From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

David Thompson '68

Date of birth: May 9, 1946

Date of death: August 12, 1972

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

From the 1968 Lucky Bag:


This is a cropped picture of Lt. Thompson from a VF-24 squadron photo taken in the summer of 1972.

From Wall of Faces:

The entire extended Ryder / Schell family back in the Philadelphia area will never forget and are honored and humbled by David's service to our country. Although my grandmother Lillian Ryder kept in touch with his mom Gertrude and my own mom his aunts , I was way to young to have known Lt Thompson growing up in Allentown. So we will keep David's memory alive in our families now. We will never forget him and will always visit the memorial when we are in Washington DC. 6/11/15

Lt Thompson was the pilot of an F-8J Crusader that disappeared over the Gulf of Tonkin on the night of August 12, 1972. On this night he was the wingman to his squadron's Commanding Officer and at some point during the flight Lt Thompson lost his radio. F-8's flew very little at night because their accident rate was so high due to the difficulty of landing on the smaller Essex-class aircraft carriers that deployed them.

So in accordance with procedures, the CO led Lt Thompson down on his wing to a rendezvous point about 20 miles behind their carrier, the USS Hancock, to prepare for a landing. At about 12 miles and 2000 ft, they were separated by the Hancock's controller for individual final approaches. Shortly after they separated on this very dark and overcast night, Lt Thompson configured his plane for landing with wheels down and his F-8's variable-incidence wing up. The CO went ahead and landed, but at about 8 miles behind the carrier, Lt Thompson's F-8 disappeared from the ship's radar scope. No further contact was established and a search and rescue was conducted.

After the search, all they found was a piece of his plane's nose cone which indicated Lt Thompson hit the water slightly nose down with the wings level. It is unlikely on this flight that he encountered any enemy fire and since his radio was out, it is unknown if there was any other electronical failures in the aircraft.

It was eventually surmised that Lt Thompson became somehow distracted or disoriented in the pitch black darkness and gradually flew into the water at about 140 knots. To this day, his plane and remains have never been found and he is officially listed as MIA - KIA - Body Not Recovered.

I came across Lt Thompson's name when I was reading about F-8 Crusaders and I became intrigued by his story, so I decided to do some research to find out more about what happened to him. The best information I found was from an official casualty report that's been declassified and two pilot's from his squadron, VF-24, that I was able to get in contact with. I wanted to share this information that I discovered as a remembrance to him here.

Finally, I just want to say Happy Birthday sir, I'm very grateful for your service. Your courage and bravery in protecting my freedoms is not forgotten. I know your spirit lives on and that you're in a better place, thank you! CHAD CRAWFORD, SHARKS_SEALS_FAN@YAHOO.COM, 5/14/11

David was one of my father's students at Mt. Lebanon High School, Pittsburgh, PA. Being very young at the time of his casualty, I do not remember much about David. I do remember his picture in his white Navy uniform. Very impressive.

My father says he was an excellent student and a very good person. This young man meant a lot to my father and I write this so that everyone knows Lt. Thompson is still remembered. DANIELLE ZEEDICK, DMZ123@EROLS.COM, 2/13/99


Find A Grave lists him as married at the time of his death.

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John Ludwig, III '68 was also in 18th Company.

Class of 1968

David is one of 29 members of the Class of 1968 in Memorial Hall.