CHRISTOPHERSEN, KEITH ALLEN Name: Keith Allen Christophersen Rank/Branch: O2/US Navy Unit: Tactical Electronics Squadron 130, Detachment 4, USS RANGER (CVA 61) Date of Birth: 22 October 1946 Home City of Record: South St. Paul MN Loss Date: 21 January 1973 Country of Loss: North Vietnam/Over Water Loss Coordinates: 183906N 1070959E Status (in 1973): Died/Body Not Recovered Category: 4 Acft/Vehicle/Ground: EKA3B Refno: 1980 Other Personnel In Incident: Charles L. Parker; Richard D. Wiehr (missing) Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 April 1990 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 1998. REMARKS: OVERBOARD CVA61 SEARCH NEG -J SYNOPSIS: The USS RANGER was a seasoned combat veteran, having been deployed to Vietnam for Flaming Dart I operations. The carrier played a steady role for the remainder of American involvement in the war. The first fighter jets to bomb Haiphong in Operation Rolling Thunder came from her decks. On January 21, 1973, the USS RANGER was conducting flight operations in the Gulf of Tonkin about 100 miles off the shore of North Vietnam (approximately east of the city of Vinh). As it happened, this was the final week of the war. One of the generally unheralded aircraft carried onboard the RANGER was the tanker ship. The tanker was adapted from various aircraft with room to carry jet fuel. This plane was the oasis for the fighter jets - the tanker which circled in safe areas outside their combat areas to be available for refueling. The presence of the tanker meant extra flight time for the jets and sometimes meant their survival. Flying from an aircraft carrier is a special science. The limited takeoff and landing area leaves little room for error. Occasionally, tragic accidents occur, claiming lives. LtCDR Charles L. Parker was a pilot assigned to Tactical Electronic Squadron 130, Detachment 4, onboard the carrier USS RANGER. He was the pilot of an EKA3B tanker. At 11:46 p.m. on January 21, 1973, the EKA3B carrying Parker, the pilot; LTJG Keith A. Christophersen, the copilot/navigator; and Petty Officer Second Class Richard D. Wiehr, the electronic technician; was preparing to launch on a night catapult launch. After having made a normal catapult attachment and pre-launch inspection, the catapult stroke appeared to start off normally. After about 1/3 of the launch stroke, a loud explosion was heard and the aircraft was seen to pitch nose down and sparks started to come from the right engine. The aircraft began to decelerate and run off the end of the angle deck at a very low speed and fell over the side of the ship into the Gulf of Tonkin. An immediate search and rescue effort was begun, but the aircraft sank very quickly and none of the crew could be recovered. The three Americans were classified Killed/Body Not Recovered. The crew of the EKA3B lost on January 21, 1973 are listed with honor among the nearly 2300 still prisoner, missing or otherwise unaccounted for from the Vietnam war because their bodied were never found. Some of the missing, like the crew of the EKA3B, may never be recovered. It may not be possible to find their bodies. A high percentage of those missing, however, could be found. Tragically, thousands of reports have been received that indicate Americans are still being held captive in Southeast Asia. While the EKA3 crew may not be among them, the evidence suggests that hundreds of their comrades are alive, waiting for their country to free them. One can imagine that Parker, Christophersen and Wiehr would be there if they could, circling and waiting to help them to freedom.