Name: Curtis Henry Cropper
Rank/Branch: O3/US Navy Reserves
Unit: Fighter Squadron 151, USS CORAL SEA (CVA 43)
Date of Birth: 02 August 1043
Home City 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
Refno: 1584
Other Personnel in Incident: Lt Tom Terrill, rescued.
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 30 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.
SYNOPSIS: The USS CORAL SEA participated in combat action against the
Communists as early as August 1964. Aircraft from her squadrons flew in the
first U.S. Navy strikes in the Rolling Thunder Program against targets in
North Vietnam in early 1965. The next year, reconnaissance aircraft from her
decks returned with the first photography of Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM)
sites in North Vietnam. The A1 Skyraider fighter aircraft was retired from
the USS CORAL SEA in 1968. The CORAL SEA participated in Operation Eagle
Pull in 1975, evacuating American personnel from beleaguered Saigon, and
remained on station to assist the crew of the MAYAGUEZ, which was captured
by Cambodian forces in 1975. The attack carriers USS CORAL SEA, USS HANCOCK
and USS RANGER formed Task Force 77, the carrier striking force of the U.S.
Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific.
LT Curtis Cropper was a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) assigned to Fighter
Squadron 151 onboard the aircraft carrier USS CORAL SEA. On april 5, 1970,
he launched with his pilot, LT. Tom Terrill, in their F4B Phantom
fighter/bomber on a combat mission into North Vietnam.
Following the mission, Terrill and Cropper were returning to ship when their
aircraft suddenly caught fire and they were forced to eject. The forces of
the ejection, combined with the high speed, stunned them both. LT Terrill
was recovered alive in the water, but LT Cropper was unconscious when he hit
the water, and 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. Search efforts did not locate LT
Cropper. He was listed as Reported Dead. Because no remains were found, LT
Cropper is also listed as Body Not Recovered, and his name is maintained
among the rolls of the missing. The incident is not considered to be
About fifty in every 1000 Americans lost in the Vietnam war were either
captured, missing, or unaccounted for. 591 of these were returned at the end
of the war, lucky releasees who came home alive. A number, like LT Cropper,
will never come home. The majority of those "MIAs" could be accounted for by
the Vietnamese by return of remains known to be held in Vietnam, transfer of
information, or access to crash or loss sites.
But well over half the men maintained on missing were lost under suspicious
circumstances. Many were alive and describing to would-be rescuers the rapid
advance of the enemy. Some were photographed or wrote home from prisoner of
war camps, only to disappear.
Since the war ended, nearly 10,000 reports relating to Americans unaccounted
for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Many officials now
believe that hundreds of these men are still alive today, waiting for their
country to come for them. While LT Cropper may not be among them, someone's
father, son or brother is. It's time we brought our men home.