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John Top '54 January 24, 2020 9:52 AM updated: January 24, 2020 9:56 AM

Obituary source unknown

John J Top (Colonel US-Army Retired) passed away on January 8th, 2020 after a long brave battle with terminal cancer.


John was born to Clarence Eugene “Ike” Top and Maxine Jeffers in Olympia, WA. on Oct. 15th, 1932. Maxine sadly died in her prime when he was still very young and so he was raised by his grandparents Hugh and Myrtie Jeffers until the age of eight. His father eventually remarried, and the small family (along with sister Nancy) spent the rest of their formative years together around New Mexico and Texas.

After graduating Texas A&M's class of 54’, John went on to have a distinguished career in the United States Army. He was one of the pioneers of armed helicopters, and was the first pilot to qualify with the SS-11 wire guided anti-tank missile. Subsequently, the young officer traveled the country demonstrating this new capability mounted to a YH-40 Huey prototype. John was also 1-of-4 officers selected to develop a new armed helicopter-training at Fort Rucker, and helped write much of the original doctrine of this program (initially restricted to suppressive-fire only).

Col. Top served two tours in Vietnam, for a total of 26-months in combat. With his background in armed helicopters, he served his first tour as the assistant S-3, Operations Officer of the newly formed 12th Aviation Group. He returned for his 2nd tour as the Executive Officer of the 214th Combat Aviation Battalion, but was later reassigned to the 12th Group as the S-3. John finished his tour as the Commanding Officer of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion; aviator callsign, “Old Warrior Six”.

*During his stint as OW6, the 145th was selected to fly / support President Nixon & staff on his historic visit to Vietnam during the summer of 1969; ... quite the honor!

On his return to the states, Col. Top was assigned to the Army Staff, in charge of aircraft missile and rockets programs in the Office of the Chief of Research & Development. It was here that John was originally responsible for the development of the Cobra TOW program and made the initial briefing to the General Staff that led to the development of the Hellfire Missile. He also served briefly at the Pentagon as the Executive for Army Aviation in the office of the Secretary of the Army for Research and Development; overseeing all Army Aviation R & D programs. While there, John chaired the initial tri-service meeting that led to the development of the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey; still widely used in service today.

Colonel John J Top finished at, or near, the top of his class through every level of the Army's education system from the Basic Course through the Industrial College of the Armed Forces which he attended after he left the Pentagon. Upon completion of the Army's Project Managers' Course, the Colonel was assigned to The Army Aviation Systems Command in St Louis where he finished his career as Program Manager for the Army's electronic warfare aircraft. He was responsible for the development and life cycle management of several airborne EW systems with a 5-year budget over $2.5 billion US.

“OW6” was a Master Army Aviator, recognized in service with:
• - Legion of Merit w/ one additional Oak Leaf Cluster (OLC),
• - Distinguished Flying Cross w/ one additional OLC,
• - Bronzes Star with Valor device and two additional OLCs,
• - Meritorious Service Medal,
• - Air Medal with Valor device and 19 awards,
• - Army Commendation Medal w/ two additional OLCs,
• - Vietnam Service Medal with 1 silver and 3 bronze campaign stars.

Colonel John J Top retired from his duties in the fall of 1978. Taking from his experience as a program manager in the defense industry, combined with a recently earned Masters-of-Science from USC, John started his own consulting business in Southern California where he served such clients as the Cubic Corporation, the US Army Missile Command, Parks Jaggers, Litton Industries, and Lockheed Martin. While at Lockheed, John successfully reversed a no-bid decision which led to their winning the contract to develop and produce the THAAD missile system. The THAAD Program brought several billion dollars in new business to Lockheed; they gratefully reciprocated with an open invite for a “well paid full time job, anytime he wanted one” ... he declined, and closed his consulting business to retire to the good life in 1998.

John went on to travel extensively with a new-found passion for birdwatching: the entire Pan Americas including Cape Horn & the Falklands ... as well as: South Africa, Uganda, Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, French Polynesia, Australia and even Tasmania. Passing all conceivable expectations in good measure, the Colonel had logged the identities, times, and locations of well over 30,000 species of birds during his travels.

Other pre/post retirement hobbies include small aircraft pilot, fly fishing, camping, sailing, furniture making, and connoisseur of all the great composers. John even summitted Mount Rainier some years ago when he still had the legs to do so.

To his own grave misfortune, in May of 2016, Col. John J Top was diagnosed with multiple cancers in his GI track. Although given an inoperable life expectancy of 21-24 months, he survived nearly 48 through a combination of both conventional and alternative medicines ... and by the good grace of God.

He is survived by his two sons: Jonathan in Grapevine, Texas - and Patrick in San Diego; his sister Nancy Kimbrell in Yakima, Washington - niece Kim Killion, also in Yakima, - and nephew Jeff Kimbrell in Chantilly Virginia.


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