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
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.
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
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
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
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.