Name: Thomas Alan Gopp npa
Rank/Branch: .Corporal/US Marine Corps
Unit: A Company,
3rd Reconnaissance Battalion,
3rd Marine Division

Date of Birth: 15 March 1947 (Dover, OH)
Home of Record: New London, OH
Date of Loss: 03 August 1967
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 160622N 1072247E (YC545820)
Click coordinates to view(4) maps

Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH46A "Sea Knight"
Other Personnel In Incident: James P. McGrath; John B. Nahan III; Jack Wolpe (all missing)


SYNOPSIS: The Boeing-Vertol CH46 Sea Knight arrived in Southeast Asia on 8 March 1966 and served the Marine Corps throughout the rest of the war. With a crew of three, the tandem-rotor transport helicopter could carry 24 fully equipped troops or 4600 pounds of cargo and was instrumental in moving Marines throughout South Vietnam, then supplying them accordingly.

On 1 August 1967, LCpl. Jack Wolpe and PFC John B. Nahan III were assigned to Company A, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division (Rein). They were part of a nine-man reconnaissance team that had been inserted by helicopter into the jungle covered mountains at the extreme southern end of the infamous A Shau Valley, Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam to conduct a long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP). Hospital Corpsman 3 James P. McGrath was also assigned to this team.

On the evening of the second day the team was spotted by a Montagnard tribal woman and child. They alerted nearby North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops who successfully surrounded the Marine patrol and brought it under hostile fire. Throughout the night the reconnaissance team managed to evade capture. Further, because the team was already scheduled for extraction the following morning, the team made its way to the briefed Landing Zone (LZ) - a small clearing located approximately 1 mile south of a primary road, 2 miles north of the South Vietnamese/Lao border, 27 miles southwest of Hue, 29 miles southwest of Hue/Phu Bai Airfield and 54 miles due west of DaNang.

The recovery helicopters arrived as scheduled and began loading the team. As one of the Sea Knight helicopters became partially airborne, it took a heavy volume of enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire, causing onboard ordnance to explode, then the helicopter crashed back to the ground triggering an enemy land mine in the process. According to the survivors who were able to exit the severely damaged hulk; HM3 McGrath, LCpl. Wolpe and PFC Nahan were mortally wounded and died instantly. Cpl. Thomas A. Gopp, the Sea Knight's crewchief, who was assigned to HMM-164, MAG-16, also died instantly.

Another helicopter assigned to this extraction mission immediately landed as close as possible to the Sea Knight's wreckage to pick up survivors. Due to the close proximity of the NVA troops and the heavy volume of enemy fire directed at the Americans, it was virtually impossible for the survivors to recover the remains of HM3 James McGrath, PFC Nahan, LCpl. Wolpe and Cpl. Thomas Gopp and take the bodies with them as they raced under fire to the rescue aircraft. When it became clear that no further recovery operation was possible due to the continued enemy presence in and around the crash site, James McGrath, John Nahan, Jack Wolpe and Thomas Gopp were listed Killed in Action/Body Not Recovered.

For every insertion like this one that was detected and stopped, dozens of others safely slipped past NVA lines to strike a wide range of targets and collect vital information. And while there is no doubt these four men are dead, there is also no doubt the communists know exactly where their remains were buried and could return them to their families, friends and country any time they had the desire to do so.

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 fight 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.