Help our POWs and MIAs
PEARSON HOPPER, JR., EARL
Name: Earl Pearson Hopper, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Udorn AB TH
Date of Birth: 21 July 1943
Home City of Record: Glendale AZ
Date of Loss: 10 January 1968
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 202559N 1044659E (VH774777)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Keith N. Hall (released POW)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 October 1990
from information provided by Col. Earl P. Hopper, Sr.
(USA, ret.) and Patty Skelly of Task Force Omega, Inc.,
as well as information from a December, 1984 article by
Larry J. O'Daniel. Other information from one more of the
following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
REMARKS: EJECTION PROBS/DWN/CRASH
SYNOPSIS: Capt. Keith N. Hall and 1Lt. Earl P.
Hopper, Jr. were pilots assigned to the 13th Tactical
Fighter Squadron based at Udorn Airbase, Thailand. On
January 10, 1968 the two flew their first mission
together on an "aircap" mission over Hanoi. Hall was
the pilot, and Hopper flew as Bombardier/Navigator on
the flight. During the mission, the aircraft was
damaged by a SAM missile exploding 100 feet below and
to the right of the aircraft, knocking out the
hydraulic system. Neither Hall nor Hopper was injured
by the blast.
After some initial ejection problems, Capt. Hall, was
able to bail out. [Note: Normal ejection sequence calls
for the backseater to bail out first, followed a few
seconds later by the pilot.] Other pilots in the flight
marked Hall's position, then continued with Hopper as
he headed for Laos.
Hopper was about 15 miles north of Muong Min in Hoa Binh
Province and nearly to the border of Laos when he ejected.
Hall had ejected about 20 miles to the east.
The accompanying pilots observed the canopy of the aircraft
and Hopper's ejection seat leave the aircraft as the
aircraft was about to enter a 5,000 foot overcast. The
pilots also picked up two emergency radio signals, one very
strong and the other rather weak, indicating that both men
reached the ground.
Hall was captured about 40 minutes after he bailed out.
Hopper's radio signal was tracked for three consecutive
days in the rugged, mountainous area where the aircraft
went down. On the second or third day, a pilot
monitoring the beeper gave Hopper's recognition code
and said, "Lt. Hopper, if that's you, give me 15-second
intervals (in his radio signal)." The pilot received
six 15-second intervals in a positive response. This
information was released to the family in a February
8, 1968 communique. On about the third day, a ground
search team was inserted into the area, and recovered
Hopper's radio, but no trace of Hopper was found.
Hall was captured by the North Vietnamese and released
in 1973. Hall was closely interrogated regarding
personal information about Hopper, but knew little.
The Vietnamese guard was noncommittal when Hall asked
if Hopper was also a prisoner.
On July 14, 1982, "due to the length of time missing and
with no information to prove he is alive," Hopper's
official status, Missing In Action, was changed to
Presumed Killed In Action. Only two months later, a
three-man judiciary committee from the U.S. Justice
Department, Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, found
officially that Hopper should have been classified
Prisoner of War, not Missing In Action.
During the first few months of 1984, the Hopper family
learned that CIA had always listed Hopper as a POW.
Further, CIA files revealed that the agency had tracked
Hopper as he headed for a "safe" area in Laos, that
there were heavy concentrations of NVA and Pathet Lao
troops in the area searching for the downed pilot,
and that the CIA sent a free Lao team to extract him.
When Hopper knew he was in imminent danger of being
captured, he locked the transmission key on his radio
in the "on" position, extended the antenna, and hid
it, thus marking his location of capture for
the search team.
From 1981 to 1984, Major Mark A. Smith (a returned POW
from Vietnam) and SFC Melvin McIntyre, both attached
to Special Forces Detachment, Korea (SFDK) were
pursuing DIA instructions to gather intelligence on
American POWs who remained in captivity in Southeast
Asia. Smith and McIntyre, who did not believe
Americans were held, obtained specific information
which convinced them that Americans were still alive
at that time, held captive. Among other evidence
presented to the U.S. was a list of some 26 Americans
by name and captivity location. Earl Hopper's name was
on the list.
In 1984, Maj. Smith received word that on 11 May
three U.S. POWs would be brought to a given location
on the Lao/Thai border. The only prerequisite was
that the POWs be received by an American. Smith's
request to stand on the border and wait for delivery
was refused, and he and his team were commanded to
remain in Korea. If the three Americans were brought
to the border no one was there to receive them. Smith
and McIntyre believed Hopper to be one of the three men.
The information obtained by Smith and McIntyre was
provided under oath to the Senate Veterans Affairs
Committee on January 28, 1986, and included in a
lawsuit the two initiated against the U.S.
Government for its failure to protect the rights
of live American POWs in Southeast Asia.
Parents Earl and Betty Hopper have diligently sought
information on their son and others who disappeared
in Southeast Asia. They believe there is actionable
evidence that some are still alive in captivity.
Until that evidence is acted upon, and proof is
obtained to the contrary, they will not give up
hope that their son is alive.
1Lt. Earl Hopper graduated from the Air Force Academy
in 1965 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant
Colonel during the period he was maintained missing.
This in from Task Force Omega:
18 February 1998
Bette Lee Hopper, mother of Lt. Col. Earl P. Hopper,
Jr., Missing in Action over North Vietnam since 10
January 1968, passed away at 4:25 AM, 17 February 1998,
at age 74. She suffered for many years with Alzheimer's
and died due to complications of that disease.
Bette Hopper is survived by her husband, Col. Earl P.
Hopper, Sr., US Army, Retired; sons Michael B. Hopper,
Larry D. Hopper, Daniel W. Hopper and D. David Hopper.
She also leaves 11 grandchildren and 1 great
For many years Bette was very active in the National
League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing
in Action. During those years, she worked tirelessly
for not only the return of her oldest son, but also
for the return of all POW/MIAs from throughout
Southeast Asia. She was always very adamant in her
belief that Live Prisoners of War were abandoned for
political expediency at the conclusion of the Vietnam
War, and often voiced her opinion to US Government and
military officials, POW/MIA families and to the
American public. Further, she was certain that her
missing son, along with many other POW/MIAs, remained
alive and held captive by enemy forces in Southeast Asia.
Bette, though frank and outspoken, had many friends in
the POW/MIA community. Her untiring efforts earned her
great respect throughout the country. Prior to her
illness, her advise and counsel were sought by many.
Bette will be remembered by family and friends alike for
her unwavering love of family, devotion to her children
and grandchildren and her great tenacity in her unending
quest to find and return her first-born son to the nation
he fought so valiantly for. She believed, as did many
other POW/MIA family members, that it was her strong
responsibility to do everything within her power to learn
the truth about what happened to her son.
We ask that her fight for the return of all Prisoners of
War - both alive and dead - be continued in her absence.