This playground honors Captain Vincent Hickman (1933-1964), a soldier from Brooklyn, who served as a pilot in the Korean War (1950-1953), and lost his life while fighting during the Vietnam War (1964-1975).
Raised in Flatlands, Brooklyn, Vincent Hickman attended St. Francis Xavier High School in Manhattan. Graduating high school in 1951, Hickman joined the United States Air Force to serve in the Korean War. At the war’s end, Captain Hickman returned home and enrolled in Fordham University. Graduating in 1956 with a B.S. in History, Captain Hickman returned to the Air Force. In January 1964, Captain Hickman was sent overseas to assist in the United States efforts on behalf of the southern-based Republic of Vietnam.
During the early part of 1964, the United States was working with the South Vietnamese to develop operations against the North. These plans included the sabotage, spying, and bombing of enemy bases. At 4:00 P.M. on January 14, 1964, a B-26 bomber departed from the United States Air Base at Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. The bomber was piloted by Major Carl Berg Mitchell (1928-1964), navigated by Captain Hickman, and assisted by a South Vietnamese observer. Ten minutes into the flight mission the B-26 rendezvoused with a Forward Air Control (FAC) which had marked an enemy target with a smoke bomb.
Major Mitchell and Captain Hickman successfully dropped two cans of napalm on the target area, destroying it. Upon destruction of the target, ground fire opened slightly to the north. Major Mitchell and Captain Hickman moved in to neutralize the area. Before their final approach on the target was made, however, the enemy fire hit the bomber. At 4:15 P.M. the plane crashed in the jungle, 30 kilometers northeast of the Bien Hoa Air Base.
Although a medical unit was dispatched to the crash site, it was unable to secure the area due to additional heavy enemy fire. When the area was finally searched five days later, no survivors were found. The men flying the FAC plane, which served as wingman to the B-26 bomber during the January 14 operation believed that Major Mitchell, Captain Hickman, and the Vietnamese Air Force man had died upon impact. Since the United States had neither declared war against North Vietnam nor had officially committed troops to the military offensive, the demise of Major Mitchell and Captain Hickman were listed as non-combat deaths.
Captain Vincent Hickman received several posthumous awards, including the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Air Force Longevity Medal, and the Air Force Cross for his years of service.
Parks acquired this playground, located on Veterans Avenue between East 66th and East 68th Streets in Brooklyn, in 1961, and it opened in 1964. The property was named after Captain Hickman in 1965 by a local law. The playground, paved with asphalt and Belgian paving stones and surrounded by a wrought iron fence, underwent a $736,000 reconstruction in 1996, funded by City Council Member Herbert E. Berman.
The playground contains three game tables, two drinking fountains, a flagpole with a yardarm, and sea horse and fish animal art on the fence, as well as red, yellow, and green play equipment with safety surfacing, tot swings, a spray shower, an asphalt baseball diamond, and basketball and handball courts. Many benches and London planetrees (Platanus x acerifolia) offer the passersby shade and places to rest.