CHAPA, ARMANDO JR.
Name: Armando Chapa, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E4/US Navy
Unit: Patrol Squadron 26, U Tapao Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 31 March 1948
Home City of Record: San Jose CA
Date of Loss: 06 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 093050N 1040730E (VR040520)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel in Incident: Donald F. Burnett, Jr.; William F. Farris;
Donald L. Gallagher; Roy A. Huss; Thomas P. Jones; Homer E. McKay; James C.
Newman, Jr.; Melvin C. Thompson; Lynn M. Travis (all missing)
Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 2020.
SYNOPSIS: At 0900 hours on February 5, 1968, a P3 "Orion" aircraft assigned
to Patrol Squadron 26 at U Tapao Airbase, Thailand, left on a "Market Time"
mission over the Gulf of Thailand (Gulf of Siam). They were scheduled to
return to their base at about 0900 hours the following morning.
The crew on board the aircraft included Lt. Thomas P. Jones; LtJg. Lynn M.
Travis; LtJg. Roy A. Huss; AXCS Donald F. Burnett; AX3 Armando Chapa Jr.;
AX3 William F. Farris (AX designates Antisubmarine warfare technicians and
related duties); AOC Donald L. Gallagher; AMH2 Homer E. McKay; ADR1 James C.
Newman Jr.; AE1 Melvin C. Thompson (A designates in many cases, aviation
personnel, i.e. AE1 is Aviation Electrician's Mate First Class).
As antisubmarine warfare was all but unknown in Vietnam, there were a
variety of duties handled by those trained in antisubmarine warfare. As
marking submarines, and/or destroying them involved the use of marking
buoys, electronic "ears" and other technical equipment suited for target
marking, antisubmarine teams were frequently used for search missions. They
also sometimes assisted in attacks on small enemy water craft.
Shortly after midnight on February 6, the Orion reported a surface contact.
Some two hours later it reported another contact somewhat further east. The
last report received from the Orion was after 0300 hours. No subsequent
communication was received.
An emergency communication alert for the aircraft was declared shortly after
daybreak and a full search and rescue (SAR) was declared. In the late
afternoon of February 6, wreckage and debris were sighted and identified.
On February 7 search and rescue operations were terminated at sundown.
Salvage operations were conducted from February 11 through March 21. The
investigating officer concluded that the Orion had impacted with the water,
and that the aircraft had been completely destroyed, and that all of the
crewmembers had died instantly.
The Orion went down about 50 miles off the shores of South Vietnam's An
Xuyen Province in the Gulf of Thailand. Presumably, all the crew aboard are
"buried" at sea - an honorable burial for a naval man. This crew is listed
with honor among the missing because no remains were ever found.
For the crew of the Orion, death seems a certainty. For hundreds of others,
however, simple answers are not possible. Adding to the torment of nearly
10,000 reports relating to Americans missing in Southeast Asia is the
certain knowledge that some Americans who were known to be prisoners of war
were not released at the end of the war. Others were suspected to be
prisoners, and still others were in radio contact with would-be rescuers
when last seen alive. Many were known to have survived their loss incidents,
only to disappear without a trace.
The problem of Americans still missing torments not only the families of
those who are missing, but the men who fought by their sides, and those in
the general public who realize the full implication of leaving men
unaccounted for at the end of a war.
Tragically, many authorities believe there are hundreds of Americans still
alive in captivity in Southeast Asia today. What must they be thinking of
us? What will our next generation say if called to fight if we are unable to
bring these men home from Southeast Asia?