Fredric Woodrow Knapp

Fredric Woodrow Knapp

Died November 2, 1967

Lieutenant (junior grade) Fredric W. Knapp was assigned to Attack Squadron 164, Carrier Air Wing 16, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Oriskany (CVA-34). On November 2, 1967, he was the pilot of a Douglas Attack Aircraft Skyhawk (A-4E) on an armed reconnaissance mission nine miles west-southwest of Cho Giat, Nghe An Province, North Vietnam, when his aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed. Woody’s remains were not then recovered and his name was inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial. His name and service information can now be found on Panel 29e, 11, of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

The circumstances surrounding the last weeks of his life are described in letters from Woody to our classmate, Jon Grouf, and his wife, Dale, responding to letters from Dale’s junior high school class in Acton, MA, which can be experienced in their poignant fullness in One Who Served at the front of the class book and directory for our 25th reunion.

On October 14, 1982, Vietnamese officials turned over to U.S. authorities a Geneva Convention card belonging to Lt (j.g.) Knapp. That year, Woody’s remains were returned to America from Vietnam and are now interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Woody prepared for Yale at San Mateo High School, San Mateo, CA, and Walt Whitman High School in Huntington, NY. He was a history major and resident of Stiles and earned a major Y in football in 1963. Woody held a full N.R.O.T.C. scholarship while at Yale, was a member of the Navy unit’s Aviation and Quarterdeck Societies and an active member of the Christian Science Organization. He was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Navy on our Graduation Day in 1965.

Peter Schwartz remembers: A happy warrior.

Gerold Libby remembers: Woody was a good friend of mine in Ezra Stiles, and we were also fellow midshipmen in the Yale N.R.O.T.C. program. Over spring break of our freshman year we and the rest of the N.R.O.T.C. freshman class traveled to Pensacola, the site of naval aviation training, where we were roommates. We had numerous adventures there. On one occasion, in a local bar, his forceful intervention averted a dust-up with a group of enlisted men. Beautiful local girls may have been involved. This was one of numerous occasions when I wished I could have been a Yale football player like Woody. One late night in Pensacola, sitting in our barracks room, we decided that we would together become naval aviators after graduation from Yale. Health issues prevented me from completing the N.R.O.T.C. program, but as we all know, Woody completed the program, became a naval aviator, and paid for it with his life. My memories of our time together in Pensacola, and the divergence of Woody’s and my ultimate career paths, have haunted me ever since.

Ronald Wilmore remembers: My freshman roommate, Woody Knapp, to this day ranks as one of the kindest persons I have ever known. During the most difficult first year of my four years at Yale, Woody was there with a smile and encouraging words and helped me survive that year. During the next three years he was like a brother to me, especially when our football careers had more downs than ups. And when his mother’s homemade cookies arrived in the mail, we were even closer (smile). As fellow Sisyphus members, we grew even more like brothers. There is still a very warm space in my heart after all these years thanks to knowing and sharing my six all too brief years with Woody.

Curtis Borchardt remembers: Woody and I both went down to Pensacola to fly for the Navy, and he went jets and I went for the (safer) multi-engine airplanes. He was a wonderful buddy and a good shipmate, and I still seek out his name on the wall when I visit the Vietnam Memorial in DC. He was an exceptional fellow and I am so sorry he didn’t survive Vietnam.

Dodd Fischer remembers: Woody was a memorable classmate, bigger than life, a gentleman and patriot from head to toe, but he died too young in Vietnam, when most in our class were looking the other way.

Thomas Buffum remembers: We saw a lot of Woody in Pensacola and in Texas going through Naval Flight Training together, 1965-1966. What a great guy, and what a loss.

Robert Hammond remembers: Woody Knapp and I were partners in chemistry lab and spent many afternoons together freshman year. Woody had this incredible nice guy aura about him. He made you fell better just by being there. His infectious optimism extended beyond the agonies of our repeated failures to obtain desired results from our experimental lab protocols He was a good football player . He always had a smile on his face and you enjoyed his very presence. He became a carrier based pilot flying a mission in Vietnam when his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire. His body was not recovered. I am sure he was among the bravest of the brave. I had a sudden saddening memory of Woody’s death on Memorial Day a few years ago while watching the motorcycles of Rolling Thunder honoring MIA’s in Washington and sought his name out at the Vietnam Memorial. The need to sacrifice our courageous young men in war remains an enigma difficult to comprehend. Yale awards a football trophy in his name.

William Quayle remembers: Fraternity brother and friend. Great pilot lost in Viet Nam.

Joel Eaton remembers: Woody became my best friend during our Navy flight training. He always had a smile for the world and made people around him happy. He was kind, generous, talented, and brave. I don’t think I’ve ever fully recovered from losing him over North Viet Nam. I named my first son after him so I would never forget him. Our class lost one of its very best, much before his time.

Jon Grouf remembers: I lost my closest friend. A wonderful, giving, religious person. K.I.A. in Vietnam in 1967. A fun good-humoured roommate. His loss is still felt so many years later.

Robert Cook remembers: I knew Woody both from N.R.O.T.C. classes and freshman football. Woody would glance upward to read the faces of his slightly taller classmates, then flash his toothy beaming grin. He had a naturally occurring great sense of humor, so if you wanted to catch him in a frown, you’d have to take an enormous number of pictures. At football carrying the ball, he was combative and persistent. If you are flying ground support in a Douglas Sky-raider, it is hard to know where the bad guys are hiding. When I heard he had been lost in his first year in combat, I was very upset. I can still hear his voice and see his smile.

R. Douglas McPheters remembers: Resplendent in new dress uniforms, Woody and the rest of our Navy R.O.T.C. classmates were sworn into the Navy on Graduation Day in 1965, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, off to see the world. Many of us had benefited from Navy R.O.T.C. scholarships but few realized or even considered what might be the final cost of military service. I think often of Woody and my Submarine School classmate, Jerry Alexander, who perished in the Atlantic, while serving on a boat which might have been my assignment. Grim reminders of paths taken and not taken.