Name: John Bethel Tapp
Rank/Branch: O4/US Navy
Unit: Attack Squadron 93, USS ENTERPRISE
Date of Birth: 06 September 1933
Home City of Record: Harrodsburg KY
Date of Loss: 23 March 1966
Country of Loss: South Vietnam/Over Water
Loss Coordinates: 084402N 1081904E (BK049664)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 5
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A4C
Refno: 0287
Other Personnel in Incident: (none missing)

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 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 2020.


SYNOPSIS: When nuclear powered USS ENTERPRISE arrived on Yankee Station on
December 2, 1965, she was the largest warship ever built. She brought with
her an imposing physical presence, and impressive component of warplanes and
the newest technology. By the end of her first combat cruise, her air wing
had flown over 13,000 combat sorties. The record had not been achieved
without cost.

LCDR John B. Tapp was a pilot assigned to Attack Squadron 93 onboard the USS
ENTERPRISE, and flew the Douglas Aircraft A4 Skyhawk. The plane was so
compact that it did not need folding wings for aboard ship storage and
handling. In spite of its diminutive size, the A4 packed a devastating punch
and performed well where speed and maneuverability were essential.

On March 23, 1966, Tapp launched on his 64th combat mission into North
Vietnam. His flight completed their attack on enemy installations with no
difficulty. After regrouping just off the coast, Tapp and his wingman turned
towards the ship. They turned on their external lights and visually checked
one another for evidence of damage. It was determined that neither aircraft
had sustained damage.

At about 4:40 a.m. Tapp and his wingman were back in the vicinity of the
ENTERPRISE (about 70 miles offshore in the South China Sea) and Tapp was
vectored for an instrument approach, a standard practice on night landings.
The approach appeared on radar to be progressing very well until he was at 8
miles inbound to the ship and disappeared from the radar scope. He should
have been at 1,000 feet above the water at this point, and it was
immediately deducted that he had crashed.

Two helicopters and two Navy destroyers were immediately dispatched to the
area and arrived on the scene in a very few minutes. The area was searched
thoroughly to no avail until about an hour later when daybreak revealed an
oil slick on the water and scattered wreckage. It was determined, barring
physical malfunction of instruments, that Tapp misread the flight
instruments, and in the very dark night inadvertently flew into the water.
LCDR Tapp's remains are considered to be non-recoverable.

Tapp is among nearly 2500 Americans who remain unaccounted for from the
Vietnam war. The cases of some, like Tapp, seem clear - that they perished
and cannot be recovered. Unfortunately, mounting evidence indicates that
hundreds of Americans are still captive, waiting for the country they
proudly served to secure their freedom.

In our haste to leave an unpopular war, it now appears we abandoned some of
our best men. In our haste to heal the wounds of this same war, will we sign
their death warrants? Or will we do what we can to bring them home?





Return to Service Member Profiles


Lieutenant Commander John Bethel Tapp entered the U.S. Navy from Kentucky and was a member of Attack Squadron 93, embarked aboard the USS Enterprise (CVAN 65). On March 23, 1966, he was the pilot of an A-4C Skyhawk (bureau number 147738, call sign "Raven 302") on a night armed reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam. As LCDR Tapp returned to the Enterprise, he observed ground fire but reported no trouble with his aircraft. A routine visual check by another pilot flying the same mission also revealed no apparent damage to LCDR Tapp's aircraft. However, soon after, radar and radio contact was lost with LCDR Tapp's aircraft, and LCDR Tapp's Skyhawk was not seen again. Search and rescue forces later located the crash site but could not locate any signs of LCDR Tapp, and he remains unaccounted-for. Today, Lieutenant Commander Tapp is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Based on all information available, DPAA assessed the individual's case to be in the analytical category of Non-recoverable.

If you are a family member of this serviceman, DPAA can provide you with additional information and analysis of your case. Please contact your casualty office representative.

Service member profile discrepancy? Please help us ensure the accuracy of each profile by submitting documentation about a service member profile.