Ashby, Clayborn Willis, Jr., AO2

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Last Rank
Petty Officer Second Class
Last Primary NEC
AO-0000-Aviation Ordnanceman
Last Rating/NEC Group
Aviation Ordnanceman
Primary Unit
2008-2008, AO-0000, VO-67
Service Years
1966 - 1968
AO-Aviation Ordnanceman

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Kelly Scherer (Zilla), AO1 to remember Ashby, Clayborn Willis, Jr., AO2.

If you knew or served with this Sailor and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Louisville, KY
Last Address
Louisville, KY

Casualty Date
Feb 17, 1968
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Vietnam War
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
39E 069 / Section: 34 Grave: 4361

 Official Badges 

 Unofficial Badges 

 Military Association Memberships
Vietnam Veterans MemorialThe National Gold Star Family RegistryUnited States Navy Memorial Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial
American Battle Monuments Commission
  2013, Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified] - Assoc. Page
  2014, The National Gold Star Family Registry
  2014, United States Navy Memorial - Assoc. Page
  2017, Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial [Verified]
  2018, American Battle Monuments Commission

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

The Lockheed OP2E Neptune was used for a wide variety of missions including it's primary function of patrolling the Vietnamese coast in search of contraband carrying junks in Operation Market Time. Several OP2E aircraft were assigned to Task Force Alpha, a special unit organized under US Air Force command employed to deliver Air Delivered Seismic Detection Sensors (ADSID) along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Cambodia. The twin-engine Neptune dropped the sensors to aid intelligence in pinpointing the heaviest traffic for fighters and gunships assigned to attack enemy targets on the trail. The anti-infiltration detection system program had a succession of code names including "Igloo White," the name most recognized and used the longest.

On 17 February 1968, Cmdr. Glen M. Hayden, pilot; Lt. Curtis F. Thurman, co-pilot; Lt. JG James Kravitz, flight officer; Ensign James Wonn, navigator; ATN1 Paul Donato, 1st technician; AO2 Clayburn Ashby, Jr., ordnance; ADJ2 Chester Coons, plane captain; AN Frank A. Dawson, 2nd mechanic; and AN James Martin, aerial gunner; comprised the crew of an OP2E Neptune conducting a sensor seeding mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The target location was along Highway 19, the primary road running from the Mu Gia Pass through the Steel Tiger sector of eastern Laos, then into South Vietnam near the major US base of Khe Sanh.

After completion of the first target pass, Cmdr. Hayden reported to the accompanying fighter escort and Forward Air Controller (FAC) that the Neptune had sustained hits by small arms fire, but would continue with a second target run. During the second pass, the pilots of fighter escort reported the starboard engine of the Neptune was on fire.

The crew acknowledged the report, aborted the rest of its mission and started to climb into an overcast of clouds at 4000 feet in its attempt to return to home base. In the meantime, the fighter escort climbed to the top of the cloud overcast to await the damaged OP2E in order to escort it back to base. The Neptune never emerged above the clouds. The last radio transmission from the crew was, "We're beat up pretty bad."

When the Neptune failed to rendezvous with its escort aircraft, the FAC dropped below the clouds to search for the OP2E and found burning wreckage. As the FAC visually inspected the area; he saw no parachutes, heard no emergency radio beepers and saw no other evidence of survivors on the ground. Aerial search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately initiated, but found no signs of life in or around the wreckage.

No ground search of the crash site was possible due to the heavy enemy presence in the area. Because there was no direct witness to the crash of the OP2E and the enemy was already close by; there was no way to determine if any of the crew of nine survived their loss incident. The Navy assumed that they did not survive, and on 6 March 1968 changed the status of all crewmembers from Missing in Action to Killed/Presumptive Finding of Death.

The crash site was located in rugged jungle covered mountains approximately 6 miles west of the town of Ban Namm which was located next to Highway 19; 11 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam, 19 miles northwest of the major communist city of Tchepone and 58 miles south-southeast of Mu Gia Pass, Savannakhet Province, Laos. The crash site was also located 9 miles west-northwest of Binh Tram 34, an NVA way station used for a variety of purposes and 56 miles northwest of Khe Sanh, South Vietnam.

During 1992 and 1993, the Joint Task Force Full Accounting (JTFFA) actively investigated this crash site first with a site survey, then four joint field excavations. The first excavation was conducted in 1992 and three excavations in 1993. There was also one unilateral turnover of some partial remains/wreckage/personal affects to US personnel during this same timeframe.

The excavation resulted in the recovery of over 400 bone and teeth fragments, 1 gold crown for a tooth and 1 anterior permanent dental bridge. Also recovered were personal items including Lt. Thurman's Military Identification Card and his Sears Roebuck Credit Card. Additionally, other crewmen's ID cards and dog tags were recovered along with parts of 9 parachutes and other pieces of the Neptune's wreckage.

The bone and teeth fragments were sent to the Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CIL-HI) for examination. They were able to match two of the teeth fragments to the dental records of Chester Coons and he was identified on the basis of those teeth. The bridge and the gold crown were possibly attributable to specific individuals, but it was decided to keep them as part of the group identification.

After examining the bone fragments, CIL-HI personnel were only able to identify them as human/possibly human. Further, because they are so small and fragmented, no DNA testing was possible and no individual identifications for any of the Neptune's crew could be made based upon the bone fragments. All the remains were considered to be a "group identification" and they were all buried together in one grave with a headstone bearing all nine names.

Not Specified

Operation Market Time
From Month/Year
January / 1965
To Month/Year
April / 1973

Operation Market Time was the United States Navy’s effort to stop troops and supplies from flowing by sea from North Vietnam to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was one of four Navy duties begun after the Tonkin Gulf Incident, along with Operation Sea Dragon, Operation Sealords and naval gunfire support.

Seaplane tenders USS Currituck (AV-7), USS Pine Island (AV-12), and USS Salisbury Sound (AV-13) served as flagships for Market Time.

A VP-40 SP-5B Marlin on patrol in 1965.

An SP-2H Neptune of VP-1 flying over Vietnamese junks.
When a trawler was intercepted landing arms and ammunition at Vung Ro Bay in northern Khánh Hòa Province on 16 February 1965 it provided the first tangible evidence of the North Vietnamese supply operation. This became known as the Vung Ro Bay Incident.

North Vietnamese mine laying ships attempted to close the entrance to the bay but were turned back by U.S. Marine helicopters modified with anti-ship missiles launching daring close range attacks on the vessels, braving intense machine gun fire from North Vietnamese commandos on the decks of the ships.

P5M seaplane Patrol Squadrons, Navy destroyers, ocean minesweepers, PCFs (Swift boats) and United States Coast Guard cutters performed the operation. Also playing a key role in the interdictions were the Navy’s patrol gunboats (PGs). The PG was uniquely suited for the job because of its ability to go from standard diesel propulsion to gas turbine (jet engine) propulsion in a matter of a few minutes. The lightweight aluminum and fiberglass ships were not only fast but highly maneuverable because of their variable pitch propellers. Most of the ships operated in the coastal waters from the Cambodian border around the south tip of Vietnam up north to Dà Nẵng. Supply ships from the Service Force, such as oilers, would bring mail, movies, and fuel.

Of the many vessels involved in Operation Market Time, one of the more notable was the USCGC Point Welcome (WPB-82329) which, on 11 August 1966, was brought under fire by a number of United States Air Force aircraft. This incident of a "blue-on-blue" engagement killed two members of the cutter’s crew (one of whom was the commanding officer) and wounded nearly everyone on board.

Operation Market Time was established by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff after the 1965 Vung Ro incident to blockade the vast South Vietnam coastline against North Vietnamese gun-running trawlers. The trawlers, usually 100-foot-long Chinese-built steel-hulled coastal freighters, could carry several tons of arms and ammunition in their hulls. Not flying a national ensign that would identify them, the ships would maneuver “innocently” out in the South China Sea, waiting for the cover of darkness to make high-speed runs to the South Vietnam coastline. If successful, the ships would off load their cargoes to waiting Viet Cong or North Vietnamese forces.

To stop these potential infiltrations, Market Time was set up as a coordinated effort of long range patrol aircraft for broad reconnaissance and tracking. These aircraft, initially SP-5 seaplanes, later P-2 and SP-2 Neptunes and P-3 Orions, were armed with Bullpup air-to-surface missiles and were therefore capable of engaging these craft directly. Under normal conditions, however U.S. and allied surface forces intercepted suspect ships that crossed inside South Vietnam’s 12-mile coastal boundary. On the aviation side, some of the patrol squadrons that were involved and flying from South Vietnam, Thailand, or Philippine bases were: VP-1, VP-2, VP-4, VP-6, VP-8, VP-16, VP-17, VP-22, VP-26, VP-28, VP-40, VP-42, VP-45, VP-46, VP-47,VP-48, VP-49 and VP-50.

A significant action of Market Time occurred on 1 March 1968, when the North Vietnamese attempted a coordinated infiltration of four gun-running trawlers. Two of the four trawlers were destroyed by allied ships in gun battles, one trawler crew detonated charges on board their vessel to avoid capture, and the fourth trawler turned tail and retreated at high speed into the South China Sea. LT Norm Cook, the patrol plane commander of a VP-17 P-2H Neptune patrol aircraft operating from Cam Ranh Bay, was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross for discovering and following two of the four trawlers in the action.

Market Time, which operated day and night, fair weather and foul, for eight and a half years, succeeded in denying the North Vietnamese a means of delivering tons of war materials into South Vietnam by sea.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Month/Year
January / 1968
To Month/Year
December / 1968
Last Updated:
Mar 16, 2020
Personal Memories
My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

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  • Ahlberg, James, PO2, (1968-1972)
  • Alvara, Larry, PO3, (1963-1967)
  • Bain, Marty, CPO, (1958-1979)
  • Barker, Jr., Virgil, PO2, (1967-1971)
  • Barnes, Michael, PO2, (1966-1969)
  • Barnett, Robert, CMC, (1964-2009)
  • Bassett, Michael, PO2, (1963-1972)
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  • Baxter, John, CPO, (1967-1987)
  • Beaty, "Mike", PO1, (1963-1976)
  • Bertschi, Steve, PO3, (1966-1970)
  • Blankenship, Jim, CPO, (1964-1986)
  • Borruso, Cam, PO2, (1966-1969)
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  • Brannan, Joe, CDR, (1968-2002)
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  • Brogdon, Howard S., PO1, (1962-1982)
  • Brown, Robert, CDR, (1965-1987)
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  • Castaneda, Armando, CWO4, (1962-1992)
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  • Eastwood, David S., LT, (1954-1969)
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