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John Bethel Tapp, Harrodsburg Vietnam MIA, Will Be Honored March 23

Lt. Comm. John Bethel Tapp

Rolling Thunder will come to Harrodsburg  to honor US Navy this weekend.

A remembrance and wreath laying ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 23, at the Mercer County Judicial Center at 2 p.m.

Tapp, a Harrodsburg native, is one of an estimated 2,500 Americans who remain unnaccounted for after the Vietnam War.

“As a community we can never forget about the ones we left behind on the battlefield. Your primary mission at Rolling Thunder is to remember,” said U.S. Navy veteran Todd Matonich, a board member at Rolling Thunder. “We are honored that we have the opportunity to bring awareness to the public so they know we will never forget the sacrifice.”

Rolling Thunder’s mission is to raise awareness of the many American soldiers who were left behind as prisoners of war or missing in action. They are a nonprofit organization.

On March 23, 1966, Tapp launched his Douglas A-4 Skyhawk Aircraft from the USS Enterprise as  leader of a nighttime armed reconnaissance mission into enemy territory in North Vietnam. While anti-aircraft fire was observed in the area, no difficulties were reported.

At about eight miles out, Tapp’s A-4 faded from the ship’s radar scope and he failed to respond to radio calls. Two helicopters and two destroyers were immediately dispatched to assist with the search. While scattered wreckage identified as belonging to Tapp’s aircraft was found, his remains were never recovered.

At the time of his death, Tapp was married with two children. His father, Leighman Anderson Tapp, died in 1961 while his mother, Gertrude Dorsett Gaskia, died in 1998.

The remembrance and wreath laying ceremony will be held on Saturday, March 23, at the Mercer County Judicial Center located at 224 South Main Street at 2 p.m. For more information, visit

To learn more, check out this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald.


  1. Joe Schaedel on April 14, 2019 at 4:37 am

    I was a Squadron mate of John Tapp on that combat cruise aboard USS Enterprise back in 1966. His stateroom was right across the passageway from mine. John was a real gentleman and was very well liked by the men in our Squadron (VA-93), both Officers and Enlisted.

    I began a routine for Memorial Day about 12 years ago when I placed 20 American Flags in the front yard of my home, each one of which has the name of a friend of mine who did not return home from that conflict. One of those flags has John B. Tapp printed on it. I leave the flags displayed for a week. I will never forget him as long as I live.

    • Guila Harrison on May 23, 2019 at 7:10 am

      Thank you for your service, sir! I have a MIA bracelet with John’s name on it. Though I never knew him, I’ll be remembering him too.

  2. Jerry Van Leeuwen on November 30, 2020 at 12:20 am

    I was the plane captain on aircraft 302 that day when my plane did not return it was a sad day for all of us in VA 93. That was the only plane we lost on that tour. I am 77 now and looking at my past. I have now just found this information on my pilot. God rest in piece John Tapp.

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