Earl Pearson Hopper, Jr

Lieutenant Colonel
United States Air Force
21 July 1943 - 14 July 1982
Phoenix, Arizona
Panel 34E Line 020



Earl Hopper

USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Campaign, Vietnam Service

The database page for Earl Pearson Hopper, Jr

14 Jun 2001

Earl, this is for you, you are my hero.

I have your bracelet and I will never ever give it up until you are home again.
You are a part of my heart and always will be my hero.

Leanna Phelps

11 Jan 2005

I want to say "Thank you" to everyone who has responded to this memorial. I created its place on this site for Earl. I have had the privilege of speaking with his mother on several occasions, and I still hold him very close to my heart. Earl and so many others live on in our hearts as a living legacy to freedom, peace and most of all hope. He will never be forgotten as long as he lives on in our hearts. Thank you all ...

Leanna Phelps

28 Nov 2006

Freedom's Wind

This was written for Earl and so many others.
Earl, you are still my hero...

Quiet summer breezes, blow the waves to the ocean's shore.
Living in freedoms promise,
our brave ones settle the score.
Childhood dreams carried on the wind,
have given way to freedoms war.
On strange, uninviting seascapes,
the wind blows as a guide.
While hometown hearts swell,
with love of country and great pride.
Freedom's wind brings mothers heartaches
for loved ones lost.
Freedom's wind, it seems sometimes carries
a great cost. Freedom's wind carries on it love for country
and love for God.
It also carries with it heroes footsteps
from foreign countries where they trod.
May the wind of freedom blow in our hearts
Leanna Marie Phelps
Copyright 2006 Leanna Marie Phelps

Again, thank you to everyone that has seen this memorial and sent me the emails and thoughts about Earl ... you are the ones that help keep all the heroes that deserve to be remembered alive in our hearts. I humbly thank all of you. And to those of you that just read and glanced by this memorial ... you also keep them alive!!!! Thank you all and God bless you.....

In addition, if you have the opportunity, please listen to the country song by Big and Rich -

8th of November.....
it speaks volumes....

Thank you ... all of you ... heroes ... that are remembered ... your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

A memorial initiated by
Leanna Phelps
8142 Bletzer Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21222
17 Sep 2002

I've worn your bracelet for years and have often thought of you, hoping and praying for your safety or at least resolution for your family. I'm a retired USAF MSgt and just wanted to let you know that you are not forgotten

Chris Armold
MSgt, USAF (Ret)

13 Oct 02

Checked the Virtual Wall today. Took the MIA bracelet with your name off today after over eleven years of constant wear. God rest your soul.

Kevin Pietrucha

22 Dec 02

Sir, my name is Cadet Captain Brian Jensen and I have had your picture on my website for the last 2 years. God bless you for your service, it's good that you're finally home!

C/Capt. Brian Jensen
Civil Air Patrol, USAF Auxilliary

10 Apr 2003

Thank you to the family of Earl Hopper for raising a son who was willing to serve our country and fight for our freedom. I will continue to pray for others like him, and their families, who continue to serve and sacrifice. I will always keep the bracelet I so proudly wore.

From one who remembers.
2765 S. Main St, Newfane, NY 14108

20 Apr 2003

To those who will read this my name is Eric J Dhabliwala and I visited The Virtual Wall for the first time today, 19 April 2003. Today I found out LtCol Hopper's status. I have worn his POW/MIA bracelet since I received it on my birthday in 1980. Today it will be removed with great sorrow. Rest in peace, LtCol Hopper, you will not be forgotten.

God Bless our troops both at home and away.

Eric J Dhabliwala

12 Sep 2003

I, too, have Captain Hopper on my POW bracelet. I haven't worn the bracelet, though, because I outgrew it, but I've had it since I was 11 years old, in 1969.

For so long I have wondered what has happened with him and if he was found -- only a little older than my son is now. I'm so sorry to read he was never found alive, though I am glad to have finally found out what happened to him, through this page.

Thank you, Capt. Hopper.

Tina Coggins
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

26 May 2004

I am in shock seeing this website ... I am 46 years old ... I was helping my daughter (age 13) with her homework which was about the Viet Nam war ... I told her about the POW bracelet I wore for two years straight in the 70s with the name Capt. Earl P. Hopper Jr. on it ... I remembered the name always. I told my daughter how I had gone to the Viet Nam War Memorial in D.C. in the 90s and how I had searched and searched til I found his name - Capt. Earl P. Hopper.

On a whim I told my daughter to hold on ... I went to my computer and typed in Capt. Earl P. Hopper in the search engine, figuring it would bring up nothing. Then I see this webpage ... tears are welling up in my eyes as I read the notes of many OTHER people just like me who wore his bracelet! I called my daughter to come look ... I could barely speak. She said "Wow". I'm still saying "Wow".

Thank you, whomever you are, for making this webpage. My condolences go to the family of Capt. Earl P. Hopper.

I am against war, especially this war in Iraq, but I support the troops and want them to come home safely.

Thank you,
Rebecca Shearouse Herman
Blacksburg, Va.

10 Jan 2005

I was honored to wear his bracelet. When my daughter became a teen ager she asked to wear it. To this day she still does.

We have asked if the famly would care to have it, that I believe is the only reason she would give it up.

I would just like the family to know that he is thought of by many "strangers" he never met.

I am pleased to see a picture of him as I now can hold his image in my heart as well.

I will never think of the words "Freedom" or "Brave" without thinking of Earl.

Beth A. Gilmer and Kendra Ryan
6551 Scotts Lane, Cambridge, Ohio 43725

31 May 2005

Rise to the sky my fallen hero,
Rise to the sky and fly
Allow my tears to mourn your passing,
But my heart will your memory always lie.

For years in protest on this metal band,
Around my wrist did stay.
I prayed for you safety and security
While in another world you laid.

Rest in the peace you fought for
While I rested in my mother's womb
Keeping the homefires burning
As in my heart you will have room.

My name is Sarah Patlak, I am a single mother of one child, and I had no idea of LtCol Hopper's passing until today. Unless the family wishes to have the bracelet that I have worn over 7 years now, I would be honored still to wear it in the memory of his life.

If not please contact me.

Thank you and May G-d Rest your soul, Sir.

Sarah Patlak
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

07 May 2006

I attended Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, with Earl back in the late 50's and early 60's. I was serving in Viet Nam at about the same time Earl was killed. The picture of him you have posted here brings back a lot of memories. Earl was a little older than me so I didn't spend a lot of time with him but I can tell you that to this day, when I think about the loss of this boy I can't help but cry. I don't even know why ... I guess it's just too sad for me to get it straight in my head. God bless this man and his family.

From a friend,
Carl Jennings
Tucson, Az

09 Nov 2006

I have had Captain Hopper's bracelet since sometime in late 1968 or early 1969. My own father was a veteran of 3 wars and I'm very proud to wear Captain Hopper's name on my wrist. I'm sorry for his family's loss but grateful for his sacrifice.

Linda Swan

24 Feb 2007

I dated Earl when we were in Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona. My heart hurt at the thought of him missing, but I'm so glad that his remains were eventually found. He was a wonderful young man who grew up to be wonderful adult. I'm so sorry that his life was so short. He will always be my special hero.

Susan Doerflinger
5053 Springfield Way, Sacramento, Ca

Notes from The Virtual Wall

The events leading up to the loss of 1stLt Earl Hopper, Jr., are generally agreed, but there is considerable controversy regarding what became of him AFTER his aircraft was hit.

The Action

On 10 January 1968, Captain Keith N. Hall and 1stLt Earl P. Hopper crewed an F-4D (tail number 66-8704), call sign "Rematch 3", one of a flight of four aircraft providing combat air patrol cover for F-105 aircraft attacking the North Vietnamese air base at Hoa Lac. Although both were rated pilots (see Note below), Hall was flying the aircraft (front seat) while Hopper was acting as weapons system officer (back seat). Shortly before arrival on target, the REMATCH flight received surface-to-air missile fire. One missile detonated near Rematch 3, inflicting hydraulic and probable engine damage (streaming fuel and left engine "fireballs" were observed).

Captain Hall was able to eject from the damaged aircraft and was captured shortly after landing. 1stLt Hopper was not seen to eject. Hall survived and was released during OPERATION HOMECOMING in 1973. During his debriefings, Captain Hall stated that 1stLt Hopper (who, as backseater, normally would have ejected first) reported that his ejection seat was not functioning - that he had tried both primary and secondary ejection handles but the seat refused to fire. Hall further stated that his primary handle failed to initiate ejection but that the secondary handle did, and that 1stLt Hopper was still in the aircraft when he, Hall, ejected.

At this point, the controversy begins.

  1. The first USAF F-4 model was the F-4C, which had dual controls - it could be flown from either the front or back seat - and was operated with two rated pilots. F-4C's first deployed to SE Asia in 1965.

  2. The second model, the F-4D, had an enhanced weapons system intended for operation by a Weapons System Officer who was not a rated pilot (111x MOS) but rather a navigator (15xx MOS). F-4D deliveries began in March 1966, with the first aircraft going to US Air Force Europe commands. USAF WSO training rates were increased to provide sufficient non-pilot backseaters.

  3. Hopper was a rated pilot (MOS 1115R) but was flying back seat presumably due to a shortage of non-pilot Weapons System Officers.

The Aftermath

Three Internet sites discuss Hopper's fate in some detail and with varying degrees of documentation. Two of the three carry essentially the same story and will be summarized together.

The POW Network and Task Force Omega (TFO) sites indicate that after Hall's ejection

"The other pilots in the flight marked Keith Hall's position, then continued with Earl Hopper while he headed for Laos in an attempt to overfly that country to return to Udorn; or at a minimum, to reach more friendly territory. Further, the other pilots stationed their aircraft in an escort formation - one on each side of the damaged jet, and the third behind and slightly above it.

"Just before 1st Lt. Hopper's jet entered a 5,000 foot undercast of clouds, and after flying the Phantom for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, the other pilots saw two objects leave it - one was believed to be the canopy, the other the ejection seat. They did not see his parachute open due to cloud cover. However, they did hear two emergency radio signals, one being very strong and the other rather weak and both nearly on the same frequency. . . The last known position for Earl Hopper was approximately 5 miles across the river west of Ban O Veuo, Son La Province, North Vietnam." (TFO)

While voice contact could not be established, Hopper is said to have responded to a request for beeper signalling with his survival radio, and an allegation is made that signals from his survival radio were "tracked" for several days before SAR efforts were discontinued. Both sites mention later reports indicating that 1stLt Hopper survived the incident and eventually was captured by NVN or Pathet Lao forces. Although mentioned on both sites, TFO gives greater detailing regarding reports and testimony made by a retired Army officer, Major Mark Smith.

Neither site provides third-party documentation in support of the statements made, and it should be noted that the Task Force Omega site is operated by Hopper's family.

On the MIAFacts.org site, Joe Schlatter (Colonel, US Army (Ret), previously Deputy Director, Defense POW-MIA Office (93-95)), discounts the the POW Network and Task Force Omega accounts that Hopper successfully ejected from the aircraft and arrived alive on the ground.

Schlatter cites a number of sources which dispute the claims made that other aircraft crews observed Hopper's ejection from the F-4D; that radio signals received were attributable to 1stLt Hopper's survival radio; that the government at any time possessed information that 1stLt Hopper had been captured alive; and that Major Mark Smith's involvement was either officially sanctioned or produced credible information regarding Hopper's status.

Most importantly, Schlatter provides documentary evidence that

  • The aircraft crash site was located and surveyed in 1993, 1994, and 1995;
  • Aircraft wreckage retrieved during the 1995 survey was positively identified (by component serial numbers) as coming from Hall/Hopper's F-4D;
  • The crash site was excavated on four occasions in 1997 and 1998;
  • Material recovered during the excavations proves that one man (and his ejection seat and survival gear) was in the aircraft at the time of impact; and
  • The human remains retrieved could only be those of Earl Hopper, Jr, since Hall survived and was repatriated in 1973.
Based on Schlatter's documentary evidence, it appears that Earl Hopper was unable to eject from his damaged aircraft and died when the aircraft impacted the ground.

11 Jan 2005

On 16 Jan 2002 the remains recovered in the 1998 excavations of the crash site were officially identified as those of Earl Hopper, Jr. It is noted that the POW Network has updated their biography on LTC Hopper; the Task Force Omega site has not done so as of 30 July 2007.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who wears his MIA bracelet,
Leanna Phelps
8142 Bletzer Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21222

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 14 Jun 2001
Last updated 07/31/2007