Rod Mayer was born on March 2, 1939, in Lewiston, Idaho. He was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy through the Navy ROTC program at the University of Idaho in May 1961, and went on active duty beginning June 23, 1961. Ens Mayer served at the U.S. Naval Academy from June 1961 to January 1962, and then attended flight school and was designated a Naval Aviator in May 1963. He then attended F-4 Phantom II Replacement Air Group training with VF-101 at NAS Key West, Florida, from July to November 1963, followed by service as an F-4 pilot with VF-41 at NAS Oceana, Virginia, from November 1963 to May 1965, and deployed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CVA-62) from May 1965 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on October 17, 1965. LT Mayer died of his injuries at ejection, but was officially listed as Missing in Action until declared dead on October 31, 1977, during which time he had been promoted from Lieutenant to Commander. His remains have never been returned to the United States.
His 6th Strike/Flight Air Medal Citation reads:
For meritorious achievement in aerial flight while serving with Fighter Squadron FORTY ONE in USS INDEPENDENCE (CVA-62) during the period 3 September 1965 - 21 September 1965. As pilot of an F-4B Phantom II aircraft, Lieutenant MAYER contributed significantly to the success of combat air operations of the United States Navy in Southeast Asia. Lieutenant MAYER participated in eight strikes and four flights and flew combat air patrol, armed reconnaissance, strike, and escort missions. During these missions he continually subjected himself to the perils and risks of hostile fire. His sustained meritorious performance throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.