Name: Robert James Cordova
Rank/Branch: Fireman Apprentice/US Navy


USS Valley Forge (LPH-8)  
Date of Birth: 24 August 1947 (Grand Junction, CO)

Home of Record: Boystown, NE

Date of Loss: 27 January 1968

Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 165620N 1071750E (YD430660)
Click coordinates to view maps  

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: at sea

Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)


SYNOPSIS: The USS Valley Forge was a small aircraft carrier designed to transport US Marine assault troops by Sikorsky UH-34 Seahorse helicopters to and from battlefields located in the northern provinces of South Vietnam.Members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team (BLT) was stationed onboard the carrier as part of the ship’s company.In addition to troop insertions and extractions, the ship’s helicopters flew numerous resupply and Medevac missions for American and allied troops.

On 27 January 1968, Fireman Apprentice Robert J. Cordova was part of the Valley Forge’s ship’s company as it operated in the South China Sea adjacent to Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam. On that date he was observed by other members of the crew as he stepped over the safety cable on the port side of the carrier’s hanger deck. The others watched in shocked disbelief as Robert Cordova hesitated a moment and then jumped into the water.

Those who saw Robert Cordova go over the side immediately signaled "man overboard." Another crewman grabbed a nearby life ring before he jumped into the water in an attempt to help his shipmate.Fireman Apprentice Cordova was separated from the seaman and the life ring by a swell.After it subsided, no one on the ship could visually locate him again.

Search and rescue (SAR) helicopters were on site within minutes. One of the aircraft successfully recovered the second crewman. An extensive search using all air and sea resources available was conducted for Fireman Apprentice Cordova. Later the search was expanded to include the shoreline adjacent to, as well as north and south of the carrier’s position at the time the sailor jumped overboard.

Because the USS Valley Forge was operating only 2 miles east of the Vietnamese coast, 9 miles northeast of Quang Tri City and 10 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separated North and South Vietnam, it was believed Robert Cordova, or his body, could have reached shore.

Initially Robert Cordova was placed in a missing status while the search continued. The US Navy later convened a Board of Inquiry to examine all the facts and circumstances surrounding Fireman Apprentice Cordova’s apparent decision to take his own life. Finding no evidence of his survival, the US Navy declared Robert Cordova Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered on 11 March 1968.

Robert Cordova’s choice to jump overboard leaves many questions unanswered. While there seems to be no doubt about his fate, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation he was willing to serve.

For other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, their fate could be quite different. Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Military men in Vietnam were called upon to operate in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.