DAVID M. THOMPSON, LT, USN
David Thompson '68
Date of birth: May 9, 1946
Date of death: August 12, 1972
From the 1968 Lucky Bag:
David was lost on August 12, 1972 when his F-8J crashed on approach to USS Hancock.
He has a memory marker in Hawaii.
On August 13, 1972, Lieutenant Thompson was assigned to Fighter Squadron 24 (VF-24) “Fighting Renegades”, Carrier Air Wing 21, USS Hancock (CVA-19), TF 77, 7th Fleet. He was flying a Vought F-8J Crusader BuNo 150336, Side Number 211. Call Sign: Pageboy 211.
Lieutenant Thompson was wingman to the Commanding Officer of VF-24 on a night mission on a flight over the Gulf of Tonkin. Sometime during their return to the ship, Lieutenant 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 Commanding Officer led Lieutenant Thompson down on his wing to a rendezvous point about 20 miles behind their carrier, Hancock, to prepare for a landing. At about 12 miles and 2000 feet, they were separated by the Hancock's controller for individual final approaches. Shortly after they separated on this very dark and overcast night, Lieutenant Thompson configured his plane for landing with wheels down and his F-8's variable-incidence wing up. The Commanding Officer went ahead and landed, but at about 8 miles behind the carrier, Lieutenant Thompson's F-8 disappeared from the ship's radar scope.
After the search, all they found was a piece of his plane's nose cone which indicated Lieutenant 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 electrical failures in the aircraft.
It was eventually surmised that Lieutenant 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 Missing In Action - Killed In Action - Body Not Recovered.
Lieutenant Thompson was married.
Lieutenant Thompson is remembered on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall, Panel W1, Line 66.
Lieutenant Thompson is remembered in the Courts of the Missing, Court B, Honolulu Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Lieutenant Thompson is remembered in Memorial Hall where his name is engraved under the “DONT GIVE UP THE SHIP” flag honoring those alumni killed in action.
From the November 1972 issue of Shipmate in the Class of 1968 column:
[Dick Evert '68] wrote, "We just lost radio contact and that was it." Marty called Ruthie Thompson and she was doing as well as could be expected. She has since sold the house in San Diego and moved back to Pittsburg. Again it saddens us all, and on behalf of the class, let me extend our sincere sympathy to Ruthie and her family.
(The column begins with mention of a "night cat shot;" the deck log of USS Hancock makes clear that David crashed while attempting to recover aboard the ship.
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
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
John Ludwig, III '68 was also in 18th Company.