Jeffrey Krommenhoek - Lieutenant Commander
Year at ISU: 1940
Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Krommenhoek was an Iowa native, born and raised in Sioux City. Born on October 27, 1940, Jeff was the eldest of three. Jeff and his two siblings, Paul and Marlene, grew up in a modest home under the care of their parents, Frances and Martin. Martin was a railroad foreman. The children had a great home life, and their parents provided them with everything they needed.
Jeff was, in his mother’s words, “born to fly.” As a young boy, all Jeff thought about was planes. His sister Marlene remembers that in 6th or 7th grade, Jeff was assigned a school project to write a goal book. Of course, Jeff’s book was all about aviation, with stories about flying on every page. It was also about this age when Jeff started to build model airplanes. He spent hours carefully constructing them – assembling the balsa wood parts, stretching the paper across the wings, and then meticulously painting the entire plane. When a plane was finally ready, Jeff’s entire family gathered at the park to watch him pilot his newest creation. He would start up the tiny motor, and then hang on to the end of the wire as the plane flew around and around until everyone was dizzy. Though Jeff always kept his planes flying far longer than anyone thought possible, these flights always ended with a crash. But that never bothered Jeff. He was happy to have successfully completed the process of creating and flying a new plane.
As Jeff got older, he branched out into other hobbies. He was on the high school swim team and even broke several records. He was an outstanding student who was popular with his classmates. He had a knack for balancing his social life, sports and academics. But thoughts of aviation were never far from his mind.
Jeff began to make his dream to be a pilot a reality at Iowa State University. He joined the ROTC program, and through that he received a scholarship to get his flying license. He declared mechanical engineering his major and joined the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon. The majority of his summers and breaks were spent on cruises with the Navy.
After leaving Iowa State, Jeff went to flight school and then achieved his dream of becoming a pilot by joining the Navy. A few of his fraternity brothers joined with him, making his experience in the Navy even more memorable. Jeff thrived in the Navy, eventually signing up for three tours.
Although his visits home were limited, he always made sure to bring his family gifts. His sister Marlene remembers the time Jeff brought her home a stuffed puppy, which ended up being her favorite. After a trip to Japan, Jeff gave his mother a beautiful string of pearls, which she wore often. Jeff also bought his brother Paul his first car. He was incredibly generous, and he always wanted his family to be taken care of.
Before Jeff left for his last tour, he was stationed in San Diego. A friend set him up on a blind date with an elementary school teacher, and Jeff quickly realized she was the girl of his dreams. They dated for a while, and his entire family adored her. They were engaged the night before he left for his final tour.
Lieutenant Jeffrey M. Krommenhoek was the pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 163 on board the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34). On October 25, 1967, Jeff launched his A4E Skyhawk attack aircraft in a formation strike force against the Phuc Yen Airfield, 11 miles north of Hanoi.
The strike group encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missile activity throughout the target area. Jeff was last seen just prior to roll-in on the target as the group was departing the target area. Attempts were made to contact him by radio with a negative response. A search of the area was impossible due to intense hostile activity. No emergency radio signals were heard. No parachute or downed aircraft was seen. Three A4E Skyhawks from the USS Oriskany were shot down on that day. One of the other planes shot down was piloted by US Senator John McCain, who ejected from his plane and parachuted into Trúc Bạch Lake. Senator McCain was then captured by several Vietnamese and held as a prisoner of war.
Jeff was placed in Missing-In-Action status on that day, which was then changed ten years later to Presumed-Killed-In-Action after a status review board determined that there was no evidence to maintain the MIA status. He was also promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander at that time. Jeff’s unknown status was heartbreaking for his family and friends, and no one was able to really accept that Jeff was gone. After the Paris Peace Accords were signed and the POWs were released back to the United States, the Krommenhoeks were glued to the TV screen to search each face that emerged from the plane, desperate for a sign of Jeff. He never appeared. His family has done extensive research to find any information about Jeff’s last moments. Joint investigators have searched the crash site, sifting the dirt for anything that would help them identify him. Although they never recovered his DNA, the investigators and the family now believe he went down with the plane.
In the words of his sister Marlene, Jeff was a kind, generous and thoughtful person. He was a kind brother: inclusive when it came to Paul, and extremely patient when it came to Marlene. His impact on Marlene lead her to name her first son after him.
Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Krommenhoek has been honored at several museums and memorials. He is among 2,500 Americans who are still missing in Southeast Asia. It is our duty to never forget his service for our country.