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William Earl Cooper

Lt. Colonel, US Air Force

Name: William Earl Cooper
Rank/Branch: 05/US Air Force
Unit: Squadron Commander; 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron
DOB: 16 September 1920
Home of Record: Albany, Georgia
Date of Loss: 24 April 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 213000N, 1060400E
Status: (1973) Missing in Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D


Other Personnel in Incident: Jerry D. Driscoll (released Pow) in same flight

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 October 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from US Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews.


SYNOPSIS: On April 24, 1966, a multi-plane strike force departed Korat Airbase, Thailand on a strike mission on a highway-railroad bridge north of Hanoi. The target was a vital link, bearing traffic coming down from China.

The Squadron Commander (and commander of the mission), LtCol. William E. Cooper was in one flight of four F105's. In another of the flights was 1Lt. Jerry D. Driscoll.

As the first flight approached the target, Cooper's F105D was hit by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). The plane subsequently broke in half, and the front section, with canopy intact, was observed as it fell into a flat spin. Witnessed did not see Cooper eject and and believed the he went down with the aircraft, but there was doubt enough that the Air Force determined him Missing in Action rather than killed.

Just afterwards, 1Lt. Jerry D. Driscoll (code-name Pecan 4) was inbound to the target, about ten miles north, going approximately 550 knots (about 600 miles per hour) when his aircraft was struck in the tail by anti-aircraft fire, causing it to catch fire. Flames were blowing out the back twice as long as the aircraft. Others in the flight radioed to Driscoll that he was on fire, and he immediately prepared to eject as the aircraft commenced a roll. Driscoll punched out at about 1000 feet, with the aircraft nearly inverted, and as a result, his parachute barely opened before he was on the ground. He had removed his parachute and was starting to take off his heavy flight suit when he was surrounded by about twenty North Vietnamese and captured

Driscoll was moved immediately to the "Heartbreak Hotel" in Hanoi where his interrogation (and torture) began. Driscoll was a POW for the next seven years, and was released in Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973.

Just before his release, one returning POW was told by his interrogators that LtCol. Cooper had died in the crash of the aircraft. At least one intelligence report, however, indicates that Cooper was captured alive. The U.S. believes the Vietnamese could account for Cooper and his name has been included on lists brought before the Vietnamese in recent years as one of scores of "discrepancy cases" it is felt can be resolved.

When the Peace Accords were signed ending American involvement in Vietnam, 591 American prisoners were released. Experts at the time expressed dismay that "some hundreds" expected to be released were not, yet only perfunctory efforts to secure the release of the others were made. In our haste to leave Indochina, we abandoned some of our best men.

Shockingly, many authorities now believe, based on over 10,000 reports relating to these missing Americans, that there are still hundreds alive in captivity. Whether Cooper could be among them is unknown, but what seems certain is that if even one is still alive, we have a moral obligation to bring him home.

William E. Cooper was awarded the Air Force Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 7 oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart. He was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained Missing in Action. He is married and has five children.

Jerry D. Driscoll graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1963, and was promoted
to the rank of Captain during his captivity.