Name: Curtis Henry Cropper 
Rank/Branch: Lieutenant/US Navy Reserves                     
Unit: Fighter Squadron 151 
USS Coral Seas (CVA 43) 
Date of Birth: 02 August 1943 
Home of Record: Paso Robles, CA
Date of Loss: 05 April 1970 
Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 180857N 1075859E (ZF156091) 
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered 
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F4B "Phantom II"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing) 


SYNOPSIS:  The McDonnell F4 Phantom used by Air Force, Marine and Navy air wings served a multitude of functions including fighter/bomber, interceptor, photo/electronic surveillance, and reconnaissance. The two man aircraft was extremely fast (Mach 2) and had a long range, 900 - 2300 miles depending on stores and mission type. The F4 was also extremely maneuverable and handled well at low and high altitudes. It was selected for a number of state-of-the-art electronics conversions, which improved radar intercept and computer bombing capabilities enormously. Most pilots considered it one of the "hottest" planes around.

On 05 April 1970, Lt. Tom Terrill, pilot, and Lt. Curtis H. Cropper, Radar Intercept Officer, comprised the crew of an F4B that launched from the deck of the USS Coral Sea on a combat mission over North Vietnam.

After completing their mission, they were returning to the USS Coral Sea when their aircraft suddenly caught fire forcing Lt. Terrill and Lt. Cropper to eject. Prior to ejection, Lt. Terrill radioed their status and gave their location for rescue. At that time, they were located approximately 47 nautical miles southwest of Hainan Island, China; 87 nautical miles northeast of the major communist port city of Dong Hoi and 87 nautical miles due east of the coastal town of Mui Ron Ma, North Vietnam.

The force of the ejection combined with their high speed, incapacitated both men rendering them unconscious. Search and rescue (SAR) efforts were immediately launched and Lt. Terrill was recovered alive. According to the pilot's debriefing, Lt. Cropper was still unconscious when he hit the water some distance away from the pilot. Curtis Cropper was unable to inflate his life jacket and raft, or to detach himself from his parachute.

The parachute disappeared from the surface of the water in no more than a minute's time dragging the Radar Intercept Officer with it. After continued search efforts failed to locate any trace of him, Lt. Cropper was immediately listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

The fate of Curtis Cropper is not in doubt and the hard reality is there is virtually no chance of ever recovering his remains. Above all else, he has the right not to be forgotten by the nation for which he gave his life. 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 American Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.

Pilots and aircrews in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly 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.