Robert J. Flynn, Shot Down in Vietnam War and Held in China

Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn, who spent five and a half years in a Communist Chinese prison during the Vietnam War, almost always in solitary confinement, after he was shot down on a bombing mission, died on May 15 in Pensacola, Fla. Commander Flynn, one of only two American servicemen known to have been held by the Chinese during the war, was 76.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Kathy.

Then-Lieutenant Flynn, a bombardier-navigator, was taking part in a raid on Aug. 21, 1967, targeting rail yards near Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital, about 75 miles from the Chinese border, when his two-man A-6 Intruder came under attack. The Pentagon later said his plane and another Intruder on that raid had been downed after straying over southern China while seeking to escape North Vietnamese jets.

Lieutenant Flynn and his pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Lee Buckley, ejected from their craft. Lieutenant Flynn, suffering severe spinal injuries, found the pilot’s body near the spot where he had come down, and he was soon captured. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported six days later that one of four American airmen whom China had just downed had been paraded before peasants and Red Guards at an anti-America rally. It did not identify that airman, but Lieutenant Flynn was the only survivor from the two Intruders.

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