement training squadron for aircrews assigned to fly the E-2 Hawkeye and the C-2 Greyhound aircraft. Both planes were built by Grumman and share many common systems. We also completed our survival and POW training while in RVAW-110. 

After finishing his training, Tony was assigned to Carrier Onboard Delivery Squadron Fifty (VRC-50), then home based at Atsugi Japan, to fly the C-2 aircraft. VRC-50 operated throughout the western Pacific area and provided detachments of aircraft, at various locations, that were tasked with flying priority cargo out to the carriers operating at sea. Tony was sent to the detached unit flying out of Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Philippines which supporting the carriers off the coast of Viet Nam, in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

After completing the syllabus in RVAW-110, I was assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron One Hundred Fourteen (VAW-114). By December 1970, my squadron was aboard the USS Kitty Hawk, then newly arrived in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

On the morning of December 15th, I was informed that a C-2 Greyhound had crashed during a catapult launch from the USS Ranger, then operating within sight of the Kitty Hawk. A few hours later we learned the names of the flight crew members. I was numbed when I found out my friend Tony had perished in the crash. 

Apparently his aircraft was carrying a very large jet engine in the cargo compartment, which was being sent back to Cubi Point for overhaul. Usually, the C-2 carries a large cage like structure, made of heavy-duty webbing, to secure oversized loads and prevent them from shifting during the catapult launch. Apparently, Tony's plane did not have the cage with them but they elected to accept the cargo anyway. Witnesses saw the plane pitch violently upward immediately after the cat shot and then fall off on one wing and crash into the sea. There were no survivors and only the badly crushed body of one the passengers was recovered. The evidence pointed to a cargo shift as the cause of the crash. 

I had known guys who had died during flight training, but Tony was the first friend I lost. Soon there would be more. In his great American novel, Catch 22, Joseph Heller describes the newly arrived crewman who is killed on his first mission. He dies in the arms of the protagonist Yossarian. His name was Snowden and he never even got the chance to unpack his bags before he was sent on that fateful mission. From that point on, whenever Yossarian hears the question, "Are there any questions?" he always asks, "Yes, where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?" Ever since that sad day in the Gulf of Tonkin, whenever I've heard, "Are there any questions?" I've always asked, "Yes, where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?" And then I remember Tony.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Camden Courier-Post - March 11, 2007

Moorestown woman knew the price of war too well

Courier-Post Staff

On the night 36 years ago that Lillian T. Piersanti learned something terrible had happened to her son, Anthony, she was already awake.

Anthony J. Piersanti Jr., a 24-year-old naval pilot, was missing in action in Vietnam.

His plane had gone down in the Gulf of Tonkin. It was a loss Piersanti survived but would, of course, never quite recover from.

"What she had in her was a hole in her heart because his body was never found," said Judith L. Lehner of Palmyra, Piersanti's daughter. "That tormented her."

Piersanti, who lived in Moorestown, died on Valentine's Day. Renal failure, brought on by 

advanced dementia, killed her. She was 84, the widow of Anthony Sr., the mother of Lehner, Thomas C. Sr. of Moorestown and the late Anthony Jr.

With her son's wartime disappearance, Piersanti

Lillian T. Piersanti poses with her sons, twins Tony (left) and Thomas, in June 1964 on their way to boot camp in Lakehurst. After Tony went missing, she became an American Gold Star Mother.

 joined a sorority any mother would give her right arm not to be part of. She became an American Gold Star Mother, a group for moms who've lost children in the service of their country.

Piersanti knew much about the price of war. She was also the widow of a military hero.

After the United States entered World War II, her high school sweetheart, her 21-year-old husband and the father of their baby daughter, was drafted. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge; he was on Omaha Beach. Anthony Piersanti Sr. died in 1983, his body weakened from years of medication required by wounds incurred decades ago in battle, said his surviving son, Thomas Piersanti.

Thomas Piersanti recalled his mother as a no-nonsense lady with a strong work ethic.

"She expected a lot from her kids," he said. "She expected a lot from herself."

Her surviving son remembered sitting on the family stoop in Camden on Friday nights -- his dad, sister, and twin brother, Tony, the eldest son by 10 minutes. They snacked on hot baked potatoes with butter and salt as they waited for Piersanti to return from her shift at RCA.

"She was a career woman," said Lehner, 65. "She worked all her life."

Piersanti loved to fish in Ocean County and follow the Phillies. At home, her house was spotless, her seafood lasagna mouthwatering. She devoted herself to family, particularly after Anthony was lost.

"She gave all her love to my brother and I and her grandchildren," Lehner said.

Thomas Piersanti, 60, said he believes his mother continued to harbor some doubt that his brother, married just a year when his plane went down, was truly dead.

He noted after Tony was gone, his mother took comfort in friends and family and faith in the sweet hereafter.

"She believes she'll see him again," he said.