On 17 October 1965, Lieutenant (junior grade) Porter Halyburton launched from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA-62) in his F-4B Phantom. As a member of Fighter Squadron 84, the 24-year-old radar intercept officer had flown more than 70 combat missions over North Vietnam since arriving on Yankee Station six months earlier. As fate would have it, this mission would be his last.
Three Phantoms from the Independence were shot down that morning, resulting in the death of two of the six aviators involved. The other four became prisoners of war.
Back in his hometown of Davidson, North Carolina, much of the town filled the Davidson College Presbyterian Church for the funeral of Porter Halyburton. An education fund was soon created for his infant daughter, Dabney, who was only four weeks old when he left for Vietnam. His mother commissioned a tombstone for the family cemetery plot.
A year and a half later, Halyburton's "widow," Marty, answered a knock at her door to find six government agents holding out their credentials. Porter was alive.