The Grumman S-2F Tracker aircraft, better known as the "Stoof", was designed as an anti-submarine warfare aircraft,
but in the Gulf of Tonkin its primary role was for surface search and reconnaissance.
On 10 November 1966 a VS-21 S-2 launched from the USS Kearsarge (CV-33), crewed by pilots LT Thomas J. McAteer and
LTJG William T. Carter and enlisted aircrewmen AMS3 John M. Riordan and AX3 Eric J. Schoderer. They were assigned a
night surface surveillance flight in the Gulf of Tonkin.
Given that S-2 pilots frequently would go below the ship's radar horizon while investigating possible surface contacts,
a loss of radar contact by the controlling ship at 0145 was not cause for concern. However, the aircraft did not reappear,
and subsequent search and rescue efforts located aircraft wreckage and personal gear, but no survivors.
The cause of the crash was not determined. It was suspected that the aircraft made an uncontrolled contact with the
water. The aircraft was determined lost about 55 miles east-northeast of the city of Hue in the Gulf of Tonkin. The
crew status was initially Missing in Action, but was changed the following day to Killed/Body Not Recovered.
I never met Mr. Riordan, he died 10 years before I was even born. Seven years ago, when I was a senior in high-school,
my Dad, a 20 year NAVY veteran, came home with an MIA bracelet for me. He knew that I had always wanted one. The
bracelet he chose was for Mr. John M. Riordan because of the similarity of being in the NAVY and being from Washington
State. I put the bracelet on that day, and I continue to proudly wear his name on my wrist. I think about him often,
and pray for him and his family, even though I have never met any of them. I would like to know more about Mr. Riordan
someday, but not knowing is okay too.
An interesting experience took place one day about three years after I had started wearing Mr. Riordan's MIA bracelet.
Some friends and I randomly walked by the War Memorial in Downtown Seattle on our way back from a coffee break. We had
taken a different route on the way there, so on the way back when I noticed we were passing some sort of Veterans
monument, I became excited and wanted to look for Mr. Riordan's name. All four of us begin looking and eventually we
found the Vietnam section of the wall. I found his name and carefully reached up to gently run my fingers across the
letters of his name. The four of us stood there in a moment of reflection. Then, I quietly asked, "What is the date
today?" The three of them looked at me a bit quizzically, not sure where I was going with my question, and finally
someone said "It's the 10th of November." I repeated, "The 10th of November 1996? Mr. Riordan's date of disappearance
was over the Gulf of Tonkin on the 10th of November 1966."
No one said anything, but we all stood amazed. Somehow, in that moment, four young women, all just a year or so younger
than John had been on that fateful day exactly 30 years before, felt a great connection to a man they had never met. I
tell that story often, whenever people ask me about the bracelet, and I proudly tell them all I know. I know that I am
proud to wear his name on my wrist and that people like him and Veterans from around the United States, sacrificed
their lives, so that I could live in a free country today.
For that, I will forever be grateful. I am lucky that my father came home, but I know that many fathers, brothers,
husbands, and friends, did not. I hope that people know that they are not, and will not be, forgotten. My heart goes
out to all Veterans, their families, and to those who never came home, with my sincerest appreciation and admiration,
thank you for your sacrifices.
Written on Veterans Day, Saturday November 11, 2000