Utah Vietnam War veteran finally being laid to rest

Nov 8, 2023, 7:00 PM | Updated: 8:01 pm

Capt. Ralph Jim Chipman. A Utah Vietnam War veteran who went missing in action is now being laid to...

Capt. Ralph Jim Chipman will be laid to rest on Nov. 11, 2023 in American Fork, Utah. (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

(Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency)

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — A Utah veteran who went missing in action during the Vietnam War is now finally being laid to rest. 

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Ralph Jim Chipman went missing 50 years ago. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency found his remains in August and they will arrive in Utah at 1:13 p.m. on Nov. 9, 2023.

Chipman’s family members, the American Fork Police, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Patriot Guard Riders will escort Capt. Chipman from the Salt Lake City International Airport to the Anderson and Sons Mortuary in American Fork. 

Then on Nov. 11, 2023, Capt. Chipman will be honored and laid to rest.

According to the release, Utahns are invited to watch the cemetery procession at 12:30 p.m. on Center Street in American Fork from 100 North to 600 North. There will also be a jet flyover around 1 p.m.

“After 50 years the day our family has been waiting for has finally come!” Scot Chipman, Capt. Chipman’s son, said in a release. “Our family wants to thank all of those that have made this day possible.” 

Capt. Chipman is also memorialized through the Freedom Tree in Robinson Park, American Fork. According to the release, the Freedom Tree will be lit throughout November in red, white and blue to honor Chipman’s and other Missin in Action soldiers’ sacrifices.

Capt. Chipman goes missing in action

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Capt. Chipman was the pilot of an A-6A Intruder, which was the world’s first all-weather attack bomber. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the plane was capable of deploying weapons under zero-visibility conditions.

On Dec. 27, 1972, Capt. Chipman was flying in a nighttime combat mission with two other crew members, according to the DPAA. Chipman, his co-pilot Capt. Ronald Wayne Forrester and another crew member flew over the northern area of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

According to the DPAA, the plane indicated it was entering its target area. Then all radio communications were lost and the plane never returned to base.

According to the release, search and rescue teams couldn’t find “any trace of the aircraft or the crew.”

After that, the Marine Corps listed Chipman as Missing in Action, according to the DPAA. Then in July 1974, Capt. Chipman’s status changed to killed in action.

He left behind his wife Susan, 4-year-old son Scot, and 18-month-old son Matthew. 

Finding soldiers that were Missing in Action or POWs

It’s the job of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to account for missing military personnel in past U.S. conflicts. The Agency has worked with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia for almost three decades to account for soldiers lost during the Vietnam War.

Through those partnerships, the Agency conducts “investigations to collect evidence, investigate leads, and conduct excavations.”

This process helped the DPAA to identify Capt. Chipman’s remains on Aug. 2, 2023.

According to the release, two excavations led to the discovery of Capt. Chipman’s dog tags, some bone fragments, and teeth. The teeth were verified to be Chipman’s through DNA testing.

Related stories: After decades as an ‘unknown,’ WWII soldier from Utah is identified

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Utah Vietnam War veteran finally being laid to rest